Monday, July 31, 2017

Robert Barnes, martyr, confessor [Trinity 7, St. Mark 8:1-9]


Dr. Luther speaks: “This Dr. Robert Barnes, who, when with us, in his remarkable humility, would not allow himself to be called Doctor, called himself Antonius; for which he had his reasons. For previously he had been imprisoned in England by the holy bishops, the St. Papists, and had escaped with great difficulty. This Doctor, I say, we knew very well, and it is an especial joy to us to hear, that our good pious table companion, and guest of our home, has been so graciously called upon by God to shed his blood, for His dear Son’s sake, and to become a holy martyr. Thanks, praise and glory be to the Father of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, that He has permitted us to see again, as in the beginning, the times, wherein Christians who have eaten and drunk with us, are taken before our eyes, and from our eyes and sides, to become martyrs, i. e. to go to Heaven and become saints. Twenty years ago, who would have believed that Christ our Lord would be so near us, and, through His precious martyrs and dear saints, would eat and drink and speak and live at our table and home?”

In 1528, during a period of persecution under Henry VIII, Barnes fled to Germany for safe haven. While there, Barnes studied with Luther and published a book of Lutheran theology in English, which made its way across the channel and into English hands. Thomas More (a staunch Catholic and traditionalist) found not the doctrine of justification by faith alone to be most objectionable in Barnes’ book, rather the article that challenged the authority of the pope caused More the greatest consternation.

Dr. Barnes fought a two-front battle, until his martyrdom in 1540, not of his choosing, either. One was against his king and one was against the pope. Both of which were only brought on because he dared claim that justification was given by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith alone.

Yes, this very same Dr. Robert Barnes we commemorate today as a true reformer in England, had but few supporters there. Though he was very loyal to his king and his country, he still preached the truth, even though it went against his king and country.

And, as we heard from Dr. Luther, Barnes was a martyr. He confessed the faith to the point where in order to shut him up and move their own agenda along, he was murdered. There real question about any martyr is, what were they murdered for?

We reap the benefits of martyrs today. They paved the way for the Church throughout the ages and still continue to do so. Giving us such a great example of faith that we can’t help but be in awe of them.

So what is this great example of faith? What was so important to these martyrs that they felt the need to sacrifice themselves? When you really stop to think about it, you can’t even conceive of something like a martyr’s life, it doesn’t happen anymore in the USA. We think going 40 days without chocolate during Lent is martyrdom; we think giving all our free time to others is martyrdom.

No, we do not understand martyrdom.

Case in point. There is a popular method that is being taught on how to read and study the Bible. It is called “verse-mapping”. Maybe you have heard about it, maybe not. It doesn’t matter. The core of verse-mapping is being taught everywhere, just without the name.

In verse-mapping, you follow 7 steps (please don’t take notes):
First, you read a portion of Scripture assigned and examining it. Next, you write out one verse and leave plenty of space around it, between the lines and between the words.

Third, you personalize it: replace words like “you”, “we”, “us”, “them” with your name. Fourth, mark, circle, underline, highlight words and phrases that stand out to you.

Fifth, read the verse in context: Read the preceding and following verses or whole chapter. See how it ties in to how you read it. Sixth, read the verse in other translations: Note which words or phrases help you understand or apply the verse.

And finally, cross-reference the verse: Find, list and read other verses which speak to you about the same topic.

This is considered reading the Bible in true faith. This is considered a true Christian work which is to be suffered for and find one’s cross therein. Is this what Dr. Barnes died for?!

Or, how about this one? This method is called S.O.A.P. It stands for Scripture, observation, application, and prayer. Starting off, you write out the verse meaningful to you. Then you observe what was interesting to you or how God was speaking to you. Then you apply it to your life and let it change you. Finally, you pray that your application takes hold.

With these two methods, among others, your Bible will be so full of your name that you will not be able to differentiate between your Bible and your diary.

Yes, the martyrs did die, in a way, in order that you would have Scripture in your own language, but not this way. The problem here is that the only person that has even mentioned the name Jesus in this sermon, up to this point, has been Dr. Luther.

The problem with the way the modern man reads his bible is that he would not be martyred for such a thing. If Dr. Barnes would have presented these ways of reading Scripture to his king and to the pope, they would have let him live.

Why? Because none of the modern methods of reading the Bible will reveal to you justification by grace alone, through faith alone. What these methods give you is a self-help book. They give you more laws which you are to follow in order to make yourself feel better. They do not give Jesus and they do not give Him crucified.

Imagine how many books these people would sell if you were to write yourself into the crucifixion story? Or the story of Judas? None.

What we prayed for in our Collect this morning were profitable things. Not that which brings us cash money, but that which places us within and keeps us within the service of God. The hurtful things we prayed against are Original Sin and our actual sins.

For, in the Garden of Eden, God planted two trees: one was the Law and one was the Gospel. God gave the Law to Adam. He said do not eat. That’s it. Just one law. He gave no instructions about the Tree of Life, but we assume that Adam and Eve were eating, since God forbid their eating of it, after the Fall.

Regardless, the thing to notice is that the Tree that would produce death in the world was called “very good” by God on the day He rested from Creating all things. In similar manner, dying for the faith is also “very good”, in fact it is key, because Jesus’ greatest example to us, is His death, for the faith, on the cross.

The Tree of Life is now the tree on which Jesus hanged, suffered, and died. The Tree of Life is fed by the flowing Blood of Christ, just as we are fed by those hands, marked by nails. This grace-filled and undeserved feeding of the forgiveness of sins, is exactly the path to martyrdom.

In this confession; when you dare to claim that Jesus fed 4000 people, not just to show off, but to prefigure the Lord’s Supper, you are claiming justification by grace alone through faith alone and that, ladies and gentlemen, does not make you any friends.

Dr. Barnes did not confess on a burning stake these methods of reading Scripture, or just wanting to feel loved, or anything else in that vein. He confessed a God Who took on his very flesh, Who as a man took on the sins of the world knowing none of His own, was crucified, dies and was buried. Three days later He rose again in order to fulfill all things. And, dear Christians, when Jesus says all, He means all.

This Crucified Christ not only removes sin and guilt from the repentant sinner, but does all these things free of charge and no amount of personal study, piety, or investment is going to make Him give you more. Not from pope, not from king, and definitely not from inside yourself.

All of Scripture is about Jesus and all of salvation and forgiveness is from Jesus. You have no hand in the matter: before, during or after. All your preparation for martyrdom or the Last Day has already been accomplished in Christ.

In short, reading Scripture in any other way than how God intended, starts you on the path to removing Jesus from Scriptures. There can only be one subject and object of Scripture and that is the one Man by whom salvation has come into the world: Jesus.

Through faith, you have been grafted into the True Vine. By grace you have been saved from your blindness and deafness regarding God’s Word. For Christ’s sake alone, you are counted among the adopted sons of the Almighty.

This you do not get from reading yourself into Scripture, but only if you read Jesus into Scripture. But really, you don’t have to, because He is already there. Its just that sin still gets in the way and for this we cry out for mercy.

From the last words of Robert Barnes on 30 July 1540:

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgment? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven.

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