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The Long Line


Speaking with converts to Roman Catholicism, I am told that the Roman Catholic church is the church Christ founded, and is therefore the true Church. Their perspective sees Catholicism as all there ever was before that upstart, Luther, went astray. In his book, Pillars of Grace, Steve Lawson exposes the fallacy of that view, showing that the Reformation was not the result of a Sixteenth Century spontaneous combustion, but of a divine fanning of a flame kept burning, though low at times, from the beginning. Though the gospel was corrupted, abandoned, and even repudiated by the Roman church, it was never lost to God’s elect.

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From Clement of Rome in the first century to Calvin of Geneva in the sixteenth, there is a progression in the church’s understanding of the doctrines of grace, a gradual maturation in the comprehension of these glorious truths. What began as mere restatements of Scripture grew into fuller descriptions of God’s sovereign grace in salvation. . . .

Admittedly, these stalwarts had feet of clay. Though they helped bring great clarity to the church regarding many essential truths, they were capable of holding views that contradicted their own teachings. . . . They were not perfect men possessing infallible understanding. Rather they were flawed figures with fallible minds.

But when it came to the truths about salvation, there was considerable unity in their growing understanding of sovereign grace. Throughout the first sixteen centuries of the church, this long line of godly men increasingly asserted the key aspects of God’s sovereignty in saving grace. A growing consensus concerning Scripture’s teaching on the doctrines of grace gradually emerged. From mere traces of these biblical truths in the teachings of the early centuries, the church’s understanding developed with time and came into greater focus. In spite of their many imperfections, God used these figures, to varying degrees, to document, define, and defend the doctrines of grace.

In no period of history has God left Himself without a witness. In the second through fourth centuries, the Church Fathers spoke these truths, though they needed greater clarification. In the fifth century, God raised up Augustine, who brought further illumination to these doctrines. In the Dark Ages, this noble procession wore thin. Throughout the late medieval period, stalwarts for sovereign grace were often few. But in the Protestant Reformation, teachers of the doctrines of grace were plentiful and prolific. Through it all, God maintained a line of godly men, those who upheld the pattern of sound words (2 Tim. 1:13).

Throughout the flow of church history, God remains faithful to His cause. As Lord of the church, He guarantees the success of His truth. As the Author of Scripture, He ensures the triumph of His theology. From His throne above, our sovereign Lord sends forth faithful messengers to proclaim His supreme authority. By His Holy Spirit, God prepares the hearts of His people to embrace the teaching of sovereign grace, all in His perfect timing.

—Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 37–38.



Posted 2018·08·14 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Church History · Faithfulness (of God) · Papism · Pillars of Grace · Steve Lawson

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