by Burk Parsons
I am a Christian, and I am a Protestant. Im a Christian because I trust Jesus Christ alone, believing that salvation is accomplished by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. I am a devout Protestant because I continue to protest against anyone who even suggests that salvation is accomplished in any other way.
When I entered Rome for the first time not too long ago, I was naturally looking forward to visiting St. Peter’s Basilica within the towering walls of Vatican City. As I stood under the world’s tallest dome, I was simply in awe of its magnificent grandeur. However, as I considered how the entire structure was funded, I was instantly overwhelmed with emotion. Deep sorrow and righteous vexation filled my heart as I began to recall the system of indulgences contrived by particular popes and cardinals of sixteenth-century Rome, who endeavored to build the basilica on the backs of common people throughout the Holy Roman Empire. For the most part, the construction of the basilica was funded by the preaching of a twisted gospel that promised eternal life in Christ with a few qualifications, such as the one John Tetzel allegedly coined: “When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
As I write, dozens of men in hard hats are breaking their backs in order to build a new sanctuary and fellowship hall for Saint Andrews’s Chapel where Dr. Sproul and I serve. When complete, the sanctuary will reflect the style of the great cathedrals throughout Europe. However, as we seek to build this new sanctuary, even amid difficult economic times, we do not twist the gospel of Christ in order to fund this immense undertaking. In fact, it is precisely on account of the historic, unchangeable gospel that we are building a sanctuary wherein, Lord willing, the never-changing gospel will shine forth in this ever-changing world for generations to come. The Lord God Almighty is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore, His Word cannot change, the four accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ cannot change, and the simple, unqualified gospel of God cannot change. As Christians, we live, move, and have our being before the face of God, and as Protestants, we must continue to stand for the gospel, even when we find our own proud hearts wanting to add our own works to the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Burk Parsons is editor of Tabletalk magazine and minister of congregational life at Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida, and is editor of the book John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.