This term I am busy teaching a unit on the Reformation, and the impact it had on the Christian Church. At the same time, I am reading this wonderful book my husband
bought second hand when he knew I was going to be starting this topic. “Champions of the Reformation”, written by Janet Gordon, published in 1875. I need to add here, that the writing is so beautiful and eloquent, using some words I have had to use a dictionary for! I question what we have lost in beauty and depth of writing, as in the 21st Century we have become supposedly more ‘knowledgeable’ and have far more access to information than ever before.
Take this remarkable quote from the book (from the Preface even!)…
“…the more clearly that we discern the many strands of the cord with which Providence was drawing resistlessly onwards the chariot of the Reformation, the more frankly ought we to pay our tribute of gratitude and respect to the memory of those who played the hero in the face of overwhelming odds; who were brave, when courage required to be proved, rather by deeds that words…[we place] a high value on the faith and spiritual privileges for which they struggled, and which they have bequeathed to us as the great charter of our freedom, the true ark of our civil and religious liberty.”
So as I refresh my knowledge of people like John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Huss, Jerome, Zwingli and Martin Luther, I am once again blown away by these people who stood up for what they believed in, in such a mighty and courageous way.
Isaac Newton, when considering theories of optics, most famously said; “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” The same can be said for the many reformers who have been given light from God to see the truth in the pages of scripture. If it wasn’t for Wycliffe and Tyndale in their efforts proclaiming that the Bible should be available for everyone, and translating the Bible into English (and pushing for it to be translated into the people’s tongue), then Martin Luther never would have read the Bible. He would never had read of the truths of grace, forgiveness and the sovereignty of God through those precious pages. If it wasn’t for Johannes Gutenberg inventing the printing press, Bibles would not have been readily available for these men to delve into, and for God to reveal knowledge and insight. So yes it is true that our Reformers were great men, but their greatness was in their humbleness to build on the strong foundations of their predecessors.
The humbleness of our Reformers is evident, as they were devoted to the truth God revealed to them. A lot of them had very humble beginnings – born of peasant background, but through this humbleness God was able to work in a mighty way. Power and position did not seem to be a common theme with our Reformers, but rather a hungering for truth and a desire to see integrity in religious leaders of the day; in mankind alone! They were devoted in the face of death for they knew the true perspective of this world and Heaven to come. When the imperial council met to decide the fate of Martin Luther, it was called the Diet of Worms. Martin Luther was asked to recant his position, and his response shows his strong and unmovable conviction;
“…I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.” (Martin Luther,
Despite being put before the council, Martin Luther lived out his life, continued to lecture at Wittenberg before his death in 1546. The teachings of our Reformers about the beautiful notion that through God’s grace that we are made right is beyond natural human thought. The fact that our wrongs can be made right by believing in Jesus and His Word, is out of this world…literally! I pray that God will give us the same courage and determination for truth that our predecessors demonstrated. I pray that our focus would not get caught up in the materialism of this world, but look to how we can bless others, and stay true to our God.
I strongly recommend checking out “Lineage Journey” on youtube. This is a series of 4-5 minute clips highlighting stages and people of the Reformation. Click here for Lineage Journey
Scriptures relevant to the topic of Reformation
“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (NIV)
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves – it is a gift from God.” (NIV)
1 Peter 2:5
“…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (NIV)
2 Timothy 3:16
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness..”
Click here to go to a list of the 95 theses (or 95 ideas), that Luther nailed to the Wittenberg church door.