Fresh Voices Carrying Old Truth
In 1517, an Augustinian friar posted his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Four years later, he would stand before the magistrates at the Diet of Worms and be called to recant. He would not, for the Scriptures had taken such a hold on him that it would be for him to go against conscious and plain reason to do so. His stand would inspire many others along with the likes of John Calvin, John Knox and Ulrich Zwingli to join him in this church movement. This was the start of the greatest reform of the church in history, an event that would impact the entire world with its effects reverberating still 500 years later.
The truth that thundered from these men was not new. It was not something they had collectively formulated. These were the same truth claims proclaimed 1500 years before by Christ and the Apostles. Their teachings were not new either, for they bore witness to the truth of the Old Testament. In fact, we can say that the whole of the Christian religion is a belief in old truth.
If there is a movement away from an original idea, we call that a revolution. If we move back in line with the original idea, we would call that a reformation. It was, then, a reformation that was happening in the 16th century, and it was a reformation in the day of Christ. These were major, world-shaping reformations, returning back to the true meaning of Scripture, and teaching the true message of God – a message as old as the beginning of the world. Most reformations, however, do not leave such an immediate impact. Nevertheless, it is what we strive for in each generation. We strive to bring the same old gospel generation after generation. Our message must stay ‘old,’ it cannot change.
When Paul was in Athens, he would go to the synagogue and marketplace to proclaim Christ and the resurrection. This caught the attention of the council of Athens, so they brought Paul to the Areopagus to hear what he had to say. The men of Athens loved to hear new things; they never ceased to talk of new things. So now they had one in their midst who seemed to be proclaiming a new thing. But what was first to come from Paul’s mouth? It was an old thing; it was the truth which God testified of Himself in the Old Testament:
“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him." (Acts 17:22-27)
Just as Paul followed the pattern of Christ, John Owen, George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon followed the pattern of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Knox. God raised them up in order that His truth would be proclaimed in the church and to the world once again. The same need lies in our generation. We are in need of a fresh bunch of faithful men and women who will pass on old truth to the new generation. There will always be ‘new’ ideas, ‘new’ teaching, and ‘new’ truth, but it is ‘old’ truth we need.
These ‘new’ ideas are summarized in one phrase: man-centeredness. Its origins lie in the first chapters of the Bible. The sin of Adam was a declaration that man did not need God to be fulfilled. Then, if that was not enough, Adam and Eve made for themselves a covering thinking that they themselves could cover their sin. They believed they were autonomous, able to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, all for themselves. This idea spread to every succeeding generation, and so it is no wonder that man-centered thinking has been at the heart of every battle for truth in the history of the church.
When I say ‘old’ truths, I simply mean biblical truth. I say it that way, however, because we are prone to think we are on the right path simply because we are adhering to the social standards of Christianity. We say the right things, walk the right walk, do the things expected of us, but they may not be biblical. Sure, they might have once originated there, but the connection has faded. Now we only do them because that is what a Christian does. Where is the gospel? Where is a holistic understanding of Scripture? We must cling to the things that are old, often forgotten, and out of style. We cling to them not because they are old, but because they are truth and the very source of our faith.
Throughout the history of the church, there has been a need for fresh voices to rise up and proclaim the doctrines of Christ and the Apostles; to hold to an old understanding of scripture; to be God-centered in their thinking. Each generation needs this for themselves. I see this as a great need in the western church, in my church, and the church abroad, and so this is my passion, not only for myself, but for my generation and the generations after me. May we turn from a man-centered thinking to start living coram Deo – Before the face of God.