It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts…. That is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: “Bless you, prison!” I…have served enough time there. I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!”
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (December 11, 1918 – August 3, 2008), The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956, Vol. 2, 615-617
In all sciences, the ablest professors are they who have thoroughly mastered the texts. A man, to be a good jurisconsult, should have every text of the law at his fingers’ ends; but in our time, the attention is applied rather to glosses and commentaries. When I was young, I read the Bible over and over and over again, and was so perfectly acquainted with it, that I could, in an instant, have pointed to any verse that might have been mentioned. I then read the commentators, but I soon threw them aside, for I found therein many things my conscience could not approve, as being contrary to the sacred text. ‘Tis always better to see with one’s own eyes than with those of other people.
The four Sundays in Advent present Isaiah’s prophecies regarding the coming of a Savior, or Immanuel, “God with us.”
Nov. 28: Isaiah 2:1–5 “The house of the LORD shall be established as highest… God shall judge the nations … O house of Jacob, come let us walk in the light of the LORD.”
Dec. 5: Isaiah 11:1–10 “A shoot from the stump of Jesse shall come forth, and the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him.”
Dec. 12: Isaiah 35:1–10 “God … will come to save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall see, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the shall lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”
Dec. 19: Isaiah 7:10–17 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Dec. 24: Isaiah 9:2–7 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Notice that just in Isaiah, we see significant prophecies about the coming Savior. No wonder more than one commentator has called “Isaiah, the Gospel of the Old Testament.”
From Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, p. 14.
The Reformers knew where their strength lay. They felt that what had redeemed them could alone redeem the Church. They saw that, under God, their ability to sustain their cause depended on His Word. The supreme and absolute authority of God’s Word in determining all questions of doctrine and of duty, is a fundamental principle of the Reformation — a principle so fundamental, that without it, there would have been no Reformation — and so vital, that a Reformation without it, could such a Reformation be supposed, would have been at best a glittering delusion and failure.
“Krauth believed that the Roman Catholic Church, though in error, and seriously so on a number of points, was still Church. Luther and his co-workers were neither revolutionaries nor restorationists—they were reformers. As such their aim was not the destruction of Rome but its correction. Krauth wrote:” (Lawrence Rast, “Introduction” Conservative Reformation, p. xxiii.)
The spirit of the Reformation was no destroying angel, who sat and scowled with a malignant joy over the desolation which spread around. It was overshadowed by the wings of that spirit who brooded indeed on the waste of waters and the wildness of chaos, but only that he might unfold the germs of life that lay hidden there, and bring forth light and order from the darkness of the yet formless and void creation. (p. 235)
Helmut Thielicke wrote in his book Encounter with Spurgeon concerning the training of pastors:
For Spurgeon the really determinative foundation of the education of preachers was naturally this work on the spiritual man. The education of preachers must not be directly pragmatic; it must not be immediately directed to preaching as its goal. Otherwise the process of education becomes an act of mere training, the teaching of technical skills. The preacher must read the Bible without asking in the back of his mind how he can capitalize homiletically upon the texts he studies. He must first read it as nourishment for his own soul. (p. 10)
Some wise words for all who have been called to preach and teach.
Many seem to think that speaking of spiritual gifts is almost “un-Lutheran.” Nothing could be further from the truth. According to Peter’s first letter every Christian is a priest. The Reformation was founded on that principle. Paul adds that every Christian is gifted by the Holy Spirit to carry out the ministry of the priesthood of all believers. Not all have the same gifts, nor are all of us in competition to see who has the more noticeable gift. God gives the gifts for us Christians to use—to bring honor to His Name, to expand the Church, and to build and strengthen those already in the Church. Your gifts and giftedness are vital to the Church!
Romans 12:4–6 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;
1 Corinthians 12:4–7 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
1 Peter 4:10–11 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.