Reflecting on the Reformation


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I am aware that outside of the original apostles, nobody in church history has given us perfect doctrine. The apostles were not perfect men, but were the instruments God used to release His truth. Through the apostles God gave the Word as a compass of nonnegotiable truths. The heart of the message written in God’s Word is a message of redemption. The second nonnegotiable truth is the good news that Jesus gave His life for us; that He is willing and able to save our souls, that if we repent for our sins and confess with our mouth that Christ die and rose again and, if we accept His Lordship, we shall be saved.[1]

            My personal frustration with all of the books I have read of church history so far is that they mix in truth with lies. Galatians 1:8 tells us, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (KJV)

            Even as, in the mix of all, God still raised ambassadors of truth within the walls of the Catholic Church, it is obvious that the Catholic Church, as an institution, completely lost her way and became indeed accurse. The veneration of Popes, the selling of indulgence, the adoration of Mary, praying to dead saints and leveling councils and men’s opinions to the level of the authority of Scripture, were the key factors that force a desperate cry for reformation.

            Through Scripture we see that God always raises leaders as instruments of blessings or as instruments of judgment; God indeed raised Luther to deliver his church as He did Moses to deliver His people out of Egypt. Next year we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, what an amazing time to reflect on such historical event!

            Martin Luther was not the first one to point out the Catholic Church’s inconsistencies and hypocrisy. There were others, such as John Wycliff and John Hus who also spoke against the Catholic Church’s abuses of power before Luther. These men proclaimed Scripture as the ultimate authority of truth. However, without a doubt, Martin Luther was the chosen one by God to ignite the fire of the return of the preaching of the Gospel to the church and to the world. Another key voice on this reform came from Switzerland, Ulrich Zwingli.

            An attempt was made to unite these two giants of the protestant movement, however, even as both men agreed on key theological issues such as: the authority of Scripture alone, the rejection of the authority of the Pope and salvation by faith alone and not by works, they could not come to an agreement on the Lord’s Supper. Martin Luther saw the bread and the wine as the actual body of Christ while Zwingli saw it as symbolic.[2] On that point, we can say that the protestant movement initiated the never-ending protest against themselves.

            I am afraid that today, just like in the times of Luther and Zwingli’s, some other factors get in the way of truth. Factors such as: political pressures, pride and selfish ambitions. Zwingli was perhaps more radical than Luther in his approach to the Bible[3], but even as he could not find biblical evidence of infant baptism, his political ambition or his view of politics as an instrument to advance the reform, blinded him to compromise on this issue. Zwingli is the indirect father of the Anabaptist movement as a couple of his students were inspired to search the Scriptures for truth[4], accept what was there and reject what was not, a key theme of Zwingli’s approach. These students did not find any Biblical evidence for infant baptism. Nevertheless, Zwingli rejected that revelation for political gain and even persecuted the Anabaptist.[5]

            Was the reformation a failure? Some may argue that it was; our divisions as protestants are obvious and shameful, but the reality of God’s compass for us is as true as it was 500 hundred years ago. How much of what we are doing is indeed Biblical? With the reformation we can say that now it seems like everybody has the freedom to read the Scriptures, which is a great thing, but what is indeed dangerous is all these private interpretations of Scripture. I do believe in Sola Scriptura, but what has happened to us? Can we find the Gospel today or have we also become accursed? Perhaps, just perhaps even as traditions are not divine as the Catholic Church proposes, we should look back and pay more attention to those traditions that poses clear biblical backing. The Bible gives us absolute truths; our orthodoxy, dogmas and the sound doctrine, so we must definitely and desperately must start there in our quest for truth.

 

 

[1] Romans 10:8-10

[2] John B. Payne, ZWINGLI AND LUTHER: THE GIANT VS. HERCULES, Christian History Institute, https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/zwingli-and-luther/

[3] John D. Woodbridge, Frank A. James III, Church History Volume Two, (Grand Rapids: Zonderland), 2013, 154-155

[4] Ibid., 153

[5] William R. Estep, The Anabaptist Story, The Reformed Reader, http://www.reformedreader.org/history/anabaptiststory.htm

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