The Time of the Reformation

October 28, 2010

The last Sunday of every October is the day we commemorate a turning point in history. In the year 1517, on October 31st, which was a Sunday, a Roman Catholic priest, after years of study, walked up to the doors of a seemingly insignificant little church in Wittenburg, Germany and nailed a document to the door that would turn the world upside down and change the course of history. The document contained ninety-five theses, in which he set forth where the teaching of scripture differed from the teaching of the Roman Church. He never intended to cause division within the church that he loved, nor did he intend to start his own denomination. Rather, he desired that those in the positions of authority within the Church would recognize and heed to the authority of scripture. He had no idea what the impact of his actions that day would be on his life, his Church, or the world.

Every cause has an effect and every effect has a cause and nothing ‘just happens,’ especially something of this magnitude. There are always causes that bring it to that particular moment of time and history. So it is true of the Reformation period in history that many consider to have begun with the nailing of the ninety-five theses by Martin Luther to the door of the church at Wittenburg, there is much that preceded it.

The book of Acts records the history of the Christian Church in the first century. During that time, under the ministry of the Apostle Paul, in a period of only two years and three months, all Asia had the opportunity to hear the Word of God. This feat has never been duplicated since that time, even with all the technological media available to us today.

Acts 19:8-10
And he (Paul) went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

The knowledge of God grew and prevailed in the first century (Acts 19:20). Yet, in spite of the great outreach of God’s Word under Paul’s ministry, in spite of the unprecedented revelation that God gave to Paul and that Paul made known regarding the Church of the Body of Christ – called the Great Mystery; in spite of the power of God in evidence that the believers experienced in their lives as they applied this knowledge; in spite of all of this (as is recorded in the book of Acts) the Church walked away from the Word of God that Paul made known.

2 Timothy 1:15
This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me;

To reform something means to re-form it, to form it again. There would have been no need for a reformation, a re-forming, if things had not changed from their original form. The Church had changed. It had gotten away from its original, Godly, form. The first change from it’s original form, the first step on the road down to ruin during the first century was that the church turned away from Paul (II Timothy 1:15). They began to reject what Paul had declared and made known – the Great Mystery – the knowledge contained in the seven Church, or Pauline Epistles concerning Jew and Gentile both making up the Church of God, the One Body of Christ with Christ as the Head of that Body. The second step on the road down to ruin was that the Church began to err regarding the Hope of Christ’s return and the rising and resurrections (II Timothy 2:18). The third step downward was that they began to withstand and resist the truth of God’s Word (II Timothy 3:8). The final step was it turned away its ears from the truth and turned unto fables, or myths (II Timothy 4:4). Even before the death of Paul the original form of the Church was lost. Paul died sometime around 64 A.D. Within thirty to forty years after his death, writings began to emerge from within the Church that were far removed from anything resembling true, original, God inspired Christian doctrine. The Church was already in need of a reformation even before the end of the first century.

Eleven centuries later, around the year 1180, there was in the region of Southern France, Northern Italy and Spain a group of people known as the Cathari. The word “Cathari” means “pure ones.” The Cathari had formed together to endeavor to return to the purity of the scriptures. They stood in opposition to the wealth, power and influence of the Roman Church. They were one of the first groups to propose the idea that common people had as much right to teach the Word of God as did priests, which idea was revolting to the Roman Church. From the Cathari descended a group of people known as the Waldensians, who continued to stand upon the Word of God and stand against the Roman Church, promoting the idea that every man had a right to a knowledge of the scriptures, and a right to teach and preach the Word of God. In 1229 the Roman Church decreed that it was forbidden for anyone except a priest to read the scriptures or do any preaching or teaching. At the same time they denounced any translation of the Bible other than their own. Around 1360 John Wycliffe dared to translate the scriptures from Latin into English. In 1415 the Roman Church exhumed his body, tried him for heresy, and burned his already dead body at the stake. In 1373 John Huss was born. He loved the Word of God and became a devoted follower of John Wycliffe. On July 6th, 1415 he was burned alive at the stake as a heretic. In 1450 Gutenburg invented the printing press. In 1471 the New Testament was first printed and distributed in Italian. In 1477 it was printed in French, in 1478 in Spanish, and in 1488 a Bohemian New Testament was published.

All of these events set the stage for the next great event that occurred, Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety five theses to the door of the church at Wittenburg on Sunday, October 31st, 1517. Following Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli preached the Word of God in Switzerland. John Calvin, after being forced to leave France, also came to Switzerland where he became a major figure in the Protestant movement. Calvin’s writings are still considered required reading for students of theology. In France during this time, were a group of Protestants who were known as Huguenots. They became known as Huguenots because in the area of Toures, the king, who had died, whose name was Hugo, was believed to go out at night as a spirit. Due to the persecution going on at that time, Christians would go out at night to witness and preach the Word of God. The Christians, because of their behavior, coupled with the legend of King Hugo, became known as Huguenots. John Knox brought the Word of God to Scotland. His ministry developed into what is known today as the Presbyterian Church. In England, King Henry VIII began to reject the authority of the Roman Church as well. William Tyndale became a champion of the Reformation in England. In 1520 he translated and published the entire Bible in English. He was thanked for his efforts by the Roman Church by being burned at the stake.

All of these men were wonderful, God fearing men who loved God and did the best they could to reform the Church and return to the purity of the Word of God with the resources that were available to them, but the resources were limited during that time in history and many were influenced by Roman theology. Some of these men, like Martin Luther, were deeply devoted to the Roman Church, even though they desired to see it reform. All of them stood in the face of tremendous opposition and persecution. Some gave their lives for what they believed. All of these men, and many others through the centuries since, are responsible for the awesome privilege we have today of not just having the printed Bible but having the tools to research the scriptures, and gain an understanding God’s Word, of being able to gather together to study the Word of God, freely, without the threat of death hanging over our heads – at least not yet.

The work of these men continues today. The Church today, both Protestant and Roman, continues in need of a reformation. Doctrines introduced into Christianity during the dark days of its rejection of the truth of God’s Word need to continue to be uncovered and cleansed from its thinking. There is still work to be done. The Church needs to conduct itself nobly and learn to recognize the doctrines in its system of beliefs that do not line-up with the teaching of scripture and not be afraid to reject them, and change, and return to true, God inspired doctrine. The Church must examine its doctrines and practices in light of the divine authority of God’s Word to see “whether those things are so” (Acts 17:11). Those doctrines that that line-up with scripture, they ought to continue to hold on to. However, those doctrines that they promulgate that do not line up with the Word of God must be disposed of, no matter how dear to their heart they may be.

Perhaps the greatest requirement of a student of the scriptures is their willingness to unlearn. Christians must be willing to unlearn and give up and change any belief that does not line-up with scripture. Approaching the Word of God in this manner, while being at times unpopular, and not being without challenges, is rewarding.

© 2010 The Bible Study Group, Inc.

For questions, fellowships, or to support the work of the Bible Study Group, contact – fellowship@biblestudygroup.org, or write us at The Bible Study Group, 11605 Meridian Market View, Unit 124-125, Peyton, CO 80831. You can also join fellowship online every Sunday morning at 10:30 by going to htpp://www.dimdim.com and joining the meeting room – “thebiblestudygroup.” God bless you!

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Valiant for the Truth

October 19, 2010

The record of history shows that wherever and whenever men and women have taken a stand for God and the inherent and inerrant accuracy of the truth of His Word, it has always kindled the fires of religious fervor. Such was especially the case during the period in history known as The Reformation. Those in the positions of religious power and authority expended themselves to fan the flames and consume anyone who stood in their way, because the truth of God’s Word (that sets men and women free) threatened the stranglehold and control that the religious order held over people (and their money), and this they could not tolerate.

The truth of the matter is that the truth of God’s Word always sets men and women free, in every category of their life.

John 8:31, 32
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

The accurate knowledge of God’s Word (not the knowledge of denominational theology) sets men and women free in mind and body. It brings healing to the physical body, and restores sanity to the human mind. It will set men and women free in their finances, in their marriage, in their parenting, in their relationships with others, in their businesses. There is no category or segment of human existence that the accurate knowledge of God’s Word does not address and bring deliverance!

II Peter 1:3
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:”

The truth of the matter is that throughout history God has spoken in a variety of ways. One of these many ways was by His prophets – His messengers.

Hebrews 1:1
“God, who at sundry (various) times and in divers (many) manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.”

These individuals received the revelation of God directly from the source, and then delivered the message to those to whom they were sent. They were God’s spokesmen, God’s mouthpiece, His messengers. They used their vocabulary, but what they spoke was God’s Word. That is why the written Word of God (the revelation of God in writing) is of no private interpretation, because it did not come by the will of man, but these holy men of God spake as they were directed by God. They spoke (and wrote) what God wanted them to declare.

II Peter 1:20, 21
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

The record of God’s Word shows time and again how God’s prophets, those who spoke for God, were received and treated by the people.

II Chronicles 36:14-16
“Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the LORD which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.”

Jeremiah was such a man. Jeremiah was a prophet of God, a messenger of God. He spoke for God and delivered “the word of the Lord” that God gave him verbatim to God’s people. Of all the prophets in Old Testament, none was ever treated any more cruelly than was Jeremiah. Yet, he remained valiant for the truth.

One time during his life and ministry Jeremiah was put in the stocks at the gate of the city, by the religious leader of the community (the “chief governor of the house of the Lord”), so everyone could laugh at and ridicule him, because the religious leader of the community didn’t like the Word of God that Jeremiah had been speaking.

Jeremiah 20:1, 2
“Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD.”

Sincerity and religious piety is no guarantee for truth. Just because a man is religious, just because he is sincere, just because he has the right degrees from the right theological seminary or is intellectually eminently qualified, doesn’t make him right or in line with the truth of God’s Word. Pashur was religious! He was sincere! He was at the top wrung of the religious ladder – “the chief governor in the house of the Lord.” He was top echelon of the denomination. What makes a man right is whether or not what he speaks is in line with the truth of God’s Word (rightly-divided), not whether or not it is in line with accepted theological thought or religious teaching.

After Pashur released Jeremiah from the stocks and had summoned him to see whether or not Jeremiah would like to change his mind about what he had said, Jeremiah gave him the Word of God again, and then some. Jeremiah hit Pashur ‘right between the eyes’ with the truth of God, with absolutely no concern whether Pashur would like or appreciate what he had to say. With no concern whether or not he would be ostracized or ridiculed or imprisoned or even killed.

Later in his life and ministry the political heads of the society didn’t like the Word of God that Jeremiah spoke, so they lowered him into an abandoned cistern that was used as a holding tank for human excrement.

Jeremiah 38:6
“Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.”

They lowered this wonderful man of God, God’s spokesman, God’s prophet, His messenger, into a septic tank filled with human waste – sewage! This is as heartbreaking as it is incredible! This was the value society placed on the truth of God by the mouth of Jeremiah the prophet. They considered him, and the Word of God he spoke – sewage! We see this today in our modern society where the Word of God is unwelcome in so many places. It is unwelcome in our schools. It is unwelcome in our legislative bodies (how dare we open a legislative session with a prayer beseeching God for His blessing and guidance on the proceedings). It is unwelcome in our businesses (lest a lawsuit be filed for religious harassment). It is unwelcome at our sporting events (lest the unbelievers be offended). It is even unwelcome in many of our churches (if what the Scripture declares contradicts the theology of the church). This was true in Jeremiah’s day and time as well, and he spoke to it.

Jeremiah 23:1, 11
“Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!

For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD.”

O’ for a Jeremiah in our day and time! O’ for men of God who will speak for Him. Men who are willing to boldly and courageously declare the truth of the accuracy of God’s Word in the face of religious opposition. Men who are valiant for the truth!

© 2010 The Bible Study Group, Inc.

For questions, fellowships, or to support the work of the Bible Study Group, contact – fellowship@biblestudygroup.org, or write us at The Bible Study Group, 11605 Meridian Market View, Peyton, CO 80831