The Protestant Reformation 008
7-30-17 Matthew 8:14 Lesson 30
I’m going to open us with a Word prayer. Father, we’re grateful for today, grateful for this morning and grateful for another day to study Your truth and to be used by You today. I do ask, Father, that You’ll continue to work here at Sugar Land Bible Church as You grow us more and more into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ in our daily life. So through our teaching today, worship service, fellowship, Sunday School, kids teaching, everything that’s going on I pray that You would fulfill Your purpose in our lives today by conforming us even more in our daily life to the image of Your Son, and we’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said Amen.
Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 8 and verse 14. We’re continuing to move through in these summer months the information about the Protestant Reformation because in October you’re going to hear a lot about it in the Christian world because October 31st, as you know, will mark the 500th year anniversary of the event that most people say triggered what we know today as The Protestant Reformation, Luther nailing his 95 Thesis to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany. So I wanted to do some teaching given the significance of the anniversary on the Protestant Reformation, why the Protestant Reformation is such a big deal.
Here is the outline that we’re following. We started with the early church and what the early church or the apostles handed off to the first Christians in terms of doctrine. And as we’ve talked about many, many times the northern circle in red represents the school of Antioch. And this was during the first two centuries of the church; the church took the Bible, including Bible prophecy, literally. But what happened, moving into Roman numeral II, the Alexandrian eclipse which really probably beginning in the third century what was happening in Alexandria, Egypt, really became the dominant school of thought. And these folks in Alexandria, Egypt began to allegorize spiritualize, non-literalize Bible prophecy and ultimately the rest of the Bible.
And you can see Alexandria, Egypt, that circle in the south. So you have these two rival schools of Christian thought early on in church history and the sad reality is, and unless you understand this sad reality you can’t understand why the Protestant Reformation was needed. The sad reality is Alexandria wins the day in terms of influence. The school of Antioch is eclipsed. So they used the allegorizing method of interpretation, which we’ve gone over and explained it in depth and we’ve explained what allegorizing is, why we don’t believe allegorizing is a proper approach to the Bible. And we’ve explained why that method became popular.
So that transitions us into Roman numeral III which is a time period called the Dark Ages which lasts over a millennium, where the Bible is removed from the people. The people, first of all, even if they had a Bible were told they couldn’t understand it and beyond that, because of illiteracy and other things the Bible is basically a closed book to the Christian world. So this may be the Christian church, the sheep, very vulnerable to manipulation, through the sale of indulges and things of that nature. And we talked all about that.
So that time period goes on for over a millennia, it starts probably in the 3rd, 4th century and lasts all the way up to the beginning of the 16th century and so what enters the picture is the Protestant Reformers who are basically, as I understand them, God is raising them up and using them to rescue the church from the Dark Ages and to get us back to what Antioch originally believed.
So we have talked about the preparation of the Protestant Reformers, we talked a little bit about who Martin Luther was, how God had sovereignly worked in his life and we’ve talked about some morning stars of the Protestant Reformation; there were others like John Huss, Wycliffe and others who were sort of, prior to Luther’s time period, trying to do what Luther did. And then there was the advent of the printing press, which was a big deal because that allowed the Reformers to send their ideas all over Europe.
So the Protestant Reformation kicks off and you see an emphasis immediately in the writings of the Reformers on literal interpretation. I’ve given you a ton of quotes. They use the word “literal” over and over again and they’re using that as a tool to reclaim what was lost. They sound a lot like the school of Antioch the way they keep using the word “literal.” And in the process they denounce allegorization in some of the strongest language possible. I’ve given you some quotes from Luther, Calvin, others that denounce allegorization.
And one of their main contributions, as we look at this list of contributions is they begin to reject church history as a guide or church tradition as a guide. So they begin to say things like an idea isn’t valid just because the Pope says it’s true, or prior Popes have said it’s true. You have to find that idea in the pages of God’s Word for that idea to be accurate. So the Protestant Reformers shift the authority base; that’s their huge contribution. The authority base becomes the Bible and the Bible alone. And in the process they reject the idea that only the Catholic priests are priests because for a thousand years the people were told that we’re the priests, we’ll help you understand the Bible and our Word is final.
And the Protestant Reformers in this Back to the Bible Movement actually are beginning to look at the Scripture and they’re looking at passages like Revelation 1:6 which teach that we are all priests in the age of the church. [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 if we are all priests in the age of the church all of us have the ability to read the Bible; all of us have the ability to understand the Bible so they’re taking authority away from the ecclesiastical hierarchy and restoring it to the people. So this is really a blue collar movement; I mean, the common people loved Luther and even when he was going to debate the Catholics in a famous debate he was stopping at different villages and almost given a hero’s welcome to the point where it bothered the Catholic Church that this guy was becoming so popular.
So if you believe in the priesthood of all believers guess what you have to have; you have to have a Bible in the language of the common man so it can be understood. Prior to this point in time the Bible was not available in the common language. Jerome, back in the 4th century tried to and he succeeded in taking the Hebrew and Greek Scripture and translating it into Latin for the common man. But by the time of Luther Latin is basically a dead language. And the Roman Catholic Church was still carrying on its masses in Latin so people weren’t understanding what was being said.
So if you believe in the priesthood of all believers it’s sort of like dominoes knocking down, one domino fell and that logically leads to other dominoes in a row being knocked down. If you believe in the priesthood of all believers you have to believe in an understandable Bible. So Luther begins to translate the Scripture into the German language, not from the Latin but from the original Hebrew and Greek, because he did not trust the Roman Catholic version of the Scripture, which up to this point in time was available only in Latin. So he translated the Greek New Testament into German in 11 weeks. My wife and I had a disagreement on that; she says it’s 11 weeks, I say it’s 11 months so I went and looked it up and she was right, I was wrong. He did it actually in 11 weeks, not 11 months. I don’t know if that really matters in the big scheme of things. He did it fast, how’s that?
The Old Testament took him longer because of traumas and things going on in his life that he translated the Old Testament from Hebrew into German in 11 years. And guess what else you have to do? If the priesthood of all believers is true and people need the Bible in their own language, guess what they have to learn how to do—they have to learn how to read. So when you go to Wittenberg what you see are a lot of pictures everywhere. The Bible is sort of spelled out in picture form like the Ten Commandments… I should have brought in a picture of that, I took a picture of it, it’s spelled out using symbols and pictures that people could understand. But the Protestant Reformers weren’t satisfied with that, they wanted people to actually be able to read so they have to raise literacy standards.
And one of the points I made last time is the United States of America I don’t think would exist without the Protestant Reformers. Most people, when they give you presentations on the Protestant Reformers never bring this up but I tried to show you some quotes from historians, indicating that this is true. The Protestant Reformers emphasized total depravity of man. Man needs a Savior because he is totally corrupted by sin. That is a huge belief of the Protestant Reformers. And so those that founded this country were the spiritual descendants of the Reformers. So what they did is they devised a system of government that divided political power up because power corrupts and absolute power corrupts what? Absolutely.
So they didn’t want one person to get control of the entire government and so they divided political power up amongst three separate branches of government and they divided government between the national government and the state governments and it’s one of the most inefficient governing systems ever created by man. And it makes no sense if you believe in the goodness of man. If you believe in the goodness of man then the people running the government are basically good at heart so there’s no need to put restrictions on them. But if you believe in the depravity of man and that sin has contaminated every single human being then the government has to be big enough to keep in check the sinful impulses of the population but it also has to be weak enough to oblige it to control itself.
And if a psychologist or a humanist or someone who believed in the perfectibility of human nature had put together the United States government we wouldn’t have the separation of powers concept we have today and consequently we would be in some form of government that would probably look more like a dictatorship than anything else. And so if you enjoy the freedoms you have in this country, and I know you do, or if you appreciate them and I know you do, you can thank John Calvin and Luther because they put a Christmas present under your tree called the total depravity of man, which America’s Founding Fathers were steeped in and that becomes the basis for the American system of governance. So that is a huge contribution of the Protestant Reformation.
And another one of their contributions which we started talking about last time was they gave to us the five Solas. Sola is a Latin word that means alone and by itself. So if the Protestant Reformers had simply left out the word Sola in their theological points they would have gotten along hunky-dory with the Roman Catholic Church because they would have been looked at as just one of many options, but because they insisted on the word Sola or alone that put them at war with the Roman Catholic hierarchy. So what are the Solas. I think two of them we covered last time and three more we’ll cover very quickly now.
Number 1 is Sola Scriptura where they insisted that Scripture by itself is your source of authority. It’s no longer Scripture plus the papacy plus the Monks plus the priests plus tradition; it’s Scripture alone. And that’s huge, that reverses over a thousand years of bad thinking on that subject in the church.
Number 2, they insisted on Solus Christus which means Christ Alone. So in Christ alone is salvation available. And I think those we covered last time and now we’re kind of picking up where we left off last time.
They insisted on Sola Fide; Sola Fide means what? Anybody know? Faith Alone. Now this idea of the Solas, where are they getting these things from? They’re not just pulling them out of their hat because they’re going back to a back to the Bible movement and they’re insisting on, number 1, Sola Scriptura, these are all concepts that they’re seeing in the Bible which was different than what the church at that time was teaching. So Sola Fide is the idea that you are saved through the power of Christ on the basis of one condition which is faith alone in Christ alone. And of course as you go through the Bible you’ll see this over and over again. In fact, the Bible teaches this about 160 times that I can document and the number is probably closer to 200 times. It’s just a subject that’s so big it’s hard to ignore. It’s how Abraham was justified, Genesis 15:6, “Then he” Abram “believed in the LORD,” one condition was met, “and He” that’s the Lord, “reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
So Abraham was justified before God, not because he showed contrition, not because he repented of his personal sins, not because he walked an aisle, not because he gave money to something or some kind of cause. He was justified before God the moment he placed his personal trust in God. You all know John 3:16, there’s only one verb for the lost sinner to fulfill to be made right with God. We dealt with this aggressively in our soteriology study. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever” shows proper contrition and repents of his personal sins and joins Sugar Land Bible Church… oh, it doesn’t say that. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever” what? “believes” and not just believes but “believes in Him” that’s the work of Christ on his behalf, “shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Acts 16:30-31, this is Paul on his second missionary journey, where he was asked life’s most important question, “Sirs,” the Philippian jailor said “what must I do to be saved?” And Paul and Silas give the answers,  “They said, ‘Believe’” one verb, “in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved….” So “Believe, Sola Fide, “in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Solus Christus. Ephesians 3:8-9, you probably know, “For by grace you have been saved through faith,” it doesn’t say anything besides faith. Hebrews 11:6 you are familiar with, “And without faith it is” difficult to please Him. It doesn’t say that, “without faith it is” challenging to please Him. It doesn’t say that. What it says is “without faith it is impossible to please Him.” The word “impossible” here, I think, if I remember right adunatos, it’s the same word used in Hebrews 6:18, same book, same author, where it says it’s impossible for God to lie.” [Hebrews 6:18, “so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”]
The philosophers are always asking, are there some things God can’t do? And my answer is yes, God cannot lie. Well, can God make a rock so big that He can’t lift it? My answer to that is no, He can’t do that because God is always sovereign over His creation. If God can make a rock so big that He can’t lift it then He’s no longer what? No longer God. So there are some things that are impossible for God to do, like lie, like make a rock so big he can’t lift it and so forth. So the same word that’s used there, Hebrews 6:18, “it is impossible for God to lie,” the same word used here in Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” The teaching on Sola Fide does not come into existence because Martin Luther said it’s true; Luther is just retrieving it; he’s retrieving what had been lost by using what method of interpretation? The literal grammatical historical method of interpretation. And by rejecting the allegorical impulse given to the church, thanks to Alexandria, Egypt. So that’s what we call Sola Fide.
The fourth Sola is Sola Gratia which means you’re saved by grace alone. The Greek word for grace is charis, and grace, what does that mean? It means unmerited favor. It means favor coming to a lost sinner from God that they do not deserve and they did not work for. And it’s a righteousness that’s transferred to your account at the point of faith. Luther actually called this the great exchange; in a nanosecond you’re unrighteousness is exchanged for Christ’s righteousness and God looks at you as if you are just as righteous as Jesus. Did you all know that, by the way, that when God the Father looks at you today, if you’re in Christ you’re just as righteous as Jesus? Did you all know that? Positionally. You say well, I don’t really deserve that, you should have seen what kind of week I had, I sinned here, I sinned there, I failed here, I failed there. Well, that’s why it’s called what? Grace. And if you can find a better deal out there let me know. This, to me, is the best deal in the universe.
So the Reformers start to emphasize Sola gratia and you recognize this from Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith,” you see how these Solas are linked. When you study Romans 4:4-5 what you’ll discover is faith is the only thing a lost sinner can do before a holy God to gain His favor which is not a work. Faith is not a work! Read Romans 4:4-5 sometime and you’ll see it very clearly. [Romans 4:4-5, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.  But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,”] So if faith is not a work and I gain all of these treasures from God by way of faith then obviously I acquired these things by what? By grace, unmerited favor. So God has set this whole thing up in such a way that when you receive it you have to receive it based on His principles, which would be grace, unmerited favor, accessible by faith alone. And that’s what you call Sola gratia.
And then the fifth Sola that they give us is Sola Deo Gloria, and a lot of times when people, like famous musicians, like I think it was Bach, when he finished his music he would put SDG down at the bottom of the page. And I used to look at that, I didn’t know what the heck that meant but what it means is Sola Deo Gloria, it’s an Latin expression which means “to the glory of God” what? “alone.” So if salvation is a grace operation from beginning to end and the only thing you did to gain access to it is something nonmeritorious called faith, then who gets the glory in the whole package? God does!
And see, this is the danger of mixing works, even subtly, with the gospel and man is always trying to get a work or two in. Did you notice that? Because that’s our nature. And that’s why one of the biggest struggles, even here at Sugar Land Bible Church, is trying to keep the gospel the gospel because you have a lot of parachurch type ministries that want to come into this church and they want to use their method of the gospel. And when you look at their method of the gospel it’s got five or six steps to it. Well, frankly folks the moment you add a single step other than faith… the moment you say receiving the gospel is four things, or three things, or some use the ABC method, you have to Admit, you have to Believe, you have to Confess. You’re adding things to the Word of God that simply are not there.
What God does is He educates a person as they come under the influence of the Spirit through conviction. That’s where they become aware that they are a sinner, that’s education. The only thing God at that point asks a lost sinner to do is to B, Believe! He does not ask a person to be justified to go out and confess it to their neighbors. Now you say well, that’s what we do here in America. Yeah, we do that here in America but you tell me how well that’s going to work in an Islamic country where a person receives Christ, maybe because of a missionary or because of the internet or a tract or some way and the moment they make that public is the moment their wife will be raped, their kids will be killed, and they simply don’t want to confess it because of the personal losses that they’re going to experience. Are you telling me that that person is not saved because they didn’t confess Christ. That is a ridiculous proposition.
Or think about the person that doesn’t have any vocal cords; who are they going to confess to. Are they going to use sign language, or write on a chalk board? And this whole thing that we’re doing with ABC, Admit, Believe, Confess, is we’re adding things that God never required. And the Protestant Reformers understood this very clearly. It aligns directly with your Bible; it says this 160 times, probably closer to 200 and they understood that you’re saved by faith period! In Christ, period! Now if that’s true and it’s not based on walking an aisle and it’s not based on human courage or whatever the case may be, then my hand can’t go up in terms of sharing part of the glory. See that? You see how Sola Fide is connected to Sola Deo Gloria?
The moment a human being can add anything to justification by faith alone, the moment it becomes faith plus something is the moment the human being gets a lion’s share of the glory. But God has set up in a way so that there are no bragging rights. Do you see that? Because I don’t know everything there is to know about God but I’ll tell you one thing I do know about God is that He’s not in the business of sharing His glory with others. That’s spelled out as clearly as it can be spelled out in Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.”
And that’s why there’s always this struggle with keeping the gospel clear because prideful man comes in and wants to add a few things so he can get part of the credit. But the moment that happens is you’re contradicting not only Sola Fide, you’re contradicting Sola Deo Gloria. Did you see how Ephesians 2:8-9 ends? “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works,” what’s that last clause, “so that no one may boast.” So if salvation is a grace operation from beginning to end it gives human beings no boasting rights and that’s the way God set it up.
This is why the Book of Galatians, chapter 5 and verse 11 calls the gospel a what? An offense, a stumbling block. [Galatians 5:11, “But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.”] Why is it a stumbling block? Because my pride kicks in and says well let me contribute; you bought lunch let me at least leave the tip. Let me do something; let me give some money, let me join the church, let me raise my hand, let me walk an aisle, let me do something. And the moment that enters the picture is the moment a human is given a right to boast as contributing to part of the package. But God has set the whole thing up so that boasting is eliminated because Isaiah 42:8 says it’s contrary to God’s nature to share His glory with another. [Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.”]
Romans 3:27-28, after Paul explains Sola Fide. “Where then is boasting? It is” what? “It is excluded. [By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.  For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”] So nobody is going to be in heaven parading around as proud as a peacock because God has set up salvation in such a way that it eliminates that possibility.
So these are all things that have come into the life of the church, thank you Protestant Reformers. Sola Scripture, Sola Christus, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Deo Gloria. Now why did they start thinking this way? Because they switched the authority base. They went back to the Word of God and the Word of God alone and isn’t it interesting that what happens when you do that your theology starts getting straightened up, a theology that had been messed up in the church for over a millennia.
And in the process, continuing on with the contribution of the Protestant Reformers, they begin to reject the celibacy of the priesthood because prior to this point in time and even in Roman Catholic tradition today if you really want to serve God you can’t be married; you’ve got to serve God as a single person. And the church was calling Peter their first Pope. Now we’ve already explained, haven’t we, why this here is not saying Peter was the first Pope. Matthew 16:18, “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,” or prevail against it. And you read that in English and it looks like the Lord built the church on Peter. But remember what the Protestant Reformation is; it is a back to the Bible movement, therefore understanding the Bible in its original languages becomes a big, big deal to people like Luther, Melanchthon, and others switching the authority base ecclesiastically in the church.
And when you study this in the original language it never says Peter was the first Pope. What it says is “I say to you that you are Peter,” and the word “Peter” is Petrous, masculine, little stone, and Jesus goes on and says “upon this rock” and the moment He says “upon this rock” He uses a totally different word, Petra, feminine, large stone. So what it’s saying is “I say to you that you are Peter” little stone, “ and upon this rock,” different rock now, “I will build this church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. The rock that Jesus is referring to here, the big rock, I believe is Peter’s confession of Christ, because Jesus in this exchange had asked a question—who do men say that I am? Peter gave the right answer, properly identifying Christ and Jesus says upon this confession of truth, upon the veracity of what Peter just says I’m building My church on that phrase. He never ever said he’s going to build the church on Peter. And if He built the church on Peter He didn’t pick a very good guy to do it because he denied the Lord three times, as you know. And in the very next breath he makes another statement and Jesus says “Get behind Me,” what? “Get behind Me Satan.” So Peter is a man that became a great man of God but he has feet of clay just like the rest of us. So Jesus is not building the church on the papacy of Peter; He’s building the church on the veracity of what Peter said in that instance. Do you see the difference.
And you wouldn’t know that unless you quit listening to all these priests, unless you quit listening to all these Popes, unless you get into the Word of God, unless you become literate to understand the Word of God, unless you get a copy of the Bible, not just in Latin but in German or English and you actually begin to study the Bible in the original languages. What I’m trying to get at is the Reformers are coming to the conclusions that they’re coming to because they’re reversing what the school of Alexandria had been teaching all of these centuries.
So let’s pretend that Peter is the first Pope; we’ve got a little problem here, don’t we? Because Matthew 8:14, the verse I had you open to says this: “When Jesus came into Peter’s home He saw His mother-in-law lying sick” now you can’t have a mother-in-law unless you’re married. So here we’ve got the first Pope being married; this is a big problem isn’t it. And then they began to look at 1 Corinthians 9:5 where Paul is talking about his rights as an apostle, and he makes this statement, “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and” what’s that last word? “Cephas?” Now Cephas is Peter’s Aramaic name, Petros is his Greek name, Simon is his Hebrew name. So in Israel in the first century I believe people probably spoke four languages. When you study the different versions of the words that were written on Christ’s cross you’ll see some Gospel writers saying it was in Greek, it read this way, in Hebrew it read this way, in Aramaic it read this way, in Latin it read this way. So what you have in first century Israel is the speaking of four different languages which would be Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew and because of the influence of Rome Latin.
So when he says Cephas he’s making a reference to Peter in the Aramaic name. And that’s why Jesus, when Peter starts acting like his old self will call him by his old name, “Simon, Simon, Satan has requested permission to” what “sift you as wheat.” Why does he switch to his old name? Because he’s acting like his old self, because he’s in the midst of… you know, he’s asleep when he’s supposed to be awake, his courage is lacking, so names in the Bible are a big deal.
But all of that to say Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:5 says Peter had a believing wife. [1 Corinthians 9:5, “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?”] So Peter had a believing wife, Paul says, don’t the rest of us have a right to take a believing wife. So if Peter had a believing wife and a believing mother-in-law Peter, the first Pope, must have been married. Number 1, Peter was not the first Pope but let’s just pretend he was the first Pope. We have a big problem here because Peter is actually married and what the Roman Catholic Church is teaching is the celibacy of the priesthood. This is why the Catholic Church is trying to hide the Bible from the people all of this time because they know that the things they are teaching go directly against the Word of God and the Reformers are going back to the Word of God, reversing the authority base and they’re retrieving ideas that have been lost in the church, perhaps for over a millennia.
So the Reformers start to say you know what? It’s possible to serve God and be married. And Luther himself, who at one time was a Catholic Monk, got married, because of verses like this. He married a woman, I think her name was Katherine, if I’m not mistaken. So look at all of these things the Reformers are bringing back into the church: literal interpretation, denunciation of allegorization, denunciation of church tradition as a guide, priesthood of all believers which would include… if you believe that you believe Bible translations and raising literacy standards, they gave us (without even knowing it because of their emphasis on depravity) the American system of government because if absolute power corrupts we need to divide political power up. They gave us the five Solas. They gave us the rejection of celibacy of the priesthood. And in many cases they paid the ultimate sacrifice to give us these things which would include martyrdom itself.
One of the contemporaries of Luther, in fact when I was there in Germany we were fortunate to get a guide who understood we were an evangelical group and so this guide understood evangelical Christians and the kind of questions we had, so we had a terrific guide when we were there in Wittenberg, Germany, but one of the things the guide brought up is Tyndale, from England, who was a contemporary of Luther, came to Germany basically to learn what Luther was doing and Tyndale modeled a lot of his ideas after what Luther was doing in Germany. Tyndale just took them to England. So Tyndale actually creates a Bible version called The Tyndale Bible, which is a translation from Greek and Hebrew not into German but into what? Into English. And he got himself into a lot of trouble with the political powers of England for doing that.
So this is just a little citation I found from his Wikipedia page which may not be the best source to quote, but I thought it kind of summarized William Tyndale really well. There’s his years, A.D.1494-1536. You can see he would be a contemporary of Luther because in 1517 Luther nailed the 95 Thesis to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany.
So it says of Tyndale, “In 1535 Tyndale was arrested and jailed in his castle Vilvoorde outside of Brussels for over a year. In 1536 he was convicted of heresy and executed by strangulation after which his body was burnt at the stake, his dying prayer was that the King of England’s eyes would be opened. This seemed to find its fulfillment just two years later with Henry’s authorization of The Great Bible for the Church of England which was largely based on Tyndale’s own work. Hence, the Tyndale Bible as it is commonly known continued to play a key role in the spreading of the Reformation ideas” thank you printing press also, “spreading Reformation ideas across the English speaking world and eventually to the British Empire.”
So you can see that many of these Reformers suffered greatly for what they gave us; many of them even going back to the morning stars of the Reformation, people like John Huss, William Tyndale, and others, they paid the ultimate price of martyrdom by giving us these things that we’ve gone over in this list here, that many of us just take for granted. God, in other words, advanced truth in His church through great human sacrifice. And so that’s why when we look back at the Protestant Reformation our mindset ought to be to rejoice in these men and what God did.
Now having said all that many of you liked the study up to this point but some of you are probably going to get crossways with me, if you’re not already, the next time we’re together because I’m going to start giving you (as Paul Harvey would say) “the other side of the story.” There were things in the Reformation that we ought to thank God for and we ought to praise, but there were some things that came into the mind of the Reformers that they never corrected. There were some major theological… in other words, it’s historically naïve to think that the Protestant Reformers fixed a thousand years of bad teaching. They fixed it in some areas, obviously these are key areas when you go through the Solas, but there are some other things that were left uncorrected and because they started churches, Protestant churches, many of those churches today are still operating by a deficient belief system in some areas.
You can go into many Reformed churches today that are Protestant in some areas but they continue to be Roman Catholic in other areas, because one of the points I’m going to try to make is that the weakness of Reformed Theology is they took the progress that was made by the Reformers and they pretended as if there was no further progress to be made. They took the progress of the Reformers and they froze it into creeds and confessions; one of the most prominent in Reformed thought is the Westminster Confession and when you get into Reformed circles what you start to discover is the Westminster Confession becomes the authority. Now Luther never believed that; he believed in Sola Scriptura. Well, many of these Reformed churches are sort of, in my opinion, going against the very principles that the Reformers stood for; Scripture alone, because the Reformed tradition takes the progress the Reformers made, freezes it, and so what you have in Reformed thought is a hybrid of Protestantism in some areas but Roman Catholicism in some other areas. And you can’t question what they’ve done because now the authority becomes not the Bible but it becomes the Westminster Confession.
You see what’s happening here. So this is the side of the Protestant Reformers I’m going to bring up and most people when they celebrate this event in October will not tell you this side of the story and that’s why I entitled this series of lesson The Protestant Reformation, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. So God had to raise up other people to undo the damage done by Alexandria, Egypt, that the Reformers never corrected. And I’m not going to get into all of that today, I’ll get into that the next time that we’re together but I want to leave you with this simple point.
Do you remember when the children of Israel came out of Egypt and they went to Mount Sinai and they were traveling from Sinai into the land of Israel and they were traveling through the Transjordan? Do you remember the serpent started to bite people? And so everybody complained to Moses; Moses complained to God and God said here’s what we’re going to do to solve the problem. We’re going to put this serpent on a pole and all you have to do is look at the serpent and you’ll be healed or protected from a snake bite. Remember that story? Numbers 21:9, “And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.”
And you might remember Jesus, in His conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:14, in the New Testament, used that as an object lesson for salvation. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;  so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” So just as you can look to a serpent and be protected or healed from a snake bite, in the same way by way of analogy the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, is lifted up on the cross, paying for the sins of the world and if you simply look at Him metaphorically by way of faith, you can be saved, not from a snake bite but from the greatest poisonous disease that has infected the human race which is the disease of sin, which has affected all of us. So that serpent in the wilderness becomes a big deal, not just for the Jewish people but in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Now when you go over to 2 Kings 18:4, this is about 800 years later, and this is just before the Babylonian deportation. It talks about all of the idolatry in the land of Israel and it says this: “He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah.” Those are pagan idols in the land of Israel. Look at this, “He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent” that we just read about in the book of Numbers, “that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan.”
So what happened to this bronze serpent, something that God used? They turned it into an idol. And you see this happens almost in every tradition. Every time God uses somebody or something or someone eventually that movement will fossilize and they’ll start to worship the very instrument that God used, perhaps to condemn idolatry. And that’s exactly what happened to this bronze serpent. And my contention is, and this is why some people get upset with me when I bring these things up, but my contention is that is what has happened, to a large degree, to the Protestant Reformers. They have been elevated almost to a place of canonicity, almost elevated to a place where, you know, the Catholics would worship saints. You find that in Protestant circles and I think the Protestant Reformers, if you could resurrect them from the dead and look at what people have done with them, would probably be somewhat embarrassed by that. But you see, that is human nature. This is what the Jewish people were doing with this bronze serpent.
So there’s a tendency amongst people to not want to see the bad in the Protestant Reformers because we think look at how God used these guys. How could you dare say anything negative about them? And yet I’m going to be bringing out the fact that there’s some very ugly, there’s some very negative things. So I think the way to understand the Protestant Reformation is to adhere to the principles that they brought in, the Solas and others. But let’s not put them on some sort of pedestal where they quite frankly really don’t belong.
And even in my own tradition, at Dallas Seminary, I’ll share this with you, John Walvoord was heavily used by God to not only teach prophecy but to teach the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture and to bring the church back to an attention to prophetic things. And Walvoord died, he died when I was there, I wanted to take a class from him and the guy died on me so I was kind of bummed about that. But what my school did, I was sort of embarrassed by. They took his study chair and they began to say you can sit in the Walvoord study chair to kind of get the insight that Walvoord had. I mean, to me that’s sort of embarrassing. I think Walvoord himself would have been sort of embarrassed by that. I don’t think we need a Walvoord study chair any more than we need a bronze snake that’s been around for 800 years.
And is say that about my own tradition because when you look at almost every denomination they’ll do this. There’s some kind of relic of idolatry where people, I think are so appreciative of the good that such and such a person did that when that person is dead and gone there’s a tendency to elevate them to a place they don’t belong. And I say this gently but that’s human nature and that’s what you see in a lot of people regarding Reformation theology. You do not challenge Reformation theology in the eyes of some people. Just look on the warfare that goes on on the internet, not the best source either, but there is just vitriolic hatred for anybody that would raise any challenge based on the Bible of anything about the Protestant Reformation. You don’t challenge that.
And I think the principles that the Protestant Reformation gave us become the basis by which anything could be challenged. I can be challenged, you can be challenged because the whole point is Sola Scriptura. You remember what God said to Joshua in Joshua 1:2? “Moses My servant is” what? “dead;” because for forty years Moses was the key guy. Well, what are you going to do when Moses dies? Everybody is hanging around, still worshipping Moses and God has to tell Joshua, the new leader, he’s dead, he’s not coming back from the dead, except in the end times, you’re the leader now, now “arise, cross this Jordan” and so forth. [Joshua 1:2, “Moses, My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.”]
Why did God have to say that? Because of the tendency to venerate a human leader. John Calvin is dead. Martin Luther is dead. John Walvoord is dead. Heroes of the past we can appreciate what they have given us but they’re dead. They’re not the issue. Okay. The issue is the principles they gave us, not wanting to venerate them. And what you see in the Protestant Reformers are people, they’re human beings. Right? Kind of like Peter, where Jesus said, Matthew 16:17, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona,” when he gave the correct identification of Christ, and then the poor guy opens his mouth a second time and Jesus says “Get behind Me, Satan.” Peter is just a man. Did God use Peter? Absolutely. Read Acts 1-10; there’s not a more pivotal guy in the life of the early church than the apostle Peter. But at the end of the day what is he? He’s just a guy that put on his shoes, assuming they had shoes back then, I guess they had sandals or whatever, put on his shoes one foot at a time. He had the sin nature that we’re all plagued with. And so we don’t venerate Peter; we don’t elevate Peter. Peter himself wouldn’t want that.
And that’s what I’m trying to argue here with these Protestant Reformers. As the study at this point changes direction and we’re no longer looking at their positive contribution, which I think we’ve covered pretty well, we’re looking at their incomplete revolution. And consequently the incomplete state of Reformed Theology today and consequently going down to Roman numeral VII, why God had to raise up other people, using the same method that the Reformers gave us. See, the Reformers had a wonderful method, they just didn’t apply it all the way. And I’ll give you some reason as to why they didn’t. So what you have with other people, probably beginning, well, many, many people I’ll go over but what those other people did is they looked at Luther and Calvin’s methodology, their hermeneutical methodology, which they used to restore doctrine to the church in some areas.
And other people, outside of the Reformed tradition said you know what, that is a great methodology. We’re going to take Luther and Calvin’s methodology and we’re not just going to apply it to the solas, we’re going to apply it to the whole Bible.
So the Protestant Reformers knocked over a domino, I mean it was a BIG domino but it was not the only domino; there were other dominos yet to follow. And so I just share that with you to tell you the direction we’re taking in this study. We’re not going to be putting the Reformers on some sort of pedestal; I’m going to give you the whole story, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Okay, that’s where we’re going and I’m finished talking. Any questions.