Protestant Reformation 004

Andy Woods                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The Protestant Reformation 004

Matthew 16:18

Father, we’re grateful for this morning and we’re grateful for Your Word and we’re grateful for Your truth; we’re grateful for the United States of America and this special weekend where we commemorate the miracles that you did to liberate us from a situation where we had no sovereignty over our leadership, and we praise you for that.  And make us mindful of those things this weekend; help us not to be just a weekend about barbeques and fun but help us to reflect upon what You’ve done here on these shores. And I just pray you’ll be with our teaching time this morning, both in Sunday School, all of our Sunday School teachers and the sermon and communion, the time of fellowship afterwards.  And I just ask, Father, that if it’s Your will people would leave here eternally changed.  We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory.  We lift these things up in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.

Good morning everybody.  Happy Fourth of July weekend.  I think so far Wayne Thompson wins the award for the most patriotically dressed… I said Wayne, you win the award for the most patriotically dressed.  I thought I was going to win it today but I have an Israel tie on and I’ll explain why that is when we get to this sermon.  But anyway, if we could take our Bibles and open them to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16 and verse 18. Of course, I want to thank Jim McGowan for subbing in last week.  Did you all enjoy Jim’s ministry last week in Sunday School.  All right, praise the Lord.

In case you have forgotten, because we had a one-week lapse as I was in Australia last weekend, we’ve been talking about the Protestant Reformation.  We’ve done about three lessons on the Protestant Reformation and this is lesson 4.  The reason we are talking about the Protestant Reformation is because as we’ve said before, this October 31st will be the 500th year anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the Cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany.   So everybody is going to be talking about the Protestant Reformation and I don’t think we fully understand as evangelicals the significance of the Protestant Reformation; it’s just sort of something that happened 500 years ago and we don’t really understand what God did.

So we’re doing something a little different, we’re not doing a verse by verse study through a book of the Bible; we’re taking a look at what God did after the canon of Scripture was shut.  And when you understand that you begin to understand the need for the Protestant Reformation and its significance.

So here’s the outline that we’re using.  We started off with the early church.  The early church would be the first generation of Christians following the apostles.  And what we discovered there in that circle up north is there arose a school in Antioch that took the Bible which way?  Figuratively or literally?  Literally and that’s basically the approach of the church, particularly in the area of Bible prophecy, for its first two centuries.  There’s another map showing you Antioch.  And unless you understand that first bullet point you can’t really understand what was lost and you can’t understand why God raised up the Reformers.  The Reformers were basically raised up to get us back to Antioch.

The second big area we looked at was the Alexandrian eclipse and this is where we discover what went wrong and that’s that second circle towards the bottom there in Alexandria, Egypt or North Africa; it’s down there in the south.  There’s another map showing you where Alexandria, Egypt was.  There developed a rival school and these are folks that introduced the allegorical method of interpretation, which we’ve talked about, allegorization.

Allegorization basically is the idea that you don’t take the text at face value, you use the text as a vehicle for bringing in a higher meaning that only you are aware of as the interpreter.  So Philo, who did this with Judaism, just before the time of Christ, said that the four rivers in Eden, the Pishon, the Gihon, the Euphrates and the Tigris, are really not four rivers, those represent different parts of the soul.  So that’s what you call allegorization and I think I’ve showed you what they did with the gates around the walls of Jerusalem, as described in Nehemiah 3.  They basically would say these are not literal gates but each gate has a higher spiritual meaning.   We’ve talked about that, haven’t we.

And we’ve talked about basically why this method of allegorization is wrong.  We gave four reasons for that.  Number 1, the text is not being interpreted.  Number 2, authority is being transferred from the text to the interpreter.  Number 3, there’s no way to test the interpreter.  And number 4 there’s no way to control the interpreter’s imagination.

And from there we began to explain how it was that Alexandria, Egypt, won the day and eclipsed what was happening at Antioch, even though the Antiochian mindset reign supreme for two centuries something shifted, probably around the close of the second century, and we began to explain why that happened.   We gave six reasons, the need for relevance, the experimentation with human philosophy, gnostic dualism, the decline of the church’s Jewish population, Constantine’s edict of Milan, and then finally everybody said you can’t take these prophecies literally because by the time Alexandria took off the Jews had already been pushed out of their homeland by the Romans in A.D.  70.  So it seemed anybody that took these prophecies literally was crazy; there’s nothing over there but a barren expanse and it’s under Roman control now.

So you put all six of these together and you begin to see how over the course of time Alexandria, Egypt, eclipsed the literal approach that you find happening at Antioch.  And I think I introduced you to two major allegorizers, didn’t I?  One of them was Origen, and who was the most influential one?  Augustine, and by the time The City of God is written, which is the first formal treatment of amillennialism in church history, it was almost a sealed deal and the church shifted away from chiliasm, which is premillennialism (which is what it taught for the first two centuries) into amillennialism which is the idea that you spiritualize Bible prophecies.  And the reason I’m using Bible prophecy as sort of a bellwether here is because your attitude towards Bible prophecy, once you begin to spiritualize it it’ll quickly move into spiritualizing other aspects of the divine truth.

So allegorization took off  and that shifted us into Roman numeral III ( I think we started barely talking about this last time) a period of time called the Dark Ages.  So what were the Dark Ages all about?  The Dark Ages lasted for over a thousand years, which is a long time.  It lasted from the fourth century A.D. (roughly) right up to the point in time where Martin Luther, in the sixteenth century, nailed his 95  Thesis to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany.  So that is the significance of the Protestant Reformation; they’re pulling us out of the Dark Ages.

And what happened during this time period is the study of prophecy, particularly, became almost obsolete.  The church really had very little interest in prophecy, they had very little interest (with some exceptions) in the end times.  They had very little interest in God’s future program for Israel.  You know, all the subjects that we bring up here in this church over and over again, those subjects are by and large lost to the church from about the fourth century to the sixteenth century and what begins to dominate the thinking of the theologians and the church leaders is what’s called Augustinian amillennialism.  So chiliasm was sort of looked at as your grandfathers grandfather’s way of thinking; that’s a forgotten thing, that’s just a fable that people once believed.  And what starts to dominate Christian thought is amillennialism, coming from Augustine, and The City of God, who I believe Augustine largely got his hermeneutic of his method of interpretation from the Alexandrian school there in Egypt, allegorization.

So I don’t like to just make statements, I like to show you where I’m getting this information from.  Renald Showers, who’s really a top notch scholar, I believe he’s with Friends of Israel, if I’m not mistaken, he’s written a lot of wonderful books, wonderful articles, he makes this statement.  He says concerning the Dark Ages, “Augustinian’s allegorical amillennialism became the official doctrine of the church.  Premillennialism,” which is what we believe here, “or chiliasm as it was taught for the first two centuries in Antioch, went underground.  Some aspects of premillennialism were even branded as heretical.  The Roman Catholic Church” which by the way was the only church during this time period, “The Roman Catholic Church strongly advocated and maintained Augustine’s amillennial view throughout the Middle Ages.” Sometimes people call the Dark Ages the Middle Ages so both of those terms are synonymous.  “During that span of time occasionally” see God always has a remnant, “premillennial groups formed to challenge the doctrine and political power of the major part of organized Christendom but they were not able to restore premillennial­ism to its original position as the accepted orthodox view of the church.”

So the Antiochian school of thought lost ground and it really couldn’t be recovered, except for a few blips on the radar screen, throughout this over one thousand year period called the Middle Ages or the Dark Ages.  And we look at all of that and we say well what about Christ’s promise here in Matthew 16:18, “I also say that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will built My church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”  Well, God always has a faithful remnant.  Isn’t it right, in Elijah’s day there were how many that hadn’t bowed the knee to Baal?  If I remember right there was like 7,000.

And so you can look throughout the Middle Ages and you can see kind of some shining lights but they are really far and few between.  One of the shining lights is a guy named Pseudo Ephraim, and Pseudo means false so it’s generally believed that this guy who wrote this sermon was not the actual famous Ephraim, the Syriac, but he was sort of using Ephraim’s penname and this shows up around the fourth to the sixth century.

Pseudo Ephraim says, “Why therefore do we reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ so that He may draw us from the confusion which overwhelms the world, for all the saints and the elect of God are gathered prior to” what? “the great tribulation.”  Oh my goodness, here’s a guy that believed in a future tribulation period.  It looks to me like he’s a pretribulational rapturist.  If you were to cover up the title you would think Charles Ryrie or somebody said that but this is actually all the way back to the Middle Ages, the fourth to the sixth century.  “…the tribulation that is to come and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins.”

So yes, amillennialism takes off, replacement theology takes off, people believe that the church has permanently replaced Israel, they believed they were in the kingdom of God now.  But not everybody believed that; as you can see there’s a few dissenters like Pseudo Ephraim, but what Pseudo Ephraim represented here really was a minority position and it really was not well-known during the period of time called The Dark Ages.  And what you have to understand is during this time period you only have one church and that church would be what?  The Roman Catholic Church.  So you don’t have anything like what we have today.  You know, in Houston somebody told me that there’s somewhere between 3000 to 4000 churches to pick from.  You have one church, the official church, the Roman Catholic Church, of course they have different parishes spread throughout Europe and other places but it’s a virtual monopoly.  And it’s under this Roman Catholic influence that these doctrines of allegorical interpretation, amillennialism, and all of these kinds of things really take off relying very heavily on what Augustine wrote in his book The City of God.

And the key thing I want  you to understand about this time period is the Bible is removed from the people.  That’s the key thing to understand.  There are probably about three reasons that I have there as to why the Bible became removed from the people.  The first reason has to do with allegorization; if you move into allegorization the only person that knows the meaning of the allegory is the allegorist himself.  So your average person is looked at as sort of a fundamentalist or backwards and they’re just taking the Bible literally and they don’t understand what the Bible means, they haven’t been trained in this allegorical method of interpretation. Well then who is the interpreter?  It’s the priest.  The priest basically tells you what the Bible means through allegori­zation even though you look at the text of the Bible and it’s not saying, using a literal method of interpretation what the priest is saying.  So there is virtually no way to test the allegorist because the allegory is really coming out of the priest’s mind.

And what develops during this time period is a huge distinction between the laity, lay people, and the clergy.  The laity are way down here and the clergy is way up here.  And the clergy are special because they have some kind of special insight (they think), and the people falsely think that the laity do not have.  And this is why the priest start to get dressed up in these really fancy robes and all these sort of colors.  You get into the New Testament and you don’t find leadership to be dressed up in a way different than the average layman.  And so they’re not getting their beliefs from the New Testament, they’re getting their beliefs from the Aaronic priesthood because when you study the Book of Exodus you’ll see Aaron was dressed up (as the high priest of the nation) in a fancy robe and all of these kind of things.  And if you believe that the church has… I would say you can’t use that passage today directly to argue what leadership, the clergy, are supposed to wear because those passages concern who?  The nation of Israel.

But if you believe in replacement theology, that the church is the new Israel, you can just willy-nilly go back into the Old Testament, anything you want  you just grab and apply.  So the priest is dressed up, he’s sort of different than the laity, he’s looked at as sort of a higher level because he’s the only one who understands the Scripture and the allegories that it supposedly represents.  And this is why, when you get to the Protestant Reformation  you have the Reformers emphasizing the priesthood of who?  What’s the expression? Priesthood of all believers.  Did you know you’re a priest, by the way?  You say well I don’t feel like a priest and you don’t look like a priest either, neither do I for that matter.  But the fact of the matter is Revelation 1:6 tells you very clearly that you are a priest.  [Revelation 1:6, “and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father– to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”]

So the Reformers are emphasizing the priesthood of all believers to react against this clergy/laity distinction where only the priest, who’s on some pedestal can interpret the Bible for you.  So the Protestant Reformation is basically a back to the Bible movement and it really is what I would call a pro-rank and file movement.  And that’s why the middle class and the lower class love Luther, because his teachings were empowering them.  During the Dark Ages or the Middle Ages the laity weren’t empowered at all; the priests and the Ecclesiastical hierarchy had all the power so it was very much a top-down structure.   And Luther comes along and he starts emphasizing the priesthood of all believers and he starts emphasizing the fact that everybody can read the Bible and understand it, and that’s reversing what was happening throughout the Middle Ages.  In fact, many historians will tell you that throughout the Middle Ages or the Dark Ages this Bible that we take for granted… we take this book for granted, don’t we?

We’ve got Bibles in every translation you could ever want, we’ve got Bibles in all kinds of shapes and sizes.  I even have seen Bibles, I saw the environmentalist bible the other day, where they put… honestly, the Christian bookstore, they put in Green anything that related to the environment.  There’s a Weight Watcher’s Bible and on and on we could go.  And we have all these cool little explanatory comments here at the bottom of each page and what I’m trying to get us to understand is you don’t have that during the Middle Ages.  The Bible, I’m speaking literally here, is chained down to the pulpits.  Why?  Because of allegorical interpretation and the empowerment of the priests.  And the average person was basically told you can’t understand the Bible.

And something else that’s happening during the Middle Ages is rampant illiteracy.  Your average person probably, even if they had a chance couldn’t read the Bible because they are basically illiterate.  There’s no emphasis on public education that we have today, and these kind of things, and this is why the Reformers, when their movement begins, one of their key agendas is to raise the literacy standards.  And I’m going to be showing you that public education in America, and really around the world, wouldn’t be what it is today if had not been for the Protestant Reformation.  And they reason they want literacy standards raised is so people could read the what?  The Wall Street Journal?  No!  The Bible.

Now why would they want to raise literacy standards?  So people could read the Bible because of the priesthood of all believers.  So they’re trying to reverse essentially what is happening during the Middle Ages and Martin Luther, one of the things he was big into, and I’m going to be, when I get to my pictures of the Protestant Reformation, of course I wasn’t there when the Reformation happened, I’m not that old, but I’ve visited Wittenberg, Germany recently, I’ll show you the actual table where Luther was translating the Scripture.  One of Luther’s big agenda items that he was trying to get done is he was trying to take the Scripture and translate it into the vernacular or the language of the common man.

If I understood our tour guide correctly it took Luther eleven months to translate the New Testament from Greek into German and then it took him eleven years to translate the Old Testament from Hebrew into German.  And I asked our tour guide, well why does the New Testament get eleven months and the Old Testament eleven years, Luther was a brilliant guy who could understand Greek and Hebrew, and she basically explained that by the time the New Testament had been translated and all these attacks were coming against Luther.  Luther got really sidetracked and he couldn’t work on it single-mindedly the way he had the New Testament so it took him longer to do the Old Testament. But he got the job done.

Now why would a man like Luther spend so much time translating the Bible into the vernacular of the common man?  Because of his belief in the priesthood of what?  Of all believers.  So literacy becomes a big deal for the Protestant Reformers.  So do Bible translations.  And I get a chuckle out of people who say well your views of prophecy haven’t been taught in the church for 1800 years and I think to myself well yeah, that’s because people were illiterate during that time period. Yeah, that’s because they didn’t have a Bible to read so are you using the dark ages as  your example of what correct doctrine should be?  So the whole sort of accusation against our camp that we believe things for the last couple hundred years that were never taught for… from the fourth century to the sixteenth century and they try to disparage our views.  You have to understand that they’re using as evidence the Dark Ages when there was illiteracy and the Bible wasn’t even accessible for the common person.

So allegorization removed the Bible from the laity and empowered the priests; illiteracy removed the Bible from the laity and empowered the priests, and the third thing that removed the Bible from the people and empowered the priests was the idea that the Mass, the Catholic Mass, remember the Catholic Church is the only Church functioning at this time, the Catholic Mass is read in Latin right up to the eve of the Protestant Reformation.

Now there was a guy named Jerome in the fourth century who set out to translate the Bible from the Greek into Latin, which was the lingua franca basically of the Roman Empire.  The problem is Latin became a dead language.  So what did the church do?  They didn’t care about the people, they only cared about their own empowerment so they just kept Latin translations around and they kept reciting the mass over and over and over again in Latin so the average person that wanted to be spiritual would go to a church and they wouldn’t even understand what was being said.  You can see Paul reacting against that kind of thing with the issue of tongues.  I don’t know how much I want to get into that today.

1 Corinthians 14 there was a gift of tongues happening and Paul is very clear that when the gift of tongues is exercised there must be an interpreter because if someone is up there babbling in some kind of tongue that has no edificational value.  So if a church service is being conducted in Latin or a Mass is being conducted in Latin and you don’t have the ability to understand Latin all you can really do is come to a church and maybe look around and see the stained glass windows or whatever, and get kind of a liver-quiver of the day but the church service has no ability to edify you or build you up.  So you take these three things, allegorization, illiteracy, the Mass read in Latin and you can begin to understand how the Bible became chained to the pulpit and disempowered the laity and empowered the clergy.

So if the laity are in that position think you can be manipulated.  This leads to what I would call the sale of the indulgences.  If the laity or the lay people are in that position of vulnerability then anybody can come along and sell you on any spiritual idea they want to sell you on.  So one of the things the church began to do is they began to sell indulgences and basically the idea is, you know, I’m the priest, know that from the Bible (which you don’t have) that there’s a place called purgatory and you know what, your aunt Mary or uncle Joe or grandpa Fred whoever is in purgatory and what you need to do is you need to get them out of purgatory. Well, Mr. Priest, how do I get them out of purgatory?  Well, the saying that they came up is when the coin in the coffer rings the soul from purgatory what?  Springs.  So what happened is this sale of indulgences became a money-making operation.

Now here is Tetzel, Johann Tetzel was active doing this thing right up to the time of Martin Luther.  And this is the thing that really upset Luther, is the manipulation of the people.  It’s sort of the feeling that you get when you’re channel surfing and you come across so-called Christian television and you see them completely prostituting everything that you believe in, to make money, telling people you’ve got to sow your seed to our station and then God is promising to bless you.  You feel a sense of righteous indignation, do you not, when you see that.  Think of that emotion multiplied by a hundred or a thousand and that’s what Luther is seeing when he’s watching all of these people that he loves be manipulated by these priests.  So Tetzel couched the saying as follows, he says:  As the gold in the casket ring the rescued soul to heaven springs.

And here is an actual copy of some of the language from one of Tetzel’s sermons.  Of course, when he gave a sermon nobody had their Bible out to validate what if what he was saying is true, because of illiteracy and other things, allegorization (as we’ve talked about) so you come into a mass and he would say something like this.  This is an actual teaching that he gave:

“Behold, you are on the raging sea of this world in storm and danger, not knowing if you will safely reach the harbor of your salvation….  You should know that all who confess and in penance put alms into the coffer according to the counsel of the confessor, will obtain complete remission of all their sins….  Why are you then standing there?  Run for the salvation of your souls!…”  And then he really starts to play on people’s heartstrings when he brings deceased relatives into the issue.

He says, “Don’t you hear the voices of your wailing dead parents” I mean wow, my parents are wailing dead somewhere?  “Don’t you hear the voices of your wailing dead parents and others who say, ‘Have mercy upon me, have mercy upon me, have mercy upon me, because we are in severe punishment and pain.  From this you could redeem us with a small alms and yet  you do not want to do so.’”  Close quote.  “Open your ears as the father says to the son and the mother to the daughter….”  Quote, “We have created you,” this is the parent supposedly speaking, “We have created you fed you, cared for you, and left you our temporal goods.  Why then are you so cruel and harsh that you do not want to save us, though it only takes so litter?  You let us lie in flames so that we only slowly come to the promised glory.’” Close quote.  And then Tetzel concludes by saying, “You may have letters which let you have, once in life and in the hour of death …full remission of the punishment which belongs to sin….”   [Tetzel”  A Sample Sermon, Hillenbrand 1964:41-3]

Can  you see how this would terrorize people?  Oh my gosh, the priesthood that’s been empowered for the last thousand years is telling me that my deceased relatives are in purgatory; here it makes it sound like they’re in hell, and the priest who’s the authority is telling me I can get them out for just a little small alm here and there, just a little offering here and there.   And the people, what I’m trying to say is the people are essentially set up for total manipulation.  And so they had turned the mass into a money-making operation.

And you know how God feels about that because Jesus, I believe twice, when into the temple, once at the beginning of His ministry, once at the end of the ministry, and remember His reaction?  He got so angry over it that He began to overturn tables because they had turned the Father’s house into a marketplace, and the nation of Israel had a come and see strategy.  This is why the Queen of Sheba traveled one thousand and two hundred miles to sit at Solomon’s feet.  They were going to build this beautiful structure and the nations would come see it and they would see in it a glimpse and the glory of God and learn about God by coming to the land of Israel and studying the Solomonic temple.

And by the time of Christ that temple, which by the way had been destroyed by the Babylonians and then rebuilt, became nothing more than a money-making operation.  And Jesus is incensed at this because they took something that God had given, which was to attract the nation to God and they turned it into something that repulsed the nations or repelled the nations.  And this is the type of emotion that I believe Christ experienced when He saw this; it’s the type of thing that the Holy Spirit is bringing to the mind of a very young Martin Luther.  And as this sale of indulgences was happening the political authorities and the ecclesiastical authorities just looked the other way.  Why did they look the other way?  Because it was a gravy train, it was money coming in.

Now this is St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, which today we know is a very beautiful piece of architecture, externally and internally.  Here’s just a few pictures of it that I got off the internet, but what you have to understand is during the time of Luther and just prior to the time of Luther this piece of architecture was still being constructed.  It was still being built.  So what do you need when you build something like that?  You need money!  And so this sale of indulgences, the Roman Catholic hierarchy was very happy with it because it was bringing in money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and part of the kick-back went to the governments of the day, so the governments of the day completely gave approval of what the church was doing with the sale of indulgences and this is the mess that the church is in right up to the eve of the Protestant Reformation.

Now why don’t these people just pull out their Bibles and say wait a minute Mr. Priest, I have a question, I don’t see the doctrine of purgatory in here, can you show it to me?  Wait a minute, Mr. Priest, I have a question, you’re claiming you can pray people out of hell, pray people out of purgatory, can you give me some biblical references for that?  Well, of course, as I’ve explained before they have no ability to do that because they don’t have what?  A Bible, it’s not in their language.  Besides, even if they could read it the hierarchy was telling them they couldn’t understand it because of the allegorical interpretation borrowed from Alexandria, Egypt.  So you have no ability to “test all things and hold fast to that which is good.”  [1 Thessalonians 5:21]

We underestimate what a gift this Book is to us, that we can understand it and access it and hear things and from hearing things we can discern truth from error.  That’s why this Book is called part of our defensive armor in the armor of God.  This is why Jesus responded to every satanic lie that came against Him in the wilderness of Judea with a citation from the what?  The Scripture.  Well, if you don’t have the Scripture, for reasons I’ve explained, then you have no ability to test what’s coming out of the mouths of the authorities.  And the capacity to be a Berean was lost during the Dark Ages.  You know who the Bereans are?  You might want to follow me around to some of these verses.

Acts 17:10-11, this is on Paul’s, I think his second missionary journey, “The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. [11] Now these” that’s the Bereans, “were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica,” so the Bereans, Luke tells us in the Book of Acts, were more noble than the Christians in Thessalonica.  Why is that, “for they” that’s the Bereans, “received the word with great eagerness,” as Paul explained it, in other words, they were teachable, they weren’t a bunch of you know,  pugnacious fighting fundies in that sense, they were teachable but they didn’t receive teaching uncritically, “for they received the Word of God with great eagerness,  examining the Scriptures” monthly… oh, it doesn’t say that does it, “examining the Scriptures once a week, it doesn’t say that, “examining the Scriptures” what? “daily to see whether these things were so.”

So they had a completed canon called the Old Testament and they knew that God couldn’t lie.  So therefore everything that Paul taught couldn’t contradict what God had already said in the Old Testament. So unlike the Thessalonians the Bereans sat there with their Bible at the time open and they screened everything the Apostle Paul said on a daily basis through the written Word of God.

Now keep in mind they did this with Paul’s… with God’s chief apostle, Paul.  If that’s true how much more should you be doing that, daily, with anything you hear from this pulpit or anywhere else.  And you  have the ability to do that because you have a completed canon of God’s Word.  You take this away from people they don’t have the ability to do that.  They don’t have the ability to do that, they become manipulated for typically power and commercial reasons.  That’s the Dark Ages.

1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, says this, “do not despise prophetic utterances” you see this was written during the time before the canon was closed and there were actual prophets in the church giving the revealed will of God.  This is very early on in church history.  “so not despise prophetic utterances,” in other words be teachable, don’t just argue with someone for the sake of arguing.  [21] “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;” so test all things, “hold fast to that which is good.”  Well, how in the world could they test all things?  Through the Scripture, what they had at the time, because God can’t say one thing on Monday and something different on Tuesday.

So the Thessalonians are doing this with prophecies that they heard; the Bereans are doing this even with the teachings of the Apostle Paul.  Even in Corinth, 1 Corinthians 14:29, where there were active prophets, it says this: “Let two or three prophets speak…,” and this is where Paul explains that the spirit of the prophets are subject to the prophets, so there is no such thing as some kind of extemporaneous spirit empowerment that comes over me and I can’t control my speech.  That’s what many charismatic Christians, our brothers and sisters in Christ believe, some kind of gift comes over them and they have to get up and talk.  And I like what Thomas Edgar said in response to that; he goes how come that never works with the gift of giving?  I’ve got a hundred bucks in my wallet, I’ve got to use my spiritual gift of giving right now.  It never works that way; it works amongst these so-called prophets that want to get up and speak.  So Paul is laying down rules for prophets.  This is the close of the first century where all those gifts were in full operation.  And Paul says, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others” do what? just sit there and absorb everything that’s said.  No, “let the others pass judgment.”

Well how do you “pass judgment?”  You pass judgment through a record of God’s revealed truth because the devil can give you all kinds of experiences.  Did you know that?  And signs and wonders.  I can think of two major religions, false religions that were started one of them is Mormonism and the other one is Islam because somebody, whether it be Joseph Smith or Mohammed had some kind of contact with an angel of life and if you were to interview Joseph Smith and interview Mohammed there’s no doubt in my mind that to them that angel of light looked very real and I think it probably was real but they assumed it was God. Well, it can’t be God because the doctrines of Islam and the doctrines of Mormonism contradict the Bible.  So if it’s not from God what’s the only other source of energy or power out there?  The devil.  He has a lot of power; not as much as God but he can give you visions, he can give you signs and wonders, he can give you the liver quiver, he can do all kinds of things.  And if you’re not actively testing what you hear by what God has said you’re going to fall into false teaching.

And this is very important today because people, by and large, assign truth to something based on an experience.  I personally am not anti-experience; I believe God gives experiences but experience is not the test of truth.  Are  you with me?  The test of truth is does the doctrine line up with prior revelation. So Paul says, Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.”

One more, this is in the Book of Revelation, chapter 2 and verse 2, this is Jesus speaking to the church at Ephesus that lost its first love and before He rebukes them for that and calls them to repentance He articulates a lot of the good things that were happening at Ephesus.  He says, “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance,” now look at this, “and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the” what does it says, “test those who call themselves” what? “apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;” so there were people coming into Ephesus the same way the Apostle Paul came into Berea and they said we’re apostles too.

And you’ll notice what the church at Ephesus did?  They, I believe, were teachable but they always screened everything they heard through the written Word of God.  And they actually found some of these apostles to be pseudo apostles or false apostles.  And when Jesus talks to the church at Ephesus here at the closing of the first century He doesn’t condemn them for that practice; He commends them for that practice.  What He condemns them for is moving away from intimacy with Christ, which He does I think down in verse 4-5.  [Revelation 2: 4, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  [5] ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place– unless you repent.”’]

But in so doing He commends for what they’re doing right and these are people that basically are put to the test, those who want to teach them spiritual truth.  And so this is a practice that in the 21st century is starting to get lost, which is shame on us because we have the tools to do it.  I’ve used this analogy before, maybe it will work with you, maybe it won’t, but in the banking industry I’m told that the way they train bankers, tellers, and these kinds of people to recognize counterfeit money, “funny money,” is they make them familiar with what?  The real money.  So here’s real money in your hand, you become familiar with its color, its texture, the way it looks, the way it feels, and the more familiar you are with it if something false comes across your hand and suddenly you’re saying something’s not right here, because you have a standard to compare it to.

And there is literally an explosion of false teaching to the point where there’s no possible way you can keep up with all of it.  Just to study one area of false teaching to become an expert in it would require your whole life to understand it.  And God is not calling us all to understand every area of false teaching.  What He’s calling us to understand is this Book which is a finite revelation, 66 books, and the better you understand these 66 books when falsity comes across your path you can say wait a minute, that doesn’t sound right, that doesn’t meet the smell test.  So that’s what a gift this Book is to us.  Without this revealed will of God we would have no capacity to discern truth from error, particularly spiritual things.

Now think of the Middle Ages when you don’t have a Scripture for the reasons I’ve explained.  Think of that being lost and  you have no ability to test truth from error; someone tells you you’ve got to pay money to get your relatives,  your deceased relatives out of hell or purgatory, tugs on your heartstrings, you’re going to fall prey to that.  So throughout the Middle Ages you have the sale of indulgences.  You also have rampant Jew hatred, or anti-Semitism.  Anti-Semitism started in the first century, it really started long before that but we have a record of it in the Book of Acts.  In Acts 18:1-2 it says Claudius hat commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.  [Acts 18:1-2, “After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. [2] And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.”]  That’s antisemitism, isn’t it?  Isn’t that discrimination against somebody based on their race and religion?  And where did this happen?  In Rome.

This is why Paul, writing to the… what’s his most famous book?  The Romans, where this anti-Semitism was happening, develops the metaphor or the analogy of the tree and he talks specifically about natural branches cut out of the tree, that would be the Jews because of unbelief.  And then he talks about unnatural branches because of faith being brought into the tree; who would those unnatural wild branches be?  The Gentile Christians.  And in the process he describes an attitude that the Gentile Christians, the unnatural branches, should not have towards the Jews, or the natural branches.  He specifically says to the Gentiles, Romans 11:18, “do not be arrogant toward the” who? the natural branches that have been broken off.

So anti-Semitism was already happening in Rome and this is why Paul was trying to, in Romans 11, prevent anti-Semitism from coming into the church through his metaphor of the olive tree.  And what happens if you don’t have a Bible for all those years?  If you don’t have Romans 11 to refer to?  You don’t have the covenants that God has made to the nation of Israel to refer to?  So what do you do when you’re overwhelmed with feelings of antisemitism and Jew hatred if you don’t have a buffer against it?  You just sort of capitulate to it and this is how anti-Semitism, which was going on all over the world actually worked its way into Christendom, or Christianity.  And one of the black eyes of the church is how Christians have looked at historically, and treated the Jewish people.  If you want documentation on it I recommend the book, Our Hands Are Stained With Blood by Michael Brown.  And so throughout the Middle Ages anti-Semitism comes into the church.

So you put all these things together, the length of the Dark Ages, the obsolescence of prophetic studies, the domination of Augustinian amillennialism, the fact that you only have one church, the fact that the Bible is  removed from the laity, the manipulation of the laity through the sale of indulgences, and then the church with no Scripture to refer to becoming just like the world in terms of blaming the Jews for all the world’s problems, you put all of that together and would you not say that the church is in need of rescue?  Does Jesus want to rescue the church from this parade of horribles?  Sure He does!  What did He say?  “I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” [Matthew 16:;19]

So what is God doing now in the 16th century?  Is He starting to raise up the Protestant Reformation or Reformers to correct these problems that I’ve been talking about for the last 45 minutes to an hour?  And you see, you can’t really understand what God did through the Protestant Reformers until you understand all of this background that I’ve given you.

So the next time we’re together, the next time we reconvene, now that this foundation has been laid and it took me about four lessons to get there, we’re now in a position to talk about who these Protestant Reformers are, what they did, what they represented, and we’ll also be getting into what they left undone.  They left things undone for future generations to correct.  So the Protestant Reformation is a rescue operation, as I understand it.  God is rescuing His church, who He died for and who He loves, through these Reformers.  And I think stop, I was going to get into are we seeing the Dark Ages re-emerge today, which I’ll postpone for next week because I’ve been promising people I’d pause early for questions.  So we’ll stop talking at this point.