John Calvin

 

CalvinJohn Calvin was born in 1509 in Noyon in France and was a genius beyond his time. He studied in humanism from an early age until his defection from the church of Rome where he became the most influential theologian in the protestant reformation.

Calvin lived most of his Christian life as a leader and pastor in Geneva even while having been exiled from the city for many years. While he was a mild man with a true pastors heart, Calvin was a strong defenders of the truths of Scripture and wrote many responses to criticisms of the theology of the reformation. Calvin also wrote one of the first systematic theology called “Institutes of the Christian Religion” which is to this day used to study the biblical theology. Along with his famous Institutes, Calvin wrote commentaries on almost every book of the bible as well as a number of sermons that are still being circulated today.

While he has been branded a cruel dictator by some, his life and principles in living out the Christian faith seem to demonstrate a much different perspective on Calvin’s life and theology.

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Ulrich Zwingli

Ulrich_Zwingli_03While we cannot draw strict parallels, what Martin Luther was doing in leading people back to the truths of the scriptures and forsaking the traditions of men as their equal, Ulrich Zwingli was doing in Zurich Switzerland. Zwingli became a city chaplain in 1523 There are various opinions at what brought Zwingli to attempt to reform the Suisse church, some believing that the air of reformation had reached Zurich to be embraced by Zwingli while others believing that it was a unique reform flowing from Zwingli’s own convictions. Zwingli was one of the first expositional preachers and after purchasing Erasmus’ NT Greek text spent most of his sermons expounding the truths of the word of God. Zwingli had a tight grip on the moral structure and theology of Zurich. He met with Martin Luther in 1529 in an attempt to unite the movements. There were 15 points of theology that were discussed and all were agreed upon except one which was mainly on the elements of the Lord Supper (especially the bread), the two left the meeting with irreconcilable differences. Zwingli passed away in battle during a siege by Roman Catholics.

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Philipp Melanchthon

31974For any movement to have a lasting effect in history and continue on strongly in its influence, a great leader needs a worthy successor. Martin Luther had such a bold successor in his associate and colleague at Wittenberg University, Philipp Melanchton.

Melanchton was Luther’s main collaborator in the Protestant Reformation and it could be said that Melanchton was even more affirmed as a scholar than Luther. He was a professor of Greek at Wittenberg and has been credited for composing the Augusberg Confession which was one of the most significant documents of the Protestant Reformation. He continued to lead the Protestant Reformation and He is a leading founder of what is known today as the Lutheran church.

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Martin Luther

LutherThere can be no examination or discussion about the 16th century reformation without first turning to Germany and mentioning the name Martin Luther. Luther can be unquestionably credited with the beginning of this great movement which most agree began with the nailing of his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. His confrontation of the abuses of the Roman Catholic church especially on the sales of indulgences was the monumental event in triggering the fire storm that would turn Europe and the whole world upside down. Luther was a professor at Wittenberg University and an ordained monk when he began to address the false teachings of the empire known as the Roman Catholic Church. His desire was to reform the church and after being excommunicated by Pope Leo X on January 3, 1521. Luther was called before scholars, magistrates and emperors to defend his beliefs and his continued belief in Sola Scriptura lead him through all these trials. While Luther’s theology changed over the years, there were some classic works that were penned by the bold reformer that remain useful to us today as sons & daughters of the reformation.

Famous Writings

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The Protestant Reformation

640px-Wittenberg_Schlosskirche_ThesentuerWhile many this week will be getting dressed up in all sorts of frightful costumes and celebrating Hallow’s Eve, Christians who are Reformed in their understanding of scripture will reflect upon the 497th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

In 1517, Martin Luther, a young German monk, nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg challenging the great religious kingdom of his day in the Roman Catholic Church. It is a time of reflection on the story of those who took the word of God in their hands and brought it’s teachings to the common people. It was a time when God poured out His Spirit and lead men in different locations to rediscover the truths therein. These were men who stood for the principles laid out in scripture even under tremendousl persecution. The Protestant Reformation stands as a monumental time in Christianity to the extent that historian Philip Schaff could write  that “next to the introduction of Christianity, it is the greatest event in history” .  The spread of this movement reached the far regions of Europe and set the entire modern world into rethinking their faith and their allegiances. It brought about a focus on neglected biblical teaching including the five solas of the reformation.

While anyone today who possesses a bible in their hand has benefited from the Protestant Reformation, the vast majority of people who call themselves Christians have no idea what TRuemanhappened in this historical event or who was involved. Over the next 5 days I will be posting some materials on five of the most significant men who were part of the reformation movement in the 16th century. These will include Martin Luther, Phillip Melanchthon, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and Theodore Beza. Please join me in considering how God was moving in those days.

If anyone would like to get a head start and gain an tremendously full historical understanding of the Reformation, please take the time to listen to Dr. Trueman’s lectures on the Reformation.

 

The Bondage of the Will

images90ZYPX8IAnyone who reads this blog will be familiar with a website called monergism. It is honestly the creme of the crop for online sound biblical resources. The sheer amount of articles, books, MP3, videos is remarkable. They also have a great blog and an online bookstore with reputable books on theology, commentaries and bibles as well as many more resources that can be purchased. Please take the time to search the website for any resources that might be useful to you.

The owner of the website, John Hendryx, is also converting many classic books to eBook format (Kindle, ePub,etc…) and also to PDF for those who don’t own an eReader. This includes many Puritan and Reformation classics as well.

martin_luther-bondage_of_the_will2I just saw that Monergism has made Martin Luther’s classic “The Bondage of the Will” available in eBook format. This book is a response to the famous Roman Catholic theologian, Desiderius Eramus, whom some might know as the man who gave us the Texus Receptus, on the nature and freedom of the will in regards to Salvation and sin. While many who want to know anything about the reformation will turn to a history book, there will be much missing from this approach. For those of you who wish to get a real sense of what the reformation was all about, please take the time to read this book carefully as it has had a far reaching impact on the nature of man, the extent of his depravity,  election, the atonement and the glory of justification. It will give you the real sense of the issues affirmed and fought against by Luther, Zwingli and Calvin.

The Diminishment of Scripture & Your Church

There are many individuals within the realm of Christianity who have past roots in the Protestant Reformation. There were many issues that surrounded this 16th century event that left its mark on the world. One of the key issues brought to the forefront of the debate between Roman Catholics and those who were called the “Reformers” was on the subject of authority.  This authority debate was fundamentally on the question: what is the pre-eminent rule of faith over doctrine and church practice: The church + Scripture or Scripture Alone? The Roman Catholics believed in the importance of scripture however emphasized on the authority of the Papacy & Magesterium as authoritative. The Reformers held that these offices and all people within the church were only subject to one authority mainly the bible. This brought to the forefront of the debate the Latin phrase “Sola Scriptura” or “Scripture Alone”. Sola Scriptura is the belief that the Christian Scriptures alone are the sole infallible guide for God’s people and that they are sufficient to lead a man to Salvation and to guide him in his life as a Christian. Sola Scriptura is also the belief that there is none other source that should have equal say in matters of truth and no burden should be inflicted on the people of God without evidence stemming from the scriptures. In other words, all things presented to the church, whether traditions, opinions, writings or teachings should be tested by the bible.

The Reformers and many of their descendants held a high regard for the bible. The scriptures were carefully expounded and taught to the average individual. God’s word was allowed to speak to the masses and men shed the shackles of tradition and superstition for the truth of very voice of God. How we view the bible is of vital importance and should be the very foundation of our beliefs. We live in a generation today whose Christianity is more focus on experience than on scriptural living. How does one test whether how he views God is valid? If two Christians have completely different understandings of God and His will, where do we go to find a solution? These “experiences” that are so prevalent to the world, where do we go to test their authenticity? These are all questions that need reflection and are worth pursuing an answer.

The importance of this subject has unfortunately slipped in many churches and the idea of God actually speaking to His people through His word has taken a backseat to a focus on self-help and prosperity preaching. There are selected passages generally appealed to but they are muddled by modern-day sermon illustrations that really fall away from the original meaning of the authors. The bible is generally not allowed to speak in its fullness and unfortunately we see this, even in Moncton, by the sheer apathy in most christians. The bible is the means by which God speaks to us (Matthew 22:31) and we must not muzzle God’s voice to His people. The purpose of scripture is clearly taught in the bible and the following text should be examined carefully.

“But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:13-17)

Throughout its history, the church has had serious challenges with fallacies in the church. When Paul wrote to Timothy there was much that needed to be addressed in this regard. In this chapter, Paul warns Timothy of challenges to come for the congregations Paul describes from vs. 1-9 that there would enter ungodly men teaching heretical doctrines and even though they are “always learning” they never “come to the knowledge of the truth” (v.7). He then proceeds to verses 10-12 speak on how we should employ Paul as an example in our lives in “conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love and perseverance” (v.10) and prepare to encounter persecution.

When we arrive at v.13, Paul explains the progression of evil men. We read: “But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” There are those who will creep into the household of God and deceive others. The term “imposters” refers primarily to one who chants spells; a wizard, sorcerer. Hence, a cheat. (Vincent) They would be tares among wheat who look the part but lack all authenticity. They would dazzle the people of God with their words and convince them with their falsehood.

Paul continues by distinguishing Timothy with an emphatic pronoun. He writes “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,” (V.14) These “things” that he had learned and been convinced of in  v.15 were qualities in his life since childhood. Timothy would have known “from whom” he had learned them. The term “whom” is plural hence probably refers to Paul and others who had helped him learn these things.

The great apostle then carries on from the verse fourteen to fifteen explaining to Timothy how precious these “things” were to him since “from childhood” he had known “the Holy Scriptures”. These would have been the Old Testament scriptures in view since the New Testament writings would not have existed in physical form at that time. What is important to notice is the function of these “sacred writings” in that they “are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”. Even within the OT scriptures there is enough to lead an individual to Christ especially through types & shadows and promise. Jewish children were instructed from birth in these writings. The OT covenant people were entrusted with the “oracles of God (Romans 3:2).

Paul then makes his entire purpose clear inv.16,. He refers firstly that “all Scripture”. This is not only including the Old Testament writings but every scripture that would be spoken in the future (Hebrews 1:1-2). These writings are in fact “inspired”. This term “inspired” in a translation of the Greek word Theopnustos and it literally means “God-Breathed” or God “out-breathing”. The words written by the inspired writers originate from God. It refers to the nature of the scriptures and particularly the author of them. The scriptures are the product of God’s breathing out. Peter reiterates this by stating that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:19-21) This is a beautiful truth that many today are unaware of in that God spoke. These scriptures that we possess are the very breath of God and if this is true then what equal could there be? Paul told Timothy to cling to these to use them for teaching ect…Does convey the idea of their being above all other things? These scriptures were profitable, which would in essence mean “valuable or beneficial”, for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness.

The reason why the scriptures should be held on to at all cost is so that the man of God or the believer “may be adequate and equipped for every good work.” We should, as Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians, “take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” and not only read it but live it and make it our primary weapon. This will make us faithful workers before Him and will guide us through our life of service!

I would suggest to those who are reading this post to reflect for a moment about your church. Does your church teach & respect the Word of God in a way where God is allowed to speak in full and is the meaning of the original authors examined in its context without an overarching modern interpretation added to it? Do you feel adequate and equipped for every good work after you have been to your church on a weekly basis? Are you growing in the Word of God in your church?