The Counterintuitive Love of Christ

Having jettisoned the idea that we might ever be guilty before God and therefore need his justification, our culture has succumbed to the old problem of guilt in subtler ways that it has no means to answer. Today we are all bombarded with the message that we will be more loved when we make ourselves more attractive. It may not be God-related, and yet still it is a religion of works, and one that is deeply embedded. For that, the Reformation has the most sparkling good news. As Luther put it: ‘sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.’ Only this message of the counterintuitive love of Christ offers a serious solution.

Michael Reeves, The Unquenchable Flame (pg. 191).

I Deserve Death and Hell

When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.’

Martin Luther, quoted in The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves (pg. 178).

There is My Righteousness

But on day, as I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, ‘Thy righteousness is in heaven’; and methought withal, I saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, ‘He wants my righteousness,’ for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed, I was loosed from my afflictions and irons, my temptations had fled away; so that, from that time, those dreadful Scriptures of God left off to trouble me now; now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God.

John Bunyan, quoted in The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves (pg. 175).

On the Shoulders of Giants

For most modern Christians, the intricacies of predestination, the precise mode of Christ’s presence in the eucharist, the arguments for and against infant baptism are matters of acute indifference. Concealed in such controverted points, however, are burning questions of life and death, questions about who God is, how divine revelation is imparted, what constitutes the true church. The four reformers we focus on in this book faced these and many other questions with an integrity and lived-out courage which we cannot only admire but also emulate, even if we cannot agree with all of their answers. Peter of Blois, a medieval theologian who died nearly three hundred years before Luther was born, expressed a sense of gratitude for the Christian writers of antiquity which should also characterize our attitude toward the reformers of the sixteenth century: “We are like dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants; thanks to them, we see farther than they. Busying ourselves with the treatises written by the ancients, we take their choice thoughts, buried by age and human neglect, and we raise them, as it were, from death to renewed life.”

Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers (pg. 19).