The Protestant Reformation 005
7-9-17 Matthew 16:18
Let’s s open up in a word of prayer. Father, we’re grateful for today and You woke us up today Lord, that was not guaranteed but here we are with another opportunity to praise You and serve You. I pray you’ll be with our class this morning as we try to talk about an important issue, the Protestant Reformation and I pray You’ll be with our worship service that follows. And I also pray for our baptism today, I pray that would go as You would see fit and this day would be a memorable time for those that are being baptized. So we lift these things up in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…Amen.
Why don’t you open up your Bibles if you could to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16 and verse 18. We have a new handout for today so if you need a hand out just put your hand up and Ron will give you one of those. This is part 5 of a study on the Protestant Reformation, and the reason we’re talking about it is I just got back from Germany twice where the events of the Protestant Reformation really kicked into full bloom. I might be showing you a picture or two from that trip a little bit later but the second reason we’re studying the Protestant Reformation is because we’re coming up, October 31st of its 500th anniversary. So October 31, 1517 is when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany and touched off what’s called the Protestant Reformation.
So as we get closer and closer to moving from summer to fall you’re going to hear a lot of information and people talking about the Protestant Reformation and so I wanted to give you… I wanted to beat them all to the punch and describe the Protestant Reformation, not just the good as we’ll talk about but the bad and the ugly. And there’s an ugly side also to the Protestant Reformation just like there’s a good side. More on that later.
But here is the outline that we’ve been following. It has eight parts to it. You can’t really appreciate the Protestant Reformation until you understand the mess that the church was in prior to the Protestant Reformation. We didn’t start this study in the sixteenth century; we started it back in the first century to try to understand what the early church handed off to the first generation of Christians and how it got lost.
So we started off with the early church and the early church received from the apostles a baton of truth which I think they tried to largely be faithful to in the circle up north called Antioch, and there developed there the Antiochian school of thought and these were folks that took Bible prophecy in which way? Allegorically or literally? Literally, and we’ve documented that. There’s another picture there of Antioch. So we spent some time talking about that and that takes you up to about the second century A.D.
And then we moved into part 2 which was something that I call the Alexandrian eclipse which is the circle down below, down south, where eventually the school of Alexandria, a rival Christian school, eclipsed what was taught at Antioch. And there’s another picture there of Alexandria there in North Africa or Egypt. And they basically, as we’ve explained, introduced a method of interpretation, not just of Bible prophecy but eventually to the whole Bible called allegorization. Allegorization, as we’ve talked about, is where you use the words of the text to bring in some kind of higher spiritual meaning. You can document this even before Christianity got off the ground back to a guy named Phyllo who did this with Judaism, coming from Alexander, Egypt, and he, as we have explained, took the four rivers in Eden, Genesis 2 talks about the four rivers in Eden, the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Pishon and the Gihon. He says those aren’t real rivers; those represent parts of the soul. Now immediately that should startle you a little bit because we have a Euphrates and Tigris River today, don’t we. So why would we take those rivers anything other than in their ordinary sense?
And I kind of showed you what they did to the gates around the wall of Jerusalem as described by Nehemiah 2, each gate represents evangelism, Jesus’ care for the sheep, and different things like that, some kind of a higher spiritual meaning, when in reality all that’s talking about is gates around the wall. So fish gate doesn’t have anything to do with evangelism, it means they brought fish in and out of that gate. But who wants to listen to a sermon on that. It’s more interesting to hear about evangelism even though evangelism isn’t spoken of in that passage. That’s what you call allegorization. And we went through the whole reasons why allegorization is an improper method of Bible interpretation. The key problem with it is you’re reading into the text a bunch of stuff that’s not there. You’re not doing exegesis (drawing out from the text) you’re doing what? Eisegesis, reading into the text what’s not there.
But anyway, this started in the school of Alexandria and lo and behold once you get outside of the second century whose method of interpretation begins to capture the hearts and minds of Christendom? And I gave you six reasons, which I won’t go through again, explaining to you why the church shifted from literal interpretation taught by Antioch to allegorism, allegorization taught by Alexandria. And once you have that under your belt then you begin to understand why the church, Christendom, went through a period of time called the Dark Ages, sometimes they’re called the Middle Ages, other scholars refer to them as the Dark Ages, and I think the last time we were together we had finished, didn’t we, talking about the Dark Ages.
The Dark Ages basically lasted from the fourth to the sixteenth century A.D. which is over a millennium. Prophetic studies became obsolete; the dominate school of thought was amillennialism which eclipsed the chiliasm, or premillennialism, that was taught in the church for the first two centuries. And there was only one church at that time, it’s hard to imagine that today because we have all kinds of denominations, don’t we? But you don’t have that in the Middle Ages; you have one church, the Roman Catholic Church. And it’s called the Dark Ages primarily because the Bible was removed from the people. The people were told they couldn’t understand the Bible and in fact all over Europe you literally find the Scriptures chained to the pulpits of the various cathedrals or parishes because only the priest understood the allegorical method and therefore you are told you needed to interpret the Bible through the priest. In other words, you need some kind of intermediary acting as priest between yourself and God because you can’t understand the Bible for yourself because you’re too simplistic and you haven’t been schooled in the allegorical method of interpretation.
You add to the fact illiteracy, which was rampant. You add to the fact that the mass… now Jerome in the fourth century, and I’ve actually been to the location in the land of Israel where Jerome did this translation in the fourth century. But Jerome translated the Bible from its original languages into Latin to make it accessible to the masses. But by the time the Reformation kicks off Latin is a dead language. So if you’re living in the Middle Ages or the Dark Ages prior to the Reformation and you’d show up at the Roman Catholic mass and you literally wouldn’t be able to understand what was being said if you didn’t speak Latin, and nobody did because it was a dead language. And there’s no accessibility to the Bible even if you had a Bible and were literate you can’t understand it the hierarchy was telling you because you’re not trained in allegorical interpretation.
And this led to massive manipulations of the people in what’s called the sale of indulgences. And one of the friars that really got under Martin Luther’s skin just prior to the events of the Reformation was Yohan Tetzel, I showed you one of his sermons last week, his basic saying was when the coin in the coffin rings the soul from purgatory what? Springs. Now why can’t you just stand up and say wait a minute, purgatory is not a biblical doctrine? Wait a minute, how can a priest pray a soul out of purgatory. You can’t do that because you don’t have a Bible. So the people are in this place of total manipulation by the priesthood and they were rebuilding St. Peter’s Basilica at that time; it’s not the beautiful structure that we know today in Rome, so they needed money to get this operation going and money was coming into the church through this sale of indulgences and a little bit of kickback was going to the political authorities and everybody is happy with it because it’s a source of revenue and gravy train.
And of course anti-Semitism is always alive and well; all you have to do is read Revelation 12 to see that. Satan hates the Jewish people and he knows that the kingdom is going to come to the earth through the Jewish people so it’s always been his strategy in history to exterminate the Jewish people. So the normal mode of thought in the world is anti-Semitic. And the only people that have any real defense against that is the Bible believer and the Bible reader who looks at the Bible and says wait a minute, we can’t hate these Jewish people, God has a special plan for their future. Paul, in Romans 11 says though they now are our enemies, for your sake they’re out enemies, they are beloved on behalf of the patriarchs.
So if you don’t have the Word of God, if you don’t have Romans 11, if you don’t have an Old Testament which allows you to see God has made certain covenants to Israel which have never been fulfilled you have no theological bulwark by which you can stand up against anti-Semitism. So the church drifts into a very anti-Semitic belief systems and I like this book by Michael Brown which is a quick read. We have it in our library, you can get this, I think for free online and download it to your Kindle. It’s called Our Hands are Stained with Blood. And it’s basically a documentation of the church’s attitude towards the Jewish people throughout its history, going back to the Middle Ages, he’s got a lot of quotes from people like Chrysostom, who was known as Golden Throat or Golden Mouth because of his ability to be an orator. And you read through Chrysostom’s material and it’s just blatant Jew hatred, anti-Semitism.
So anti-Semitism is ripe and so the church is in need of what? Rescue! So what did Jesus say? Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock” now in the original language, contrary to what the Roman Catholic Church wants you to believe, he’s not saying Peter is the rock; He says, “I also say to you that you are Peter,” and he uses Petros which means little stone, I believe the noun there is masculine, “I say to you that you are Little Stone and upon this rock” he switches the Greek word… he uses the word petra, neuter noun, meaning big rock. So when you look at this in the original language there’s no way he’s saying Peter is the first Pope, contrary to what Roman Catholicism wants you to believe. In fact, I hope Peter is not the first Pope because what’s the next thing Jesus said to Peter, a few verses later? “Get behind Me,” who? “Satan.”
[Matthew 16:23, “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”] So he’s not doing a very good job in his papacy, this man, Peter.
By the way, Peter was married because had a … my mother-in-law is here, he had a mother-in-law which proves he was married and they believe in the perpetual celibacy of the priesthood. That’s just a side note. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” [Matthew 16:18] The “rock” is not Peter; the “rock” is what Peter said, where he declared Christ as God, Messiah; upon this statement of the veracity of who Christ is “I will build my church.” So the church is in bad shape by the time you get to the eve of the Protestant Reformation and so it’s in need of rescue. And once you understand this background now you can begin to understand the significance of the Protestant Reformation and what the Protestant Reformation accomplished. It got us back on the road to Antioch the first two centuries, rather than steeped in allegorization of Alexandria, Egypt.
And before I leave the Dark Ages and get to the Protestant Reformation itself one of the things I want to point out is I think, to a large extent, Christendom, evangelicalism, is moving back into the Dark Ages. And I say that because almost everywhere you turn in the writings of the emergent church, have you heard of the emergent church, emerging church? There is a perpetual denigration, deprecation of the things that Martin Luther believed in in terms of Bible teaching and Bible literacy.
Here is an emergent church writer. He says, “At Solomon’s porch” Doug Pagitt, “At Solomon’s porch sermons are not primarily about my extracting truth from the Bible to apply to people’s lives… So our sermons are not lessons that precisely define belief so much as they are stories that welcome our hopes and ideas and participation” [Italics added]. So this guy here just trashed my whole life right here because all I’ve ever tried to do at this church or any other church I’ve been privileged to teach at is to explain the truth of the Bible and apply it to people’s lives. And here we have this fellow saying that’s not what church is about. And if you put your ear to the ground you can hear Martin Luther rolling over as I read that.
Another church writer says, “It isn’t about clever apologetics or careful exegetical or expository preaching….” Really, that’s what John Calvin was all about. John Calvin, with his warts (which I’ll be explaining in this series, wrote a commentary on almost every biblical book in detail. He left out, I think three New Testament books, and fourteen Old Testament books but when you get into the life of John Calvin he was all about careful exegetical and expository teaching. But here this gentleman, Dan Kimball says, “Emerging generations are hungering to experience God in worship” Italics added. [Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church, 116] In other words, it’s not about truth, it’s about experience.
Another emergent church writer, Leonard Sweet, he’s a little older than some of these younger guys that I’ve been quoting, he said: “A spiritual Tsunami has hit postmodern culture. The wave will build without breaking for decades to come. The wave is this: People want to know God. They want less to know about God” so we don’t want to know about God, we want to know God personally, which is not a bad goal but how in the world do you ever get to know God personally until you study how He’s revealed Himself in this Book; right. So he saying this younger generation “want new experiences….” [Leonard Sweet, Soul Tsunami, 420.] So get away from Bible… see, it’s almost everywhere you turn they’re writing, it’s always some kind of shot or denigration of careful Bible exposition.
Brian McLaren, one of the leaders of the emergent church, said there’s “…something beyond a belief system or doctrinal array or even a practice. I mean an attitude–an attitude toward God and our neighbor and our mission that is passionate.” [Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, 117-18]
So what we want is passion, not doctrine. Well, I’m all for passion but how do you know you’re worshipping the right Jesus? The Jehovah’s Witnesses, not if but when they show up to your house will use the word Jesus. The Muslims use the word Jesus. How in the world are you going to figure out what is the right Jesus and what’s the wrong Jesus? The only way you could ever know is through what? Through doctrine. But it’s always about anything other than Bible teaching.
Here’s some sayings that have been collected over the years by various leaders: “Don’t give me doctrine, just give me Jesus.” Well, how do you know you’re getting the right Jesus? “What really matters is Christ not creed.” I don’t have the statement from Rick Warren but he basically, in his book, actually not in his book but in one of his interviews he says “The prior reformation was about creeds; the new reformation is about deeds.” So again he’s trying to cut the link between modern evangelicalism and biblical truth. “What really matters is Christ, not creed.” “Devotion is important and not doctrine.” “What counts is our behavior, and not our beliefs.” Look folks, I’m all in favor of beliefs and proper beliefs as a basis for influencing what? Behavior! I mean, let’s have the behavior, no doubt about it, but let’s anchor that behavior in proper beliefs. But you see, these are statements that area always made deprecating Bible doctrine, Bible teaching.
Now a lot of people say well how come you’re not promoting Rich Warren in your church? I mean, don’t you know that everybody is reading or has read The Purpose Driven Life? Don’t you understand how popular Rick Warren is? Well, I don’t promote him in this church or anywhere I go because if you read The Purpose Driven Life what you’ll see all of the time is him doing the same thing these emergent church writers are doing, trashing Bible doctrine. God won’t ask you about your doctrinal… won’t ask you about your religious background or doctrinal views. The last time I checked what you believe about doctrine determines whether you’re going to heaven or not.
He goes on and I have all the page numbers on there where you can look it up for yourself and see it, [Purpose Driven Life 34, 124, 183; Purpose Driven Life 186, 231; Purpose Driven Church 300] Jesus said our love for each other, not our doctrinal beliefs, is our greatest witness to the world. Newsflash: If I didn’t understand the sacrificial death of Christ in my place I would have no framework for loving other people. Today many assume that spiritual maturity is measured by the amount of biblical information and doctrine you know. The Bible is far more than a doctrinal guidebook. The last thing many believers need today is to go to another Bible study. These are all direct quotes. They already know far more than they are putting into practice. So don’t waste your time in Bible study. I think the first thing people need to do is go to Bible study because we constantly need our minds washed, don’t we, through the Word of God.
This one is actually humorous, my pastor has been in Daniel 70 weeks longer than Daniel was. You guys are going to be the victims of that not too long down the road because we’re approaching Daniel 9. But you hear all these quotes and you say what does the Bible say. We don’t have time to look at all these verses but you’ll see that the New Testament and Old Testament places a huge priority on Bible study, Bible teaching. In fact, Acts 2:42, that’s the first thing the early church gave themselves to, was apostolic doctrine. [Acts 2:42, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”]
We’ve taught 2 Timothy in this church and we spent a lot of time in 2 Timothy 3:15-4:2 showing you that Paul in his last will and testament explained that Bible teaching is to be a priority for a minister. Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone,” Matthew 4:4, “but by every” what? “word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” And people say well, why are you emphasizing all this Bible teaching; don’t you know that your people can’t even remember what you said last week? Why are you teaching them something new? Well, here’s the deal folks—I can’t remember what I had for breakfast last week but the meal was necessary for my nourishment so whether I can remember it or not at the time I needed it.
And you go into the Old Testament and you’ll discover there are times of brightness, when God brings forth a revival. And every single authentic revival of God in the Old Testament is precipitated by a return to the Scripture and careful Bible teaching. You can see if for yourself in Nehemiah 8. You can see it for yourself in 2 Kings 22, in the days of Josiah a revival breaks out and why did that revival break out? They discovered this thing in the temple…what is this thing? Well it’s God’s Law that had been in neglect for centuries. What’s this doing in here? What is this thing? In other words, they started reading the Bible and as they brought it out and read it and the priest began to preach on it and teach on it you had a revival take place there in the days of Josiah.
You cannot have authentic revival without the Word of God; it’s impossible! If you think you’re getting some kind of revival without the Word of God it’s a counterfeit revival, that’s what it is. And that’s the blessing of the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant Reformation is a back to the Bible movement which had been lost for over a thousand years to the influence of Alexandria, Egypt. As I look at all these quotes I’m wondering, are we moving back into the Dark Ages?
Dan Wallace correctly says, “By my count, there are twenty-seven explicit commands given in the body of this letter.” 2 Timothy; 2 Timothy is Paul’s last will and testament to a young preacher in Timothy. Wallace says, “In 27 words Paul tells pastors what to focus on. You have to be blind to miss the thrust of Paul’s instructions here, because eighteen of those commands–fully two-thirds–have to do with the ministry of the Word.” [Daniel Wallace, “Crisis of the Word: A Message to Pastors or Would-be Pastors,” Conservative Theological Journal 1, no. 2 (August 1997): 108.]
But you see, the emergent church is moving away from all of that. One emergent writer says: “Post-moderns prefer to encounter Christ by using all their senses. That’s part of the appeal of classical liturgical or contemplative worship: the incense and candles,” see folks, I grew up with all that stuff in Episcopalism for the first sixteen years of my life; I grew up with all the smells and bells and I was basically unregenerate and on my way to hell. And when the priest did finally get up and talk it was sort of his experience of the week, his marathoning and different things that he was doing and I became so disheartened when I discovered that there’s actually a company that you can subscribe to as a minister that will give you a ten minute sermon, and with the jokes, the illustrations, the whole thing. And if you’re getting your sermons from a company are you on your knees all week studying God’s Word, praying for insight, you know, praying for clarity. You just don’t get that if you’re getting this regurgitated “happy meal,” for lack of a better expression.
So I’ve done all the incense, I’ve done all the candles, I’m here to tell you there’s nothing in that, there’s nothing magical in that. What changed me was the Word of God because that’s where I discovered the gospel. So the incense and the candles, making the sign of the cross, the taste and the smell of the bread and wine, touching icons and being anointed with oil, see this is where the emergent church wants to go.
Here’s Dan Kimball again, he says, “multisensory and interactive” in fact, you should know that word, interactive, people use that all the time; they don’t want the emergent church authoritative preaching from behind the pulpit. What they want is conversation so you don’t really have a preacher who’s trained in the Bible, Greek, Hebrew, theology, you have more of a discussion leader or the key word today is “facilitator.” And you go to emergent churches and it’s like being something out of the Phil Donahue show where the microphone is passed around and everybody is exchanging out of the abundance of their ignorance (pardon me for saying that). “… multisensory and interactive …Through various experimental elements as well as through the space itself, we can actually preach. Art preaches. Scripture preaches. Music preaches. Even silence preaches.” [Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church, 186] Well, if silence preaches why are you writing a whole book to me, Mr. Kimball? But you see, all of these things preach and Scripture is just one of the things that preaches, but don’t but too much emphasis on it; that’s the spirit of the emergent church.
Brian McLaren says, “If Charismatics gave me my high school diploma” by the way, you can go to Barnes and Noble and you can see all these books arrayed there. You may know nothing about these books if you’re an older person but I guarantee you this much, your children and your grandchildren know a lot about this. So we need to equip ourselves on how to reach that next generation who are wrapped up in all this stuff. In fact, I was involved in one church in the Dallas area and all this emergent church mentality had totally taken over the youth group and the elders and older people in the church didn’t even know what had happened. They were basically almost unaware of it. Well, they had hired this sort of emergent church youth pastor and he was introducing all this stuff to the next generation of Christians.
Brian McLaren, I’ve got the book and the page number if you’re interested in looking it up. [Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, 175] He says, “If Charismatics gave me my high school diploma in the ways of the Spirit, it was from Catholic contemplatives that I entered an undergraduate degree in the liberal arts of the Spirit.” What does he mean by Catholic contemplatives? What is he talking about? What he’s talking about is pre-Reformation Middle Ages stuff that in his mind we have to go back and retrieve and bring back into the life of the church. All of the things that Luther moved the church away from after the thousand years of the Dark Ages the emergent church wants to go back and retrieve all of that and bring it back into the life of the church. So things like stations of the cross, which I did as an Episcopalian, the smell and the taste of the bread and the wine, they’re into holy water, they’re into something called the labyrinth. Have you ever heard of that? A labyrinth is something that was practiced in the Middle Ages, it’s like a maize and you walk through it and sometimes it’s out on a carpet so you walk through this maize and you get this sort of spiritual experience and sadly all over the Dallas area when I was living there I saw church after church after church putting out a labyrinth; that’s the emergent church.
I mean, where are we told in the New Testament we need to walk through a labyrinth to be spiritual? There’s not a shred of truth in it so what they do is they say well, it was practiced in church history. Well when? In the Dark Ages. So you have labyrinth, you have a lot of emphasis on candles, not that candles in and of themselves are wrong, it’s just a question of emphasis. The darkening of the sanctuary, a lot of churches were darkening the sanctuary and you’d go in and you’d say why are they darkening the sanctuary? It’s part of this multisensory approach to the ministry that was practiced in the Middle Ages. Ash Wednesday, which I grew up with. I was involved in a Bible church that moved into Ash Wednesday where you received the ash of the cross on your forehead; this is not a Catholic church I was at, it was an Episcopalian church that I was at, this was at a Bible church, so-called Bible church. A big emphasis on the Christian calendar, a huge emphasis on medieval monasticism.
Another phrase you should know is Lectio Divina; Lectio Divina is not Bible study! Lectio Divina is taking a verse of the Bible, it doesn’t matter what its context is, and you just repeat it over and over again in your mind and you get some kind of spiritual experience from it. It’s sort of like a mantra; it’s mere repetition. It’s not examining what that verse is saying, what is its context. So that’s supposedly a practice that happened during the Dark Ages that needs to be brought back. The sign of the cross, closing the service with the sign of the cross. Stations of the cross, contemplative prayer, meditation.
You say well what’s wrong with meditation? Meditation is find biblically, Psalm 1 says we ought to meditate on His Word, how frequently? Day and night. But that’s not what these folks mean by meditation. To them meditation is you… this is not Bible, this is Eastern mysticism, what I’m describing here, you empty your mind of all reality and you put yourself in sort of a trance like state and once your mind is emptied of all reality then the first thought that comes into your mind is the voice of God. How many problems can we point out with this within the short time that we have?
Number 1, the devil can speak to your mind, can’t he? Your sin nature can speak to your mind. Give me one verse in the Bible where we’re told to empty our mind of all thought. That is not a biblical concept; that is a concept that comes out of Eastern mysticism. And that’s what you’re having in the emergent church is this merger between East and West. What else? Monasticism, the huge push today in colleges and seminaries, Bible colleges and seminaries is something called spiritual formation, and as you examine spiritual formation and what it is it is just regurgitated Monasticism from the Dark Ages.
You say well, you’ve given us a lot of information, where can we go for further information on this. I recommend the website, Lighthouse Trails. You type in any major Christian character or figure, I don’t care who they are, you put it into their search engine and you can see very fast based on what comes up are these people connected with the emergent church or not. They’ve just done some tremendous research. I also recommend the book by Gary Gilley, I believe the title of it is Out of Formation. [Out of Formation: Spiritual Disciplines of God and Men Paperback – October 21, 2014] Gary Gilley has been on top of this; he’s a pastor also, since this stuff first started to become popular, probably in the 90’s, late 90’s. And so as you go into that material, the Lighthouse Trails or Gary Gilley’s materials you can see I’m not making things up.
You might know the name Francis Beckwith, do you know that name? Francis Beckwith was the President of the Evangelical Theological Society in 2006. So he is, in 2006, the leading evangelical scholar in the world. And right in the middle of his term he says you know what, I’m not going to be a Protestant anymore, I’m going to be a Roman Catholic. How do you do that if you’re the president of an evangelical theological society? So he announces that he’s going back into Roman Catholicism. Now why did he go back into Roman Catholicism? He didn’t go back into it because he’d been studying the Bible; and that’s what you never hear from these guys… I was studying the Bible and I decided to drift away. No, he got enmeshed in the writings of the church fathers, which are good at points and as I’ve been showing you and will continue to show you the very negative points and he started to think that Roman Catholic doctrine is more his bag of tea, so to speak.
I’m just showing you the power and the influence of the emergent church. I’m trying to show you what’s happening out there, even as we kind of sit in our comfortable circles here at Sugar Land Bible Church there’s a spiritual war taking place. And the emergent church is always saying we’ve got to get back to these practices that were lost. What did Paul say in Acts 20:29 to the Ephesian elders at Miletus as he’s completing missionary journey 3? “I know that after my departure” that’s when the apostles left the scene, “savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” So you don’t look for truth for what God wants you to have based on practices in church history because Paul specifically says that after I and the rest of the apostles leave the scene wolves are going to come in.
If you want to go to truth you go back to the apostolic generation. Now where do we find information about the apostolic generation? It’s right here; this is where you go back to, to discover what truth is, what should be emphasized in a church, what should be de-emphasized in a church; you don’t go into a bunch of medieval monastic practices that were lost in the Middle Ages. So what is happening out there is largely people are trying to leapfrog the Protestant Reformation and get back to the Dark Ages because you might be listening to me talk saying I want something relevant to my life, why is he talking about the Dark Ages? Because we’re going back to them in many corners today; that’s why they’re relevant.
Why not go back to the beginning? Where in Scripture are we told that it’s essential to embrace ancient liturgical and contemplative practices? You’re not going to find any Scripture on that. That’s why they’re trying to anchor their case in church history, not the Bible, because the Bible doesn’t support where they want to go. In fact, when you look at the words of Christ in Matthew 6:7 you actually find, I believe, Jesus condemning these contemplative practices. He says, “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” So the Gentiles thought they were heard by God through practices like repetition, contemplative prayer, Lectio Divina, and yet Jesus is specifically saying that’s not how you gain a relationship with God. It’s not through some kind of liturgical monastic practice. So there we have it folks; the Dark Ages which are not just a footnote in history; they’re actually things on our horizon today.
So we’ve gone through the early church, the Alexandrian eclipse, the Dark Ages which to my mind are resurfacing to some extent today. And this takes us to Roman numeral IV on our outline, which is The Contribution of the Protestant Reformers and you see there we have a long list to go through and we may, if we’re lucky, do Roman numeral VIII today. I want us to have some sensitivity to the fact that God prepared these Reformers. Even before we get to their preparation we sort of have a belief that the Protestant Reformation started with Martin Luther and certainly he probably had the biggest influence, but there were others that God raised up during the Dark Ages to speak against what was happening.
Here’s some names to know, one is John Huss who lived from about 1369-1415, he was basically trying to do what Luther did and was martyred. A name that you probably have heard (these are morning stars of the Reformation) is Wycliffe, you’ve heard of Wycliffe Bible Translators named after this man; lived from 1320-1384, he was trying to get the Bible translated into the language of his people, the language of the common man which was going against what the Roman Catholic hierarchy was wanting to do throughout the Middle Ages.
And another morning star of the Reformation is the advent of the printing press which came about in the 15th century. Once the printing press became available to folks you could take the ideas of the Reformers and you could take the Scripture itself and you could print it and it would have a mass audience. So I believe God put the technology in place to overcome the negativity that was happening with the Dark Ages.
So God was always working through different morning stars, whether it be Huss, Wycliffe, I can give you many others, the advent of the printing press. The advent of the printing press is sort of like what the internet has done. I made it all the way through high school, college, and law school and I never used the internet because it wasn’t around then. In fact, I remember one guy I was talking to, this was when Bill Clinton became President, he goes I’m so mad at the President, I’ve been sending him e-mails all day. I didn’t know what he was talking about, an e-mail, what is that? And this would go back to what? 1992-1993.
And now look at how e-mail has… I mean, how do we function without e-mail? How do we function without the internet? And there’s a part of the internet that’s bad, because as you know there’s a lot of weird stuff on there but let me tell you something, there’s a part of the internet that’s great because it allows us at little Sugar Land Bible Church to take messages that we do and put them out for the whole world. Prior to the advent of the internet the only people that could do something like that were big, BIG churches with BIG BIG budgets and now all of a sudden the internet and social media and all these things that we have levels the playing field. And so there’s a bad side to it but there’s a good side to it.
And that’s basically what you have with the printing press. The printing press is this new idea and now God has the right stage set for the rapid transmission of the ideas of the Protestant Reformers. So that’s what I mean by morning stars, stage setting.
And something else to understand about the Protestant Reformers is God prepares His instruments. Before God uses anyone for anything there’s always a time of preparation. This chart here… did you know Moses lived to 120 years of age. We know all about age 1 to 40, he’s being trained, is he not, in the household of Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s daughter wasn’t it that found Moses there on the Nile. That was the sovereignty of God. So he’s being given the best education that could be given, age 1 (roughly) to age 40 because he’s preparing this man to write the… what did Moses write? The Pentateuch, the Torah, the first five books of what we call Old Testament, better said Hebrew Bible.
And then we know about the last forty years of Moses’ life, age 80 to 120 where he’s doing his thing, he’s leading the children of Israel out of the Exodus, God is giving him the Law, he’s leading Israel through the wilderness preservation and he’s offering the Pentateuch. So we know about age 1-40; we know about age 80-120, but what about age 41 through age 80? Ever thought about that? What’s God doing with this man’s life during this time period?
Moses had a human education but he hadn’t had a spiritual education yet. So Moses realizes his calling, he sees, you remember the story, the Egyptian abusing the Hebrew and what does Moses do? He commits murder, I’ll take matters into my own hands. So obviously you’re dealing with someone that’s very fleshly, that thinks they can do the work of God through human power. So God, therefore, ushers Moses into the middle phase of his life where he did what for forty years? He worked at McDonalds flipping hamburgers, basically… I mean, here’s this guy that has all this education and God puts him out there in Midian and he shepherds God’s people for forty years. By the way, the exact same length of time he would shepherd God’s… not God’s people, Moses was shepherding actual sheep, right, like baa baa, those kind of sheep, which is part of Moses’ task in the final third of his life, shepherding God’s people. He did it exactly for forty years because he would shepherd God’s people for forty years. He did it in Midian which is where a lot of the events in the final third of Moses’ life took place.
So God trained Moses for forty years for the task he would do in the final third of his life. And that’s where he’s totally emptied of himself. In fact, when God finally calls him God actually gets angry with him. Remember? Because he says who am I to do this, to lead God’s people. Now he wasn’t saying that at age 40, he was out strangling people to death. So my point is Moses doesn’t become Moses until God prepares the instrument and that’s how you have to look at the Reformers.
So the key guy is Martin Luther and how did God prepare Martin Luther? Well, first of all his consecration. What I’ve read of Luther he was basically caught in a lightning storm at a fairly early age in his life; they thought he was going to die and he calls out to God, some accounts say he called out to Saint Anne, and he promised he would serve God his whole life if God protected him in this lightning storm, which God did. And that moves Martin Luther… well even before we get to that can I say something nice about lawyers?
Martin Luther and John Calvin both have law in their background; both of them were studying law. Now you say well, that should disqualify them, not qualify them. But let me tell you something about law since I went through law school; one of the things you’re trained in law school is the literal method of interpretation except when it comes to the Constitution then you can just do whatever you want [laughter]. But when you’re interpreting contracts and things like that you’re taught a method called the literal, grammatical, historical method of interpretation. That is the same stuff that they were teaching in Antioch for the first two centuries. And this is the method that Luther and Calvin used to rescue the church from allegorization in certain areas. So that legal training is part of who the Protestant Reformers are.
And after Martin Luther’s consecration that moves into his monasticism where he takes a vow of poverty. Now this really upset the Catholic Church, it really upset Luther rather because here he was living in poverty and the Catholic Church was making all this money off the people through the sale of indulgences. Why is the Catholic Church living so high when I am consecrated to God and living at such a low level? He joined, Martin Luther, the strictest order he could find, monastery or order. It was so severe that it allowed him to speak one time a day; he had to wear kind of a shirt, I guess we would call it a sweater that was intentionally irritating. Have you ever worn an irritating shirt and it just bristled on you? That was what was given to these particular Monks in the severity of Luther’s order that he voluntarily joined.
And this was a guy in these monastic years that would show up to confession four times a day and a lot of times he would wear the priest out because he was there for two hours. I mean, he confessed everything he ever did and this is where he discovered that no matter how harsh he put his body under these treatments his anger problem still continued. So he’s discovering what Paul says in Colossians 2:20, “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as,  ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’  (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)– in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?  These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”
No matter what type of monastic deprivation you put your body under the sin nature is still there and you don’t really know that until you put yourself under monasticism and see its total inability to control the sin nature. What you need to control the sin nature is your baptism into Christ and the new resources provided by the Holy Spirit but you see Luther is learning all of these things through his monasticism and this is all the hand of God. Before God uses someone He prepares the instrument and this led to Luther’s conversion where he, because he was showing up four times a day to these priests and this monastic order and wearing the priests out the priest said we’ve got to get rid of this guy, he’s wearing us out; I know what we’ll do, we’ll have him teach the first year students. He’s a pretty bright guy, so Luther, here’s your job, you’re going to translate from the Greek New Testament, you’re going to teach the first year students.
Oh my gosh, what does he discover as he’s doing that? The Book of Galatians, Galatians 2:16. He’s reading things like this: “Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law” that was counter intuitive to everything that he was experiencing, “since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” He’s reading Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” He’s reading Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish, having begun by the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh.” He’s reading Galatians 5:16, “But I say walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.”
Monasticism and the harsh deprivations and treatments of the body aren’t going to control the sin nature, he’s reading, it’s the walk of the Spirit. And the Lord is using all of these experiences to prepare Luther as His instrument. So this is what we would call revolutionary, this time of study, translation and teaching. And he begins to refer to the Book of Galatians, this is a German word, meine frau, anybody know what that means? My wife. He says I’m wedded to the Book of Galatians because of this revolution I’m experiencing. And that’s why Luther is so pro Scripture in his debates with the Catholic Church because he’s seeing in the Scripture things that are going opposite of everything that he’s been experiencing in monasticism.
And so consequently this leads to the Reformation which begins with Martin Luther nailing his 95 Thesis to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany. That’s Anne and myself, Beauty and the Beast, in front of the very door that Luther nailed his thesis to. It’s sort of disappointing because the door is made of metal now and I always picture a hammer going into the wood and the tour guide told us that that door burned down at some point and they replaced it with this metal door. But anyway, that’s where it happened.
And he nails his 95 Thesis to this door. Now why did he do this? He didn’t do it to start a Protestant movement; that was probably the furthest thing from his mind. He did it because as a teacher, as a professor in that day that’s how you started what today we would call a dialogue or a conversation. It’s what you guys do on Facebook, if you want to discuss something you post something and someone else comments and you comment, and that’s what Luther was trying to do.
He never said okay, I’m going to start a new movement here, he’s just starting a conversation based on the revolution that he was experiencing through the study of the Word of God. Most people don’t understand this but Luther wanted to stay Catholic. He never wanted to break away and start something new; he was ultimately forced into it because of the way the Catholic Church started treating him when he went this direction. They started to question him as a heretic, and that surprised him as much as it surprised anybody else. And yet he found this groundswell of support amongst the poor or the middle class or the working class because what he was doing and what he was standing for was empowering them who had been put in a top down situation and abused through the sale of indulgences. All of the power resided with the upper echelons and Luther, they sensed he was sort of reversing that by what he was doing.
Anyway, I hope that helps a little bit. That’s the preparation of the instruments. And then next week we’ll get into exactly what the Protestant Reformation covered, accomplished. I’ll give you the specific accomplishments but I wanted to insert this as sort of a background and preparatory to give us a sense of how God prepared the way, so to speak, for this Reformation.