Part 2 of 10

The Reformers

My intention here is to present some of the history of Christianity that brought the Reformer’s “Five Solas” to the fore. The Reformers message led the world out of what has been referred to as the “dark ages,” the time when that the “light” of God’s Word was hid. The Lord has been recovering the truths of Paul’s “gospel of the grace of God” (Act 20:24) from the time of the Reformers of the 14th-16th centuries.

By acting on these precious recovered truths by faith alone, any believer can directly enter into a loving grace-filled relationship with the Lord. This relationship was secured and is available to all mankind by the work of the incarnated Lord Jesus Christ; through His shed blood, death, burial, and resurrection as the “life-giving Spirit” (1Cor 15:45b). Christ ALONE is the redeemer of mankind and His indwelling Spirit is the sustainer and only source of true rest and peace for the believer’s soul.

The Protestant Reformers were those theologians, churchmen, and statesmen whose careers, works, and actions brought about the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Most of us think of Martin Luther when we hear of the Protestant Reformation, but historically some early reformers were tortured and burned nearly 150 years before Martin Luther.

John Wycliffe (1320 – 1384) was a reformer and university teacher, philosopher, theologian, lay preacher, translator, at Oxford in England . He began to translate the Bible into English and train young preachers called Lollards. Wycliffe taught and led people to know they could have a direct relationship with God by Jesus Christ for themselves, freeing them from the oppression of false papal ideas. When the people heard the Bible’s “grace gospel” there was a great revival and many were saved. The Anglican Church, under Rome ’s authority, hunted them down and murdered the Lollards one by one, burning their Bibles and many of them at the stake. Wycliffe got away and hid the remainder of his life in Europe . Wycliffe produced dozens of handmade English copies of the Scriptures that were translated out of the Latin Vulgate; it was the only source text then available to Wycliffe. The Pope was so infuriated by his teachings and his translation of the Bible into English that, 44 years after Wycliffe died, he ordered that Wycliffe’s bones be dug up, crushed and scattered in the river.

It was later that Martin Luther (1483-1546), a Catholic priest in Saxony ( Germany ), read the Bible and believed. With great diligence on the part of young Luther, he eventually attained graduation from Erfurt University as a Doctor of Philosophy (1505). He was ordained into the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church (1507) as an Augustinian monk (1505-1507). Since Luther had taken the opportunity to avail himself of the University library, he came into his very first contact with the Bible, an all but inaccessible Book to the common man. His attraction and fascination for the Scriptures caused him to be convicted of his own sin. The Bible is able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2Tim 3:15).

Luther read; [‘Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the Saints in Light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the Kingdom of His Dear Son: 14 In Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins(Colossians 1:12-14).] With this the decisive Words had been spoken. A ray of Light had penetrated the darkness that encompassed Luther. He saw it all: the whole Gospel in a single phrase, the FORGIVENESS of sins — NOT the PAYMENT, but the forgiveness (Wylie, “THOP”, Vol. 1, Book 4, Chapter 5).

Luther was then saved by grace through faith ALONE in Christ ALONE... without good works as payment for his sins.

Titus 3:5 NOT BY WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH WE HAVE DONE, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Romans 4:3-5 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it (his faith) was counted unto him for righteousness. 4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5 But to him that worketh NOT, but believeth on him (Christ) that justifieth the ungodly, his faith (alone) is counted for righteousness.

Luther began to teach others of the free gift of salvation by God’s grace through faith ALONE in Jesus Christ as man’s redeemer from sin. Luther was branded a criminal by the Roman church and was a fugitive the rest of his life, during which time he translated the Bible into German. The Luther Bible is a German language translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, and the Greek New Testament; his New Testament was first published in 1522.

John Knox of Scotland also read the Bible and believed (1544). He preached the message of forgiveness of sins and receiving of eternal life by FAITH ALONE in the Lord Jesus Christ. Knox’s conversion was due to George Wishart, who after a period of banishment had returned in 1544, only to perish at the stake within two years. He was the most illustrious victim of Cardinal Beaton, as Papal legate. Knox was burned alive at the stake for preaching God’s Word. Many biographies of the Reformers can be read in “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, (John Foxe 1516-1587). Having such forerunners in “the faith,” ought we not to search out and understand the truths of the Bible that so powerfully affected these men and for which so many died?

The precious truths of the “Five Solas” were recovered by these and other men such John Huss, Ulrich Zwingli, and William Tyndale, all were ordained Roman Catholic priests.

The Reformation is considered to have begun with Martin Luther’s famed Ninety-Five Theses.” The Reformer’s movement began as an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church, not to oppose it. Many western Catholics were troubled by what they saw as false doctrines and malpractices within the church; particularly involving the teaching and sale of indulgences. An indulgence is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment for sin, which then could be bought.

WIKIPEDIA: The latter Middle Age saw considerable abuses. Greedy commissaries sought to extract the maximum amount of money for each indulgence. Professional “pardoners” who were sent to collect alms for a specific project, practiced the unrestricted sale of indulgences. Many of these men exceeded Church teachings, whether in avarice or ignorant zeal, and promised impossible rewards like salvation from eternal damnation in return for money. With the permission of the Church, indulgences also became a way for Catholic rulers to fund expensive projects, such as Crusades and cathedrals, by keeping a significant portion of the money that was raised from indulgences in their lands. There was a tendency to forge documents declaring that indulgences had been granted. Indulgences grew to extraordinary magnitude, in terms of longevity and breadth of forgiveness.

Other major contentions were the buying and selling of church positions, the sacraments, the use of relics and idols, the teaching of the unbiblical intermediate state called purgatory, and what was seen at the time as considerable corruption within the church’s hierarchy. This corruption was seen by many at the time as systemic, reaching the position of the Pope.

“The Dark Ages” were considered dark because the light of Christ that was to be found in Paul’s grace gospel message of the Bible had been literally locked up. During the Dark Ages the Word of God that is found in the Bible had been shut up in great cathedrals and monasteries, kept from the common lay people. What Scripture they knew had been heard in the liturgy and Scripture readings (in Latin). The Roman church had said only priests could understand the Bible, so they locked the Bibles in chains.

Those who did have access to a Bible were not especially encouraged to read it. There was nothing unusual about Luther’s claim that the first time he even saw a Bible was in a University library in Erfurt when he was twenty years old. (Personally, the first time I ever saw a Bible I was 22 years old, and I was saved by God’s grace through faith ALONE about three weeks later.)

Thus some in 14th-16th Century began to read the Bible for their selves and to preach its message of “salvation by grace through faithnot of works. The Roman church persecuted those bold preachers who often were tortured and burned at the stake… with their Bibles.