The Jesuit New World Order

Monday, 25 June 2012

THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION WYCLIFFE – THE MORNING STAR OF THE REFORMATION

In the 14th Century, Oxford was the most outstanding university in the world, and John Wycliffe was its leading theologian and philosopher.
The Black Death ( Bubonic Plague), which killed a third of the population of Europe, lead Wycliffe to search the Scriptures and find salvation in Christ.
THE KING’S CHAMPION
As a professor at Oxford University, Wycliffe represented England in a controversy with the Pope. Wycliffe championed the independence of England from Papal control. He supported King Edward III’s refusal to pay taxes to the Pope. (It was only one step away from denying the political supremacy of the Pope over nations to questioning his spiritual supremacy over churches). The royal favour which Wycliffe earned from this confrontation protected him later in life.
Wycliffe’s patron and protector was John of Gaunt. This English prince was the most powerful political figure in the late 14th Century, England. Gaunt, known in his day as the Duke of Lancaster, was effectively the Prime Minister of England during the last years of the 50-year reign of his then senile father, King Edward III. Gaunt was “a wise diplomat, a bold soldier, the epitome of chivalry, hard on his enemies and always faithful to what he believed was best for England.” In 1399 Gaunt’s son ascended the throne as King Henry IV.

ALL AUTHORITY IS UNDER GOD
In Wycliffe’s book Civil Dominion, he maintains that the ungodly have no right to rule. All authority is granted by God. But God does not grant any authority to those who are in rebellion against Him. Those who rule unjustly are in breach of the terms under which God delegates authority. So wicked rulers have forfeited their right to rule. In fact, all of those who lead blatantly sinful lives forfeit their rights in this world.
CORRUPTION DISQUALIFIES LEADERS
Wycliffe also taught that the clergy of his time were so corrupt that the secular authorities had the right to confiscate their properties. The Roman church at that time owned about one third of all land in England, claimed exemption from taxation, yet the Pope claimed the right to tax the English – to finance his own wars!
Wycliffe maintained that the English government had the God-given responsibility to correct the abuses of the church within its realm and to remove from office those churchmen who persisted in their corruption and immorality.
SERVANT LEADERSHIP AND SACRIFICE
Wycliffe taught that our personal relationship with God is everything. Character is the fundamental basis of any leadership. He emphasised apostolic poverty, insisting that those who claimed to sit on Saint Peter’s chair should, like the Apostle, be without silver or gold. To Wycliffe, those who claimed to follow the Apostles, should live poor and humble lives spent in the service of the Church, setting an example of holiness. Therefore the Pope of Rome should be a shepherd of the flock and a preacher who brings men to Christ. Wycliffe denounced the worldliness and luxury of the Popes and the spiritual bankruptcy of the office of pope. The papacy had departed from the simple Faith and practice of Christ and His disciples. Wycliffe wrote: “Christ is truth, the Pope is the principle of falsehood. Christ lived in poverty, the Pope labours for worldly magnificence. Christ refused temporal dominion, the Pope seeks it.”
CHRIST ALONE IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH
In his book The Power of the Papacy published in 1379, Wycliffe argues that the papacy is an office instituted by man, not God. No pope’s authority could extend to secular government. The only authority that any pope may have would depend upon him having the moral character of the Apostle Peter. Any pope who does not follow Jesus Christ is the anti-Christ.
Wycliffe proclaimed that “Christ alone is the Head of the Church.”
UNBIBLICAL PRACTICES CONDEMNED
And the Church on earth Wycliffe defined as the whole wonder of the elect, those chosen by God. The Church is the body of Christ, a unity that knows nothing of popes, hierarchies, monks, friars, priests or nuns. Nor can the salvation of the elect be effected by masses, indulgences, penance, or any other devices of priestcraft. There is nothing in the Bible about transubstantiation, pardons, absolutions, worship of images, the adoration of saints, the treasury of merits laid up at the reserve of the Pope, the distinction between venial and mortal sins or confession to a priest. Compulsory confession Wycliffe considered “the bondage of the anti-Christ.”
Wycliffe declared that the reading and preaching of God’s Word “is of more value than the administration of any sacrament.”

GOD’S LAW IS SUPREME
In a letter written by Wycliffe to Pope Urban VI he maintained: “The Gospel of Christ is the body of the Law of God, Christ is true God and true man…the Roman pontiff is most bound to this Law of the Gospel…Christ’s disciples are judged…according to their imitation of Christ in their moral life…Christ was the poorest of men during the time of His pilgrimage…He eschewed all worldly dominion…never should any of the faithful imitate the Pope himself nor any of the saints except in so far as he may have imitated the Lord Jesus Christ…the Pope should leave temporal dominion to the secular arm…God…has always taught me to obey God rather than men.”
In this letter Wycliffe also refers to the “deceitful counsel…malicious counsel…anything contrary to the Law of the Lord” as “anti-Christ.”
SCRIPTURE ALONE IS OUR AUTHORITY
In 1378, Wycliffe completed the book The Truth of Holy Scripture.In it he wrote: “Holy Scripture is the pre-eminent authority for every Christian and the rule of faith and of all human perfection…it is necessary for all men, not for priests alone…Christ and His Apostles taught the people in the language best known to them…therefore the doctrine should not only be in Latin, but in the vulgar tongue…the more these are known the better…believers should have the Scriptures in a language which they fully understand.” Wycliffe taught that Scripture contains everything that is necessary for our salvation. All other authorities must be tested by the Scripture. “Christ’s Law is best and enough, and other laws men should not take, but as branches of God’s Law.”
TRANSLATING THE SCRIPTURES
Therefore Wycliffe supervised a handful of scholars at Oxford in the translation of the Latin Bible into the English language. This was the very first translation of the entire Bible into the English language. The only source that Wycliffe’s translators had to work with was a Latin hand written manuscript of a translation made 1000 years previously.
Wycliffe is called “the father of English prose” because of the clarity and effectiveness of his writings and sermons, which did much to unify and shape the English language.

THE LOLLARDS EVANGELISE ENGLAND
From Oxford, Wycliffe trained and sent out “poor priests” (the Lollards) into the fields, villages and churches, to preach in the marketplaces, to read and sing the Scriptures in English and to win people for Christ. These itinerant evangelists became a tremendous power in the land as they spread the knowledge of the Scriptures throughout England.
PERSECUTION FROM PAPAL PHARISEES
As a result of these activities and teachings, one Pope issued five bulls against John Wycliffe for “heresy”. The Catholic Church tried him three times, and two popes summoned him to Rome. However, Wycliffe wisely refused each summons and the political protection of the Duke of Lancaster kept Wycliffe alive and free. He was never imprisoned.
His followers, however were hunted down, expelled from Oxford and mercilessly persecuted. To get an idea of the scandal and controversy engendered by Wycliffe’s Reformation, we should note what was written by Henry Knighton, a Catholic chronicler: “Christ gave His Gospel to the clergy…but this master John Wycliffe translated the Gospel from Latin into the English…common to all and more open to the laity and even to women…and so the pearl of the Gospel is thrown before swine and trodden under foot…the jewel of the clergy has been turned into the jest of the laity…has become common.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Arundel, said: that “pestilent and most wretched John Wycliffe, of damnable memory, a child of the old devil, and himself a child or pupil of anti-Christ…crowned his wickedness by translating the Scriptures into the mother tongue!”
THE BIBLE IN ENGLISH – BANNED
A synod of clergy in 1408 decreed: “It is dangerous…to translate the text of Holy Scripture…we decree and ordain that no-one shall in future translate on his authority any text of Scripture into the English tongue or into any other tongue, by way of book, booklet or treatiese. Nor shall any man read, in public or in private, this kind of book, booklet or treatiese, now recently composed in the time of the said John Wycliffe…on the penalty of the greater excommunication.”
EARTHQUAKE INTERRUPTS ANATHEMAS
In 1382, at a church council called by Archbishop Courtenay, 24 of Wycliffe’s teachings were condemned. During that council there was an earthquake. Wycliffe and the Lollards interpreted the earthquake as a sign of God’s displeasure with the corrupt and un-Biblical Roman clergy.

ROME VS JERUSALEM
Wycliffe scorned the idea that because Peter died in Rome, therefore every Bishop of Rome is to be set above all of Christendom. By the same reasoning, he noted that the Muslim Turk might conclude that because they controlled Jerusalem where Christ died, their Mullah has power over the Pope!
WHO CAN FORGIVE SINS?
Wycliffe attacked the corruptions, superstitions and abuses of the friars and monks. He exposed their supposed powers to forgive sins as fraudulent. “Who can forgive sins?” Wycliffe taught: “God alone!” Christ alone is the Head of the Church and God alone can forgive sins.

PREPARATION FOR REFORMATION

Wycliffe’s field workers (the Lollards) helped to prepare the way for the English Reformation (in the 16th Century) by reading, preaching and singing the Scriptures in English in marketplaces, fields and homes throughout the land.

TURNING THE TABLES
Summoned to appear before a church council, Wycliffe rebuked the bishops for being “priests of Baal, selling blasphemy and idolatry in the mass and indulgences.” He then walked out of the assembly and refused a summons from the Pope. When Wycliffe was excluded from teaching in Oxford, he withdrew to the congregation at Lutterworth, in Leicestershire, where he devoted himself to writing during his few remaining years.
In 1428, 44 years after Wycliffe’s death, by order of the Pope, the bones of Wycliffe were dug up and burned. As one historian commented: “They burned his bones to ashes and cast them into the Swift, a neighbouring brook running close by. Thus the brook conveyed his ashes to the Avon, the Avon into the Severn, the Severn into the narrow seas and they into the main ocean. And so the ashes of Wycliffe are symbolic of his doctrine, which is now spread throughout the world.”
Wycliffe was the father of the Reformation – its morning star.

MARTIN LUTHER – CAPTIVE TO THE WORD OF GOD

The Reformation was one of the most momentous turning points in world history. It was led by men of strong faith, deep convictions, great intelligence, high moral standards and tremendous courage. Towering above all these great Reformers, Martin Luther stands out as the most courageous, controversial and influential Reformer of all time.
THE CONTROVERSIAL
Luther has been alternatively described as the brilliant scholar who rediscovered the central message of the Bible, a prophet like Elijah and John the Baptist to reform God’s people, the liberator who arose to free his people from the oppression of Rome, the last medieval man, and the first modern man. Zwingli described him as: “the Hercules who defeated the tyranny of Rome.” Pope Leo X called Luther: “A wild boar, ravaging his vineyard.” Emperor Charles V described him as: “A demon in the habit of a monk!”
THE SON
Martin Luther was born 10 November 1483 in Eisleben, Saxony. His father, Hans Luder had worked hard to climb the “social ladder” from his humble peasant origins to become a successful copper mining entrepeneur. Hans married Margaretha Lindemann, the daughter of a prosperous and gifted family that included doctors, lawyers, university professors and politicians. Hans Luder owned several mines and smelters and he became a member of the City Council in Mansfield, where Martin was raised, under the strict discipline typical of that time.
THE STUDENT
From age 7, Martin began studying Latin at school. Hans intended his son to become a lawyer, so he was sent on to the University of Erfurt before his 14th birthday. Martin proved to be extraordinarily intelligent and he earned his BA and MA degrees in the shortest time allowed by the statutes of the University. Martin proved so effective in debating, that he earned the nickname: “the philosopher.”
THE STORM
As Martin excelled in his studies, he began to be concerned about the state of his soul and the suitability of the career his father had set before him. While travelling on foot, near the town of Stotternhein, a violent thunder storm brought Martin to his knees. With lightening striking all around him, Luther cried out for protection to the patron saint of miners: “St. Anne, help me, I will become a monk!” The storm around him matched the conflict raging within his soul.
THE MONK
Although his parents were pious people, they were shocked when he abandoned his legal studies at Erfurt and entered the Augustinian monastery. Martin was 21 years old when, in July 1505, he gave away all his possessions – including his lute, his many books and clothing – and entering the Black Cloister of the Augustinians.
Luther quickly adapted to monastic life, throwing himself wholeheartedly into the manual labour, spiritual disciplines and studies required. He went way beyond the fasts, prayers and ascetic practices required and forced himself to sleep on the cold stone floor without a blanket, whipped himself, and seriously damaged his health. He was described as: “devout, earnest, relentlessly self-disciplined, unsparingly self-critical, intelligent…” and “impeccable.” Luther rigorously pursued the monastic ideal and devoted himself to study, prayer and the sacraments. He wearied his priest with his confessions and with his punishments of himself with fasting, sleepless nights, and flagellation.
THE PROFESSOR
Luther’s wise and godly superior, Johannes von Staupitz recognised Martin’s great intellectual talents and to channel his energies away from excessive introspection ordered him to undertake further studies, including Hebrew, Greek and the Scriptures to become a university lecturer for the order.
Luther was ordained a priest in 1507 and studied and taught at the Universities of Wittenberg and Erfurt (1508 – 1511). In 1512, Martin Luther received his doctoral degree and took the traditional vow on becoming a professor at Wittenberg University to faithfully teach and defend the Scriptures. This vow would be a tremendous source of encouragement to him later. Luther never viewed himself as a rebel, but rather as a theologian seeking to be faithful to the vow required of him to teach and defend Holy Scripture. Luther committed most of the New Testament, much of the Old Testament and all of the Psalms to memory.
WITTENBERG
The University of Wittenberg had been founded by Prince Frederick of Saxony in 1502. Luther’s friend from his university days in Erfurt, George Spalatin, was now chaplain and secretary to the Prince, and closely involved in the Prince’s pet project of his new university. Wittenberg at this time was a small little river town with only about 2,000 residents. Prince Frederick wanted to build it up into his new capital of Saxony.
STUDIES THAT SHOOK THE WORLD
From 1513 to 1517, Luther lectured at the University on the Psalms, Romans and Galatians. Being a university professor would have been a full-time job, however Luther had other responsibilities as well. He was the supervisor for 11 Augustinian monasteries, including the one at Wittenberg. Luther was also responsible for preaching regularly at the monastery chapel, the town church and the castle church. It was a combination of Luther’s theological and pastoral concerns that led him to take the actions that sparked the Reformation.
Luther had long been troubled spiritually with the righteousness of God. God demanded absolute righteousness “be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” “Be holy, as I am Holy.” We are obligated to love God whole heartedly, and our neighbours as ourselves.
It was because of his great concern for his eternal salvation that Luther had sought to flee the world. In spite of the bitter grief and anger of his father, he had buried himself in the cloister and devoted himself to a life of the strictest asceticism. Yet, despite devoting himself to earning salvation by good works, cheerfully performing the humblest tasks, praying, fasting, chastising himself even beyond the strictest monastic rules, he was still oppressed with a terrible sense of his utter sinfulness and lost condition.
“THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH”
Then Luther found some comfort in the devotional writings of Bernard of Clairvoux, who stressed the free grace of Christ for salvation. The writings of Augustine provided further light. Then, as he begun to study the Scriptures, in the original Hebrew and Greek, joy unspeakable flooded his heart. It was 1512, as he began to study Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, that the verse “For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: the righteous will live by faith” Romans 1:17.
Luther later testified that as he began to understand that this righteousness of God is a free gift by God’s grace through which we may live by faith, “I felt entirely born again and was led through open gates into Paradise itself. Suddenly the whole of Scripture had a different appearance for me. I recounted the passages which I had memorized and realized that other passages, too, showed that the work of God is what God works in us… thus St. Paul’s words that the just shall live by faith, did indeed become to me the gateway to Paradise.” The burden of his sin rolled away. Up until then, Luther had tried to earn salvation by his good works, although he never felt that he had been able to do enough. Now, God had spoken to him through the Scripture. Man is not saved by works, but by faith alone.
A TURNING POINT
As a doctor, Luther had taken an oath to faithfully serve the Church by the study and teaching of Holy Scripture. At the university, he was responsible to prepare pastors. Now, having experienced God’s grace in Christ, studying God’s Word, Luther began to see the emptiness, self-absorption, the pious pretence and superstitious unbelief of his previous religious devotion. Nor could Luther fail to recognise the same pious fraud and pharisaical futility all around him.
In 1510, before being made a professor at Wittenberg, Luther had been sent to Rome for his monastic order. What he had seen there had shocked and disillusioned him. Rome was the pre-immanent symbol of ancient civilisation and “the residence of Christ’s Vicar on earth” the Pope. Luther was horrified by the blatant immorality and degeneracy prevalent In Rome at that time.
UNDERSTANDING CATHOLICISM
The centre of medieval Roman Catholic Church life was the Mass, the Sacrament of the altar. The Roman Catholic institution placed much emphasis on the punishment of sin in Purgatory, as a place of cleansing by fire before the faithful were deemed fit to enter Heaven. They taught that there were four sacraments that dealt with the forgiveness, and the removal of sin, and the cancellation of its punishment: Baptism, The Mass, Penance and Extreme Unction. The heart of Penance was the priestly act of Absolution whereby the priest pardoned the sins and released the penitent from eternal punishment. Upon the words of Absolution, pronounced by the priest, the penitent sinner received the forgiveness of sins, release from eternal punishment and restoration to a state of grace. This would required the sinner making some satisfaction, by saying a prescribed number of prayers, by fasting, by giving alms, by going on a pilgrimage, or by taking part in a crusade.
INDULGENCES
In time, the medieval church had come to allow the penitent to substitute the payment of a sum of money for other forms of penalty or satisfaction. The priest could then issue an official statement, an indulgence, declaring the release from other penalties through the payment of money. In time, the Catholic church came to allow indulgences to be bought, not only for oneself, but also for relatives and friends who had died and passed into Purgatory. They claimed that these indulgences would shorten the time that would otherwise had to be spent suffering in Purgatory.
This practice of granting indulgences was based upon the Catholic doctrine of Works of Supererogation. This unBiblical doctrine claimed that works done beyond the demands of God’s Law earned a reward. As Christ and the saints had perfected Holiness and laid up a rich treasury of merits in Heaven, the Roman Church claimed that it could draw upon this treasury of “extra merits” to provide satisfaction for those who paid a specified sum to the church.
THE INDULGENCE INDUSTRY
This system of indulgences was very popular with the masses of people who preferred to pay a sum of money to saying many prayers and partaking in many masses to shorten the suffering in Purgatory of either themselves, or a loved one. The industry of indulgences had also become a tremendous source of income for the Papacy.
In order to fund the building of the magnificent St. Peters Cathedral in Rome, Pope Leo X had authorised a plenary, or total indulgence. And so it was on this papal fundraising campaign to complete the construction of St. Peters Basilica, that Dominican monk and indulgence salesman extraordinary, John Tetzel arrived in Saxony. The shameless and scandalosous manner in which Tetzel hawked the indulgences outraged Martin Luther. Sales jingles such as: “As soon as the coin clinks in the chest, a soul flies up to Heavenly rest” were deceiving gullible people about their eternal souls.
Luther’s study of the Scripture had convinced him that salvation came by the grace of God alone, based upon the atonement of Christ on the cross alone, received by faith alone. Indulgences could not remove any guilt, and could only induce a false sense of security. People were being deceived for eternity.
THE 95 THESES
Concerns that had been growing since his visit to Rome in 1510, led Luther to now make a formal objection to the abuses of indulgences. On All Saint Day (1 November), people would be coming from far and wide in order to view the more than 5,000 relics exhibited in the Schlosskirche, which had been built specifically for the purpose of housing this massive collection. So, on 31 October 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses against indulgences onto the door of the castle church. He also posted a copy to the Archbishop of Mainz.
These Theses created such as sensation that within 2 weeks, they had been printed and read throughout Germany. Within the month, translations were being printed and sold all over Europe.
The 95 Theses begins with the words: “Since our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ says: ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near’(Matthew 4:17), He wants the whole life of a believer to be a life of Repentance.”
Luther maintained that no sacrament can take away our responsibility to respond to Christ’s command by an inner repentance evidenced by an outward change, a transformation and renewal of our entire life. Luther emphised that it is God alone who can forgive sins, and that indulgences are a fraud. It would be far better to give to the poor, than to waste one’s money on indulgences. If the Pope really had power over the souls suffering in Purgatory, why would he not release them out of pure Christian charity?
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Luther’s 95 Theses radically undermined Tetzel’s business, almost bringing the sale of indulgences to a standstill. Tetzel, Mazzolini, and John Eck published attacks on Luther, defending the sale of indulgences. When none of Luther’s friends rose to his defense, Luther felt deserted. Many of his closest friends believed that he had been too rash in his criticism of this established church practice. With the pope’s power challenged and papal profits eroded, church officials mobilised their forces to bring this rebellious monk into line. First the Augustinians at their regular meeting in Heidelberg sought to silence Luther. Then he underwent three excruciating interviews with Cardinal Cajetan in Augsburg. Then in June 1519, John Eck debated Luther in Leipzig.
Some close friends of Luther tried to persuade him to settle things peacefully by giving in, but to Luther this was now a matter of principle. Scriptural truth and eternal souls were at stake.
In preparation of the Leipzig debate, Luther had plunged into the study of church history and canon law. His studies convinced Luther that many of the decretals, such as the donation of Constantine, were forgeries.
THE LEIPZIG DEBATE
On 4 July 1519, Eck and Luther faced one another in Leipzig. The issue being debated was the supremacy of the Pope. Luther pointed out that the Eastern Greek Church was part of the Church of Christ, even though it had never acknowledged the supremacy of the Bishop in Rome. The great Church Councils of Nicea, Chalcedon and Ephesus knew nothing of papal supremacy. But Eck maneuvered Luther into a corner and provoked him to defend some of the teachings of (condemned heretic) John Hus. By making Luther openly take a stand on the side of a man official condemned by the church as a heretic, Eck was convinced that he had won the debate. However, Luther greatly strengthened his cause amongst his followers, winning new many new supporters, including Martin Bucer, (who became a crucial leader of the Reformation, even helping to disciple John Calvin).
Luther published an account of the Leipzig debate and followed this up with an abundance of teaching pamphlets. “On Good Works” had a far reaching effect teaching that man is saved by faith alone. “The noblest of all good works is to believe in Jesus Christ;” Luther maintained: shoemakers, housekeepers, farmers and businessmen, if they do their work to the glory of God, are more pleasing to God than monks and nuns.
EXCOMMUNICATION
On 15 June 1520, Pope Leo X signed the Bull excommunicating Luther. Describing Luther’s teaching as: “heretical”, “scandalous”, “false”, “offensive” and “seducing”, the Bull called upon all Christians to burn Luther’s books and forbid Luther to preach. All towns or districts that sheltered him would be placed under an interdict.
In response, Luther wrote: “Against the Execrable Bull of AntiChrist.” On 10 December 1520, surrounded by a large crowd of students and lecturers, he burned the Papal bull, along with books of canon law, outside the walls of Wittenberg.
Having exhausted all ecclesiastical means to bring Luther to heel, Pope Leo now appealed to the Emperor to deal with Luther.
SUMMONED TO WORMS
Previously, in 1518, when the Pope had summoned Luther to Rome, Prince Frederick had brought all his influence to have this Papal summons cancelled. When Luther had been summoned to Augsburg and Leipzig, Prince Fredrick had arranged for safe conduct guarantees. But now, that the Emperor Maximilian had died, Charles V of Spain had been elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Prince Frederick himself had been a serious contender for this position, and still held tremendous influence. So he prevailed upon Charles V to guarantee safe conduct for Luther as he was summoned to Worms for a Council of German rulers.
THE STATE
In the year before his summons to the Diet of Worms, Luther published some of his most powerful and influential treatises. In the Address to the German Nobility (August 1520) he called on the Princes to correct the abuses within the church, and to free the German church from the exploitation of Rome.
THE CHURCH
In The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (October 1520), Luther argued that Rome’s sacramental system held Christians captive. He attacked the papacy for depriving individual Christians of their freedom to approach God directly by faith – without the mediation of unBiblical priests and sacraments. To be valid, a sacrament had to be instituted by Christ and be exclusively Christian. By these tests, he could find no justification for five of the Roman Catholic sacraments. Luther retained only Baptism and The Lord’s Supper and placed these within the community of believers, rather than in the hands of a church hierarchy. Indeed, Luther dismissed the traditional view of the church as the sacred hierarchy headed by the Pope and presented the Biblical view of the Church as a community of the regenerate in which all believers are priests, having direct access to God through Christ.
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
In The Liberty of a Christian Man (November 1520), Luther presented the essentials of Christian belief and behaviour. Luther removed the necessity of monastism by stressing that the essence of Christian living lies in serving God in our calling, whether secular or ecclesiastical. In promoting this Protestant Work Ethic, Luther laid the foundation for free enterprise and the tremendous productivity it has inspired. He taught that good works do not make a man good, but a good man does good works. Fruit does not produce a tree, but a tree does produce fruit. We are not saved by doing good works, but by grace alone. However, once saved, we should expect good works to flow as the fruit of true faith.
FACING CERTAIN DEATH
Summoned to Worms, Luther believed that he was going to his death. He insisted that his co-worker, Philip Melanchthon, remain in Wittenberg. “My dear brother, If I do not come back, if my enemies put me to death, you will go on teaching and standing fast in the truth; if you live, my death will matter little.” Luther at Worms was 37 years old. He had been excommunicated by the Pope. Luther would have remembered that the Martyr, John Hus, a Century before had travelled to Constance with an imperial safe conduct, which was not honoured. Luther declared: “Though Hus was burned, the truth as not burned, and Christ still lives… I shall go to Worms, though there be as many devils there as tiles on the roofs.”
Luther’s journey to Worms was like a victory parade. Crowds lined the roads cheering the man who had dared to stand up for Germany against the Pope.
BEFORE THE EMPEROR
At 4 o’ clock on Wednesday 17 April, Luther stood before the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, ruled all the Austrian domains, Spain, Netherlands, a large part of Italy and the Americas. At 21 years old, Charles V ruled over a territory larger than any man since Charlemagne.
Amidst the pomp and splendor of this imperial gathering, stood the throne of the Emperor on a raised platform. It was flanked by Spanish knights in gleaming armour, 6 Princes, 24 Dukes, 30 Archbishops and Bishops, and 7 Ambassadors.
Luther was asked to identify whether the books on the table were his writings. Upon Luther’s confirmation that they were, an official asked Luther: “Do you wish to retract them, or do you adhere to them and continue to assert them?” Luther had come expecting an opportunity to debate the issues, but it was made clear to him that no debate was to be tolerated. The Imperial Diet was ordering him to recant all his writings. Luther requested more time, so that he might answer the question without injury to the Word of God and without peril to his soul. The Emperor granted him 24 hours.
CONFRONTATION
The next day, Thursday 18 April, as the sun was setting and torches were being lit, Luther was ushered into the august assembly. He was asked again whether he would recant what he had written. Luther responded that some of his books taught established Christian doctrine on faith and good works. He could not deny accepted Christian doctrines. Other of his books attacked the papacy and to retract these would be to encourage tyranny and cover up evil. In the third category of books, he had responded to individuals who were defending popery and in these Luther admitted he had written too harshly.
The examiner was not satisfied: “You must give a simple, clear and proper answer… will you recant or not?”
“HERE I STAND”
Luther’s response, first given in Latin and then repeated in German, shook the world: “Unless I am convinced by Scripture or by clear reasoning that I am in error – for popes and councils have often erred and contradicted themselves – I cannot recant, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against ones conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. So help me God. Amen.”
Amidst the shocked silence, cheers rang out for this courageous man who had stood up to the Emperor and the Pope. Luther turned and left the tribunal. Numerous German nobles formed a circle around Luther and escorted him safely back to his lodgings.
CONDEMNED
The Emperor was furious. However, Prince Frederick insisted that Charles V honour the guarantee of safe conduct for Luther. Charles V raged against “this devil in the habit of a monk” and issued the edict of Worms, which declared Luther an outlaw, ordering his arrest and death as a “heretic.”
KIDNAPPED
As Luther travelled back to Wittenberg, preaching at towns on the route, armed horsemen plunged out of the forest, snatched Luther from his wagon and dragged him off to Wartburg Castle. This kidnapping had been arranged by Prince Frederick amidst great secrecy in order to preserve Luther’s life. Despite the Emperor’s decree that anyone helping Luther was subject to the loss of life and property, Frederick risked his throne and life to protect his pastor and professor.
WARTBURG CASTLE
For the 10 months that Luther was hidden at Wartburg Castle, as Knight George (Junker Jorg), he translated The New Testament into German and wrote such booklets as: “On Confession Whether the Pope Has the Authority to Require It; On the Abolition of Private Masses” and “Monastic Vows.” By 1522, The New Testament in German was on sale for but a week’s wages.
REVOLUTION REBUKED
In Luther’s absence, Professor Andreas Karlstadt instituted revolutionary changes, which led to growing social unrest. In March 1522, Luther returned to Wittenberg, and in 8 days of intensive preaching, renounced many of Karlstadt’s innovations, declaring that he was placing too much emphasis on external reforms and introducing a new legalism that threatened to overshadow justification by faith and the spirituality of the Gospel. Luther feared that the new legalism being introduced would undermine the Reformed movement from within.
THE PEASANTS REVOLT
When the peasants’ revolt erupted, Luther was horrified at the anarchy, chaos and bloodshed. He repudiated the revolutionaries and wrote “Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants.” Aghast at the devastation and massacres caused by the peasants revolt, Luther taught that the princes had the duty to restore social order and crush the insurrection.
MARRIAGE
Also in 1525, on 13 June, Luther married Katherine von Bora, a former nun from a noble family. Luther called home life: “the school of character” and he stressed the importance of the family as the basic building block of society. Luther and Katie were blessed with 6 children.
THE BONDAGE OF THE WILL
Also in 1525, Luther wrote one his most important books: “On the Bondage of the Will.” This was in response to Desiderius Erasmus’s book on The Freedom of The Will, published in 1524. Luther responded scathingly to Erasmus’s theories on free will, arguing that man’s will is so utterly in bondage to sin, that only God’s action could save. Luther articulated the Augustinian view of predestination and declared that he much preferred that his salvation be in God’s Hands, rather than in his own.
As a result of the exchange between Luther and Erasmus, many Renaissance Humanist scholars ceased to support Luther.
A TIME OF CHANGE
The Reformation not only brought about sweeping changes in the church, but dramatic changes in all of society. First of all the Reformation focused on bringing doctrines, forms of church government, and of worship and daily life into conformity with the Word of God. But this of course had tremendous implications for political, economical, social and cultural life as well.
GOD’S WORD ABOVE ALL THINGS
Luther revised the Latin liturgy and translated it into German. Now the laity received the Communion in both bread and wine, as the Husites had taught a Century earlier. The whole emphasis in church services changed from the sacramental celebration of the Mass as a sacrifice, to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Luther maintained that every person has the right and duty to read and study the Bible in his own language. This became the foundation of the Reformation: a careful study of the Bible as the source of all truth and as the only legitimate authority, for all questions of faith and conduct.
THE TRUE CHURCH
The Church is a community of believers, not a hierarchy of officials. The Church is an organism rather than an organisation, a living body of which each believer is a member.
Luther stressed the priesthood of all believers. We do not gain salvation through the church, but we become members of the Church when we become believers.
REFORMATION BASIC PRINCIPLES
Luther dealt with many primary issues, including:
1. Authority – the Bible alone is our authority and not the councils or leaders of the Church. The Bible is above tradition.
2. Salvation – is by the grace of God alone, accomplished by the atonement of Christ alone, received by faith alone. Grace comes before sacraments.
3. The Church – the true Church is composed of the elect, those regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit. Regenerate Church membership.
4. The Priesthood – consists of all true believers. The priesthood of all believers.
THE BATTLE CRIES OF THE REFORMATION
The Protestant Reformation mobilised by Luther rallied around these great battle cries:
Sola Christus – Christ alone is the Head of the Church.
Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone is our authority.
Sola Gratia – Salvation is by the grace of God alone.
Sola Fide – Justification is received by faith alone.
Soli Deo Gloria – Everything is to be done for the glory of God alone.
LUTHER’S LEGACY
Despite Luther being declared an outlaw by the Emperor, he survived to minister and write for 25 more years, and died of natural causes, 18 February 1546.
In spite of many illnesses, Luther remained very active and productive as an advisor to princes, theologians and pastors, publishing major commentaries, producing great quantities of books and pamphlets, and he completed the translation of The Old Testament into German by 1534. Luther continued preaching and teaching to the end of his life. He frequently entertained students and guests in his home, and he produced beautiful poems and hymns, including one hymn that will live forever: “Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott”(A Mighty Fortress Is Our God).
Luther also did a great deal to promote education. He labored tirelessly for establishment of schools everywhere. Luther wrote his Shorter Catechism in order to train up children in the essential doctrines of the faith.
It has been common to portray Luther as a simple and obscure monk, who challenged the pope and emperor. Actually Luther was anything but simple or obscure. He was learned, experienced and accomplished far beyond most men of his age. He had lived in Magdeburg, Eisenach and was one of the most distinguished graduates of the University of Erfurt. Luther travelled to Cologne, to Leipzig, and had crossed the Alps, and travelled to Rome. Luther was a great student, with a tremendous breadth of reading, who had excelled in his studies, and achieved a Master of Arts and Doctorate in Theology in record time. He was an accomplished bestselling author, one of the greatest preachers of all time, a highly respected theological professor, and one of the first professors to lecture in the German language, instead of in Latin.
Far from being a simple monk, Luther was the Prior of his monastery and the district vicar over 11 other monasteries. Luther was a monk, a priest, a preacher, a professor, a writer, and a Reformer. He was one of most courageous and influential people in all of history. The Lutheran Faith was not only adopted in Northern Germany, but also throughout Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.
Luther was a controversial figure in his day and has continued to be considered controversial to this very day. There is no doubt that Luther’s search for peace with God changed the whole course of human history. He challenged the power of Rome over the Christian Church, smashed the chains of superstition and tyranny and restored the Christian liberty to worship God in spirit and in truth.
For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes …For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, the just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16 – 23

WILLIAM TYNDALE AND

 

THE BATTLE FOR THE BIBLE


Did you know that the first English translations of the Bible were banned? That the first printed copies of the New Testament in English had to be printed in Germany and smuggled into England in bales of cotton? Did you know that the Bible translator responsible for this was burned at the stake for the crime of translating the Scriptures into English?
Bishop Stephen Bradley observed: “We are in danger of forgetting truths for which previous generations gave their lives.”
That our churches are in danger of forgetting the great Reformation truths, for which previous generations of martyrs willingly laid down their lives, was forcefully impressed upon me during a ministry trip to Europe in 2005. I had the opportunity to visit Oxford and see the Martyrs Memorial. It drew my attention to an event that occurred 450 years before.
THE OXFORD MARTYRS
On 16 October 1555, just outside the walls of Balliol College, Oxford, a stout stake had been driven into the ground with fagots of firewood piled high at its base. Two men were lead out and fastened to the stake by a single chain bound around both their waists.
The older man was Hugh Latimer, the Bishop of Worcester, one of the most powerful preachers of his day, and the other Nicolas Ridley, the Bishop of London, respected as one of the finest theologians in England.
More wood was carried and piled up around their feet. Then it was set alight. As the wood kindled and the flames began to rise, Bishop Latimer encouraged his companion: “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”
Hundreds in the crowd watching the burning of these bishops wept openly.
The place of their execution is marked today by a small stone cross set in the ground in Broad Street, while nearby in St. Giles stands the imposing Martyrs Memorial, erected 300 years later in memory of these two men and of Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who 4 months after their execution suffered the same tortured death by burning, in the same place, and for the same reason.
HALLOWEEN VS REFORMATION DAY
As I stood and considered the sacrifices and sufferings of these courageous Reformers in Oxford, crowds bustled by without stopping for even a moment to consider the historic significance of Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer’s martyrdom exactly 450 years before.
And it is not just the secular population who seem insensible to the significance of the Reformation in achieving levels of freedom, productivity and prosperity unparalleled in history. Visits to the various impressive cathedrals and churches in Oxford and London indicated that most church goers seem oblivious to the great issues that inspired the Protestant Reformation, and the life changing, culture transforming faith for which these brave souls gave their lives.
The issues, programmes and events being advertised on the church calendars and in displays, notice boards and literature tables in the vestibules of these impressive architectural masterpieces spoke more of the secularizing of the Church than of any spiritual Reformation or missionary vision.
On Reformation Days, 31 October, many Christians seem more conscious of Halloween than of the Reformation. It appears that more of the children in our churches are celebrating the pagan and occultic Halloween than the great spiritual Revival that led to the birth of the Protestant Reformation.
FAITH AND FREEDOM
On one day in 1519 seven men and women in Coventry were burned alive for teaching their children the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Apostles Creed – in English!
In his trial, Bishop Ridley was urged to reject the Protestant Faith. His reply: “As for the doctrine which I have taught, my conscience assureth me that it is sound, and according to God’s Word…in confirmation thereof I seal the same with my blood.”
After much further pressure and torment, Bishop Ridley responded: “So long as the breath is in my body, I will never deny my Lord Christ, and His known truth: God’s will be done in me!”
Bishop Latimer declared: “I thank God most heartily, that He hath prolonged my life to this end, that I may in this case glorify God by that kind of death.”
THE ILLEGAL ENGLISH BIBLE
It may surprise most English speaking Christians that the first Bible printed in English was illegal and that the Bible translator was burned alive for the crime of translating God’s Word into English.
William Tyndale is known as the father of the English Bible, because he produced the first English translation from the original Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. 150 years earlier Wycliffe had overseen a hand written translation of the Bible, but this had been translated from the Latin Vulgate. Because of the persecution and determined campaign to uncover and burn these Bibles, few copies remain. It would take an average of 8 months to produce a single copy of the Wycliffe Bible, as they had to be written out by hand. William Tyndale’s translation was the first copy of the Scriptures to be printed in the English language.
The official Roman Catholic and Holy Roman Empire abhorrence for Bibles translated into the vernacular can be seen from these historic quotes: The Archbishop of Canterbury Arundel declared: “That pestilent and most wretched John Wycliffe, of damnable memory, a child of the old devil, and himself a child and pupil of the anti-Christ…crowned his wickedness by translating the Scriptures into the mother tongue.”
Catholic historian Henry Knighton wrote: “John Wycliffe translated the Gospel from Latin into the English…made it the property of the masses and common to all and…even to women…and so the pearl of the Gospel is thrown before swine and trodden under foot and what is meant to be the jewel of the clergy has been turned into the jest of the laity…has become common…”
A synod of clergy in 1408 decreed: “It is dangerous…to translate the text of Holy Scripture from one language into another…we decree and ordain that no-one shall in future translate on his authority any text of Scripture into the English tongue or into any other tongue, by way of book, booklet or treatiese. Nor shall any man read, in public or in private, this kind of book, booklet or treatiese, now recently composed in the time of the said John Wycliffe…under penalty of the greater excommunication.”
GOD’S OUTLAW
William Tyndale was a gifted scholar, a graduate of both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. It was at Cambridge that Tyndale was introduced to the writings of Luther and Zwingli. Tyndale earned his M.A. at Oxford, then he was ordained into the ministry, served as a chaplain and tutor and dedicated his life to the translation of the Scriptures from the original Hebrew and Greek languages.
Tyndale was shocked by the ignorance of the Bible prevalent amongst the clergy. To one such cleric he declared: “I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spares my life, before many years pass I will make it possible for the boy who drives the plow to know more of the Scriptures than you do.”
Failing to obtain any ecclesiastical approval for his proposed translation, Tyndale went into exile to Germany. As he described it “not only was there no room in my lord of London’s palace to translate the New Testament, but also that there was no place to do it in all England.”
Supported by some London merchants, Tyndale sailed in 1524 for Germany, never to return to his homeland. In Hamburg he worked on the New Testament, which was ready for printing by the following year. As the pages began to roll off the press in Cologne, soldiers of the Holy Roman Empire raided the printing press. Tyndale fled with as many of the pages as had so far been printed. Only one incomplete copy of this Cologne New Testament edition survives.
Tyndale moved to Worms where the complete New Testament was published the following year (1526). Of the 6000 copies printed, only 2 of this edition have survived.
Not only did the first printed edition of the English New Testament need to be produced in Germany, but they had to be smuggled into England. There the bishops did all they could to seek them out and destroy them. The Bishop of London, Cuthbert Tunstall, preached against the translation of the New Testament into English and had copies of Tyndale’s New Testaments ceremonially burned at St. Paul’s. the Archbishop of Canterbury began a campaign of buying up these contraband copies of the New Testament in order to burn them. As Tyndale remarked, his purchases helped provide the finance for the new improved editions.
In 1530 Tyndale’s translation of the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch (the books of Moses) were printed in Antwerp, Holland. Tyndale continually worked on further revisions and editions of the New Testament. He also wrote The Parable of Wicked Mammon and The Obedience of a Christian Man.
This book, The Obedience of a Christian Man, was studied by Queen Anne Boleyn and even found its way to King Henry VIII who was most impressed: “This book is for me and all kings to read!” King Henry VIII sent out his agents to offer Tyndale a high position in his court, a safe return to England and a great salary to oversee his communications.
However, Tyndale was not willing to surrender his work as a Bible translator, theologian and preacher merely to become a propagandist for the king! In his book The Practice of Prelates Tyndale argued against divorce and specifically dared to assert that the king should remain faithful to his first wife! Tyndale maintained that Christians always have the duty to obey civil authority, except where loyalty to God is concerned. Henry’s initial enthusiasm for Tyndale turned to rage and so now Tyndale was an outlaw both to the Roman Catholic Church and its Holy Roman Empire, and to the English kingdom.
Tyndale also carried out a literary battle with Sir Thomas More who attacked him in print with Dialogue Concerning Heresies in 1529. Tyndale responded with Answer to More. More responded with Confutation in 1533, and so on.
BETRAYAL AND BURNING
In 1535 Tyndale was betrayed by a fellow Englishman, Henry Phillips, who gained his confidence only to treacherously arrange for his arrest. Tyndale was taken to the state prison in the castle of Vilvorde, near Brussels. For 500 days, Tyndale suffered in a cold , dark and damp dungeon and then on 6 October, 1536, he was taken to a stake where he was garroted and burned. His last reported words were: “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.”
TYNDALE’S DYING PRAYER ANSWERED
The Lord did indeed answer the dying prayer of Tyndale in the most remarkable way. By this time there was an Archbishop of Canterbury (Thomas Cranmer) and a Vicar General (Thomas Cromwell) both of whom were committed to the Protestant cause. They persuaded King Henry to approve the publication of the Coverdale translation. By 1539 every parish church in England was required to make a copy of this English Bible available to all of its parishioners.
Miles Coverdale was a friend of Tyndale’s, a fellow Cambridge graduate and Reformer. His edition was the first complete translation of the Bible in English. It was mainly Tyndale’s work supplemented with those portions of the Old Testament which Tyndale had not been able to translate before his death.
Then, a year after Tyndale’s death, the Matthews Bible appeared. This was the work of another friend and fellow English Reformer, John Rogers. Because of the danger of producing Bible translations, he used the pen-name Thomas Matthews which was an inversion of William Tyndale’s initials (WT) TM. In fact at the end of the Old Testament he had William Tyndale’s initials WT printed big and bold.
At Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s request, Henry VIII authorised that this Bible be further revised by Coverdale and be called The Great Bible.
And so in this way Tyndale’s dying prayer was spectacularly answered. The sudden, unprecedented countrywide access to the Scriptures created widespread excitement. Just in the lifetime of William Shakespeare, 2 million Bibles were sold throughout the British Isles. About 90% of Tyndale’s wording passed on into the King James Version of the Bible.
THE MOST INFLUENCIAL ENGLISHMAN
Not only can William Tyndale be described as the father of the English Bible, but in a real sense the foremost influence on the shaping of the English language itself. Because Tyndale’s translation was the very first from the original Hebrew and Greek into the English language, he had no previous translations to help in his choice of language. While Latin is noun-rich, Greek and Hebrew are verb-rich. At that time the English language had been heavily influenced by French and Latin. Tyndale went back to the original Saxon and found that the Saxon English was more compatible to the Greek and Hebrew than Latin and French.
The clarity, simplicity and poetic beauty which Tyndale brought to the English language through his Bible translation served as a linguistic rallying point for the development of the English language. At the time of his translation there were so many variations and dialects of English and in many sections of the country the English language was being swamped with French words and Latin concepts. Tyndale’s translation rescued English from these Latin trends and established English as an extension of the Biblical Hebrew and Greek worldview.
And so, every person in the world who writes, speaks, or even thinks, in English, is to a large extent, indebted to William Tyndale. It is also extraordinary that while English was one of the minor languages of Europe in the early 16th Century, today it has become a truly worldwide language with over 2 billion people communicating in English.
PIONEERS FOR FREEDOM
The Reformation in the 16th Century was one of the most important epochs in the history of the world. The Reformation gave us the Bible – now freely available in our own languages. The now almost university acknowledged principles of religious freedom, liberty of conscience, the rule of law, the separation of powers and constitutionally limited republics were unthinkable before the Reformation. The Reformers fought for the principles that Scripture alone is our final authority, that Christ alone is the Head of the Church, that salvation is by the grace of God alone, received by faith alone on the basis of the finished work of Christ alone.
THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL
The Gospel of Christ is life changing, culture shaping, history making and nation transforming. If it doesn’t change your life, and the lives of those around you, then it’s not the Biblical Gospel. Next Reformation Celebration weekend (26 – 31 October) join with us as we celebrate the great heritage of Faith and freedom, which was pioneered by John Wycliffe, John Hus, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, John Knox, William Tyndale and other courageous believers.
A HEART AFLAME AND A MIND RENEWED
THE LEGACY OF REFORMER JOHN CALVIN

The exiled French Reformer, John Calvin, became the most influential man of his age and his teachings have proven to be some of the most influential in the shaping of Great Britain and the United States of America.
Some of the greatest philosophers, writers, Reformers and Christian leaders in history have described themselves as Calvinists. Some of Calvin’s influential disciples include: John Knox, William the Silent, Oliver Cromwell, John Owen, John Milton, Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, George Whitefield, William Carey, William Wilberforce, Sir Isaac Newton, Lord Shaftesbury, Charles Spurgeon, David Livingstone, The Covenantors in Scotland, The Hugenots of France, and the Pilgrim Fathers to New England.
The Reformation teachings of John Calvin were foundational in the development of modern Europe and North America. Calvin’s concept of the separation of church and civil government – where each stand independent of each other yet recognise each others Divine authority, supporting each other within their own spheres – transformed Western Civilisation. Calvin’s ideals of religious toleration, representative government, constitutionalising the monarchy, establishing the rights and liberties of citizens and the Christian Work ethic – in which secular society is seen as sacred (whereby the arts, crafts, sciences and industries are all developed for the glory of God) led to the industrial and scientific revolutions developing the most productive and prosperous societies in history.
Calvin’s Reformation teachings dominated European and American history for the rest of the 16 th and 17 th centuries – setting the agendas and inspiring most of the greatest social reformers. The record of history is that in every fight for freedom, whether the Puritans in England, or the Dutch fighting for freedom from Catholic Spain in the Netherlands, the Calvinists were in the forefront of political and military resistance to tyranny.
It is an interesting historical observation that one of the most enduring characteristics of Calvinism was that it thrived in those countries where opposition was the greatest.
FOLLOWING LUTHER
John Calvin was a second-generation Reformer. He carefully and consciously built upon the solid foundations laid by Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. Calvin looked to Luther as his father in the Faith, with great respect. Luther was very aware of the up-and-coming distinguished scholar and author, John Calvin, and praised his Institutes.
However, while their foundations were the same, Luther’s central focus was justification by faith, whereas Calvin’s focus was primarily the sovereignty of God. These Reformers shared an overwhelming sense of the majesty of God. Luther focused on the miracle of forgiveness, while Calvin went on to give the assurance of the impregnability of God’s purpose. If Luther’s central Biblical text was: “the just shall live by faith,” Calvin’s was: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
SKILLED IN LOGIC AND LAW
John Calvin was born at Noyon, Picardy, on 10 July 1509. (He was 25 years younger than Martin Luther). Calvin entered the University of Paris at age 14, studied Law, and graduated at age 19 with a Master of Arts degree. He was described as having a brilliant writing style and a remarkable skill in logical argument. In later years, it was said that while people may not have liked what Calvin said, they could not have misunderstood what he meant!
FROM LAW TO OUTLAW
While Calvin was engaged in further studies at Orleans University he experienced what he described as a “sudden conversion” from papal prejudice to Protestant conviction. With this spiritual quickening, Calvin launched into preaching, teaching and counseling amongst his peers. This in turn drew the attention of the state and soon Calvin was on the run as an outlaw, living under aliases and having to move frequently to avoid arrest.
THE INSTITUTES
In Basel, Calvin produced the first edition of his Institutes. The Institutes of the Christian Religion has been described as “the clearest, most logical and most readable exposition of Protestant doctrines that the Reformation age produced.”
The full title of this 1536 edition of the Institutes reads: “Basic Instruction in the Christian Religion comprising almost the whole sum of Godliness and all that it is needful to know of the doctrine of salvation. A newly published work very well worth reading by all who aspire to Godliness. The preface is to the most Christian King of France, offering to him this book as a Confession of Faith by the author, Jean Calvin of Noyon.”
This first edition was 516 pages long – divided into 6 chapters on The Ten Commandments, The Apostle’s Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, The Sacraments (true and false) and Christian Liberty.
The Institutes was an immediate success and catapulted Calvin into international prominence. To the French Protestants no one had spoken so effectively on their behalf, and so with the publication of the Institutes, Calvin assumed a position of leadership in the Protestant cause, in the French-speaking world.
AN ACCIDENTAL DETOUR
And so it was as a respected young author that Calvin arrived in Geneva a mere 5 months later. Calvin never intended to spend more than one night in Geneva. He was heading for Strassburg, and compelled to take a deviation to avoid a local war. The Protestants in Geneva recognised him, and William Farel (the redheaded evangelist and Reformer who had won Geneva over to the Protestant Cause after a marathon debate with the papists just 2 months previously) rushed over to persuade Calvin to stay.
But Calvin had other plans, as he later observed: “Being by nature a bit antisocial and shy, I always loved retirement and peace…” Calvin planned a life of seclusion, study and “literary ease.”
CHALLENGED, CONVICTED AND CALLED
Farel would have none of this. He threatened Calvin with a curse: “You are following only your own wishes, and I tell you, in the Name of God Almighty, that if you do not help us in this work of the Lord, the Lord will punish you for seeking your own interests rather than His.”
Convicted by Farel’s serious threat of imprecations, gripped by the fear of God, and ashamed by his selfish plans to avoid controversy and conflict, Calvin agreed to stay.
THE REFORMER OF GENEVA
For the next 28 years, apart from 3 years of banishment, Calvin devoted himself to evangelising, discipling, teaching and nurturing the churches in Geneva. Calvin’s dedication to duty and intense drive set the highest standards of Christian work ethic. During those two and a half decades in Geneva, Calvin lectured to theological students, preached an average of 5 sermons a week, in addition to writing commentaries on almost every book in the Bible, as well as various other theological books. His correspondence alone fills 11 volumes.
PRODUCTIVITY DESPITE ILL HEALTH
Calvin was never physically strong, and by the age of 30 he had broken his health. He would not sleep more than 4 hours a night, and even when ill, he kept four secretaries busy with his French and Latin dictation. He ate little, only one meal a day, suffered from intense migraine headaches, was frequently ill with fever, gallstones, chronic asthma and tuberculosis – yet he maintained a steady discipline of study, preaching, producing a river of theological treatises, a massive amount of correspondence and sustained constant counseling, labour in the courts and received a stream of visitors. How Calvin managed to remain so productive while suffering from such chronic bad health is one of the mysteries of history.
DISCIPLING A CITY
Calvin’s goal in Geneva was a well-taught, faithful church, dedicated to honouring God by orthodox praise and obedient holiness. He prepared a Confession of Faith to be accepted by everyone who wished to be a citizen, planned an educational programme for all, and insisted on effective church discipline, including excommunication for those whose lives did not conform to Biblical standards. His was the most strenuous programme of moral discipline in the Protestant world. And quite a lot more than the City Fathers of Geneva had bargained for. In April 1538, the City Council expelled Calvin and Farel.
EXILE AND RETURN
For the next 3 years Calvin pastored a church of French refugees in the German city of Strassburg. These were the happiest years in Calvin’s life. He married a widow, Idelette, was honoured by the City of Strassburg as a respected teacher of theology and was made the City’s representative to important religious conferences in Germany. However, the city of Geneva urged His return. In September 1541, with great reluctance, he once again took up the burden of discipling Geneva. Calvin succeeded in turning Geneva into a model example of a disciplined Christian community, a refuge for persecuted Protestants from all over Europe, and a center for ministerial training.
PREDESTINATION AND PERSEVERENCE OF THE SAINTS
Calvin considered Divine election to eternal life the deepest source of confidence, humility and moral power. While Calvin taught that one could not know with a certainty who were God’s elect, he believed that three tests could be adequate for effective church discipline. A true Christian, John Calvin taught, could be recognised by his or her public profession of faith, active participation in church life, including participation in the two sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and by an upright moral life.
LAW AND GRACE
Calvin taught that though Christians were no longer condemned by the Law of God, the true Christian finds in the Law God’s pattern for moral behaviour. Man is not justified by works, but no man who is justified is without works. No one can be a true Christian without aspiring to holiness in his or her life. Calvin set justification by faith in a God centered, sanctification orientated covenantal frame.
LIFE CHANGING AND LIBERATING
This rigorous pursuit of moral righteousness, both personally and in society, was one of the primary features of Calvinism. It made character a fundamental test of genuine Christianity and explains Calvinism’s dynamic, social activism. God calls His elect for His purposes. To Calvin, the consequence of Faith is strenuous effort to build God’s Kingdom on earth.
FAITH AND FREEDOM
Calvin taught that no man – whether pope or king – has any claim to absolute power. Calvin encouraged the development of representative governments, and stressed the right to resist the tyranny of unbelievers. Calvinist resistance to totalitarianism and absolutism (the arbitary abuse of power by leaders) was a key factor in the development of modern limited and constitutional governments. The Church has the obligation, under the Almighty God, to guide the secular authorities on spiritual and ethical matters. As a result, Calvinism rapidly assumed international dimensions.
HOLLAND
In Holland, Calvinism provided the ralling point for opposition to the oppression of Catholic Spain, which was occupying their country at that time.
SCOTLAND
In Scotland, Calvin’s disciple, John Knox, taught that Protestants had the right and duty to resist, by force if necessary, any leader who tried to prevent their worship and mission.
ENGLAND
The Puritans in England established the supremacy of Parliament and constitutionally limited the power of the throne.
AMERICA
In North America, England’s 13 colonies established the United States of America on Calvin’s principles of representative government and the rule of Law, Lex Rex.
EVALUATING CALVIN
John Calvin stands out as one of the finest Bible scholars, one of greatest systematic theologians and one of the most profound religious thinkers in history. John Calvin was Bible centered in his teaching, God centered in his living and Christ centered in his Faith. He integrated the confessional principles of the Reformation – Scripture alone is our authority, salvation is by the grace of God alone, received by faith alone. Christ alone is the head of the Church, everything should be done for the Glory of God alone – with supreme clarity and conviction.
BIBLE BASED
The Institutes shows that Calvin was a Biblical theologian. Nothing was in the Institutes for which Scripture was not shown to support. As Calvin made clear in his Preface to the second edition, the Institutes is meant to be a general preparation for Bible study.
Calvin was a systematic theologian who interpreted Scripture with Scripture. As a second-generation Reformer he laboured consciously to confirm and conserve what those who preceded him, Luther, Zwingli, Melancthon, Bucer and others, had established. He spoke as a mainstream spokesman for the true universal Church.
A MONUMENTAL MASTERPIECE
The final edition of the Institutes, published in 1559, contained 80 chapters and more than 1000 pages. The Institutes stands as the finest textbook of theology, apology for the Protestant Faith, manifesto for the Reformation, handbook for Catechism, weapon against heresy, and guide to Christian discipleship. It is a systematic masterpiece, which has earned itself a permanent place amongst the greatest Christian books in all of history.
THE FIRST BIBLE COMMENTARIES
In addition to writing the Institutes, John Calvin produced the first Bible commentaries. He wrote commentaries on every book in the Bible, except for Revelation. A theme that binds all of Calvin’s works together is to know God and to make Him known.
TO KNOW GOD
He deals with what can be known about God (theology) and how to know God personally (devotion). Calvin’s motto was Prompte et sincere in opere Dei (promptly and sincerely in the service of God). His emblem is of a heart aflame in the hand of God. This is what Calvin wished to be, and this, in fact, was what he was: a heart aflame for God who sought to be faithful in the service of God, renewing his mind according to the Word of God. To him it was not enough to know about God, but essential that one knew Him personally, whole-heartedly, with a heart aflame for God. Not for Calvin the dry-as-dust, cold-hearted, external and empty religion, which epitomises so many of those who claim to follow him. Calvin’s faith was intense, passionate and wholehearted.
To the question: What does it mean to know God? Calvin answered: To know God is to acknowledge Him as He has revealed Himself in Scripture and through Christ – worshiping Him and giving Him thanks, humbling ourselves before Him as foolish and depraved sinners, learning from His Word, loving God for His love in adopting and redeeming us, trusting in God’s promises of pardon, glorifying what God has accomplished through Christ, living in obedience to God’s Law and seeking to honour God in all our human relationships and in all connections with God’s creatures.
To the question: From where comes our knowledge? Calvin answers: From the Holy Spirit, speaking in and through the written Word of God by uniting us to the Risen Christ for abundant life.
A REASON TO SING AND A MESSAGE TO GIVE
Calvin viewed music as a gift of God and encouraged congregational Psalm singing, even putting to music a number of the Psalms himself. Calvin was an evangelist who worked diligently to bring the lost to repentance and faith in Christ.
A WORLD TO WIN
Calvin’s vision is attested to by the fact that during his ministry over 2 000 Reformed churches were established in France alone – with half a million church members in congregations lead by pastors and evangelists he had trained and sent out. Calvin sent missionaries throughout Europe and even as far afield as Brazil.
In his Institutes, Calvin wrote of “the magnificence” of Christ’s reign prophesied in Daniel 2:32-35; Isaiah 11:4; Psalm 2:9 and Psalm 72 where Christ will rule the earth. “Our doctrine must tower unvanquished above the glory and above all the might of the world, for it is not of us, but of the Living God and His Christ” Who will “rule from sea to sea and from the river even to the ends of the earth.”
HAVE YOU READ CALVIN?
If you have never read Calvin’s Institutes or benefited from his commentaries, perhaps this would be a good time to invest the time in studying these treasures.
A CALL TO SUFFER AND SERVE – CHANGING CULTURES FOR CHRIST
Calvin’s concept of the Christian life as a militant pilgrimage leading safely home by a predestined path of service and suffering – as we fulfill our cultural calling – has produced some of the most humble, hard-working heroes of the Faith. Has your mind been renewed by the Word of God? Is your heart aflame with devotion to Christ? And are you applying the Lordship of Christ to all areas of life, promptly and sincerely in the service of God?

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