Church History

Revival: What It Is and What It Isn’t

The word “revival” has always been tossed about freely by Christians. It is our hope for this temporal world, it would solve what ails the culture, it would fix so many problems.

I hear this word more than ever now, as the culture grows darker and darker. “There could still be revival,” is heard often by those whose fervent hope is to get back to some type of normalcy. Whose hope is to start the culture in a more positive direction.

But what exactly is revival? And is it something we can and should expect? These are the questions I’d like to take a look at today as our world grows increasingly darker and our hope for this world teeters on the brink of extinction.

Merriam-Webster gives this definition of Revival as it relates to religion–

(1) : a period of renewed religious interest

 
Dictionary.com gives this definition–

an awakening, in a church or community, of interest in and care for matters relating to personal religion.
 
So we can see that Revival, as it relates to religion, means an awakening in matters of personal religion. In fact, one of the most famous revivals of all was called “The Great Awakening”. It happened in the mid-1700s and the two most famous men connected to it are Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, although there were many lesser-known men (and women) used by God during that great time.

What brought about such revival? Many years ago I read Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards (which I highly recommend, by the way). As I recall, there were three very important keys to that famous Revival: 1) Prayer and 2) Repentance of sin and 3) Separation from the world.

Fervent, frequent prayer was the fuel of the revival and the people’s repentance of sin and separation from the world was the result of that prayer.

The church in that day was much like the church of this day, in that many people went to church to ease their consciences but there was little true religion.

I remember thinking as I was reading: This sounds so much like today.

We always think we are so much worse, but there really is nothing new under the sun.

So, given the definition of revival and the three important components of revival, should we expect revival?

I think it is important to say, first, that none of us knows what is ahead. We never have known but, now more than ever, the future is unsettled and uncertain. As you read anything I say below, please keep this in mind. We can only guess where we are at on God’s timeline by reading the signs. None of us can know definitively or specifically.

What I do know from reading scripture is that in the last days (which I strongly believe we are in because of the signs given to us in the Bible), times will wax worse and worse (Read 2 Timothy 3 and Jude). People will not truly turn to the Lord but they will pretend to be godly while loving their sin and this world.

From these passages, I don’t believe we should expect revival on any large scale, although there may be scattered pockets throughout the world.

But, of course, I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know:

Much of the talk of Revival these days is not true revival.

How do I know this?

It is because, while there may be talk of a vague repentance, there is rarely talk of repenting of specific, personal sins and never talk of turning from the world.

Most Christians who declare revival as this world’s solution rarely, if ever, encourage people to turn from not only their sin, but also from their fascination with and love for this world.

And, yet, can there be true revival without it? I think not.

James makes this extremely clear in chapter 4, verse 7–

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

We cannot be in right relationship with God if we are in love with the world. And when we hear calls for revival, we never hear anything about this.

Christians are quite comfortable in this world. They live their married lives like the world (Dad is not the head of the home, moms leave their children to go to work); They parent like the world (they don’t discipline, they ignore what the Bible teaches); They watch, listen to, and read the same things as the world. They wear the same things as the world, letting even their precious teen girls dress in such a way to draw sexual attention to themselves so that they are accepted by their friends (I am shocked and dismayed at the many Christian parents who allow this. I cannot even believe it. And I see no conviction about this. From any direction. I’ll climb down off my soap box now. This has been puzzling me for years now.)

Christians look like the world. It is hard to see any difference, really.

And I am convinced more than ever that Revival cannot come while we Christians are steeped in this world.

If we want to bring true revival, we must wean ourselves from this world.

So how much do we actually want revival? How concerned are we for souls? Or are we more concerned about getting back to our comfortable, convenient lives and the world we believed we lived in? These are questions worth our consideration.

If true revival means fervent prayer (by true believers) and turning from sin and from this world, what is all this talk about revival among false teachers (and those who we thought were true teachers that are joining with false teachers)?

I think that is a great question.

You see, there is such a thing as fake revival. And it will be characterized by many people coming together with worldly music and raised hands, powerfully moved by emotion. The truth of God’s Word in these meetings means nothing. Personal repentance of sin and commitment to separate from the world are never a part of these kinds of meetings. It is an ecumenical unity based on feelings.

I believe there will be many fake revivals. In fact, there will be a last, great fake revival when people take the mark of the beast as an act of worship. People will bow at the feet of the Antichrist, believing he IS the Christ (Revelation 13).

It is so important that we carefully examine any rumors of revival by these standards. What is driving it? Is it fueled by prayer? Is there a focus on repentance? On turning from this world?

As we ponder these things, I think we must also realize that true revival starts with individuals. You and me. While we may not expect a wave of revival to overtake this nation or the world, we can perhaps start mini-revivals in our own homes and churches and communities. This can happen through much prayer and our own personal turning away from sin and this world. It is a painful process and we can expect much marginalization and ridicule, but it will yield fruit. Perhaps not as much as we’d hope for, but God will always use a life dedicated to Him for His purposes and His glory.

So pray for Revival. But make sure you are praying for the right kind of Revival and for the right reasons.

I want to leave you with these words by David Cloud on this topic of Revival–

The heart of the tree is being eaten away even as the watchers are pleased at keeping a few leaves alive. Some type of revival could happen if individual Christians and individual churches would repent of an adulterous love for this God-hating world, repent of setting the affections more on things below than things above, and earnestly beseech God’s help. Who knows how far the forces of evil could be driven back? God has never needed a majority. Gideon’s vigilant few are enough. But so many churches are like Sardis; they have a name that they live, but they are dead. They are comfortable in the world, not pilgrims but dwellers, mighty for pot luck but weak for spiritual warfare, zealous for video games and sports and consuming fleeting hours on social media vanity, but not zealous students of God’s Word, passionate for parties but not for prayer. (From Friday News, Nov 13, 2020)

 

Some Options for Those with Extra Time

Okay, so by now we are a week or two into our isolation/social distancing. Some of you are still working crazy hours and serving the public (we thank you!!) but there are others who have a little extra time. Our churches do not have services, Bible Studies and meetings and get-togethers have been canceled. Restaurants, stores, gardens, zoos, and most other public places are closed. Many of us have little to do and fewer places to go. And so we are doing all of the things we never get around to doing such as cleaning and organizing and cooking.

But, let’s face it–you can only do so much cleaning.

So I got to thinking…

What are some other ways we can spend this gift of time that many of us have been given?

Lots of things come to mind. Now may be the perfect time to learn to knit or to find a YouTube tutorial on painting with watercolors. It’s a great time to start gardening or baking again. Perhaps it’s time to lift the covers off of old instruments packed away or rediscover our love of photography.

It’s also the perfect time to think outside the box regarding how we can serve others. What are some ways we can encourage others during this strange time in our world? Writing cards, making phone calls, sending texts and emails, and running errands for those who are high risk are just a few ways we can do this during this time.

But one of the best ways we can make use of this time would be to dig into the Word in a more meaningful way. So often we skim or quickly read. Perhaps now is the time to grab a notebook and a commentary or two and really dig in a bit.

In the upcoming month of April we will be reading John 15-21 in the Growing4Life Bible Challenge. When I planned the schedule I had no idea we would be reading the story of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection in the same month we celebrate it! (Only God, right?? I love how He does things like this!) If you do not have another study going at this time, I want to invite you to join me in reading the last third of John and focus on Christ and what He has done for you during this coming month. You can find more details here.

Here are some other way to grow your knowledge of the Bible and its influence on the world around you–

This is the perfect time to dedicate yourself to Scripture Memorization. I use the Bible Memory App to help me with this and it’s been so incredibly helpful. But you can also memorize many other ways. Find the best way for you and dedicate yourself to hiding God’s Word in your heart and mind.

I have been amazed at how, during this time of uncertainty and change, my memorized verses have come to my mind and comforted me. A few weeks ago, I woke up early one morning–long before it was time to get up–and, in thinking of the current events, felt myself grow panicky. And then Isaiah 26:3 came to my mind: You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. It was just the balm I needed. God’s Word is truly a treasure.

We can learn doctrine through A Crash Course in Systematic Theology. You will find it here. Taught by Pastor Dean Good to his Men’s Bible Study at Grace Church of North Olmsted, it is a review of the main doctrines in the Bible. It is easy to understand and wonderfully comprehensive.

The Institute for Church Leadership is offering a course on Hermeneutics for free during this unprecedented time. It will be offered through April of 2020. You can check it out here.

I have signed up to take this course which is taught by Dr. Abner Chou. I have appreciated his teaching and am looking very forward to this opportunity to learn more about correctly interpreting God’s Word from him.

Way of Life Literature publishes some very interesting courses. The three listed here each come with powerpoints that are full of visual proofs and photos that make the course come alive. They are currently not shipping hard copies, but you can still purchase the ebooks. If you enjoy history, you will enjoy these (descriptions are from their website) —

Bible Time Ancient KingdomsBible Times and Ancient Kingdoms is a training course on Bible geography, Bible culture, Bible history, and Bible archaeology, which has a two-fold objective: to present apologetic evidence for the Bible and to give background material to help the student better understand the setting of Bible history.

Jews in Fighter JetsJews in Fighter Jews covers the past 2,500 years of the history of the most important and amazing nation on earth, the only nation directly created by God and called by God “my people,” the nation to whom “were committed the oracles of God” and “of whom, as concerning the flesh Christ came” (Romans 3:2; 9:5).

History of the Churches — This enlightening course on church history begins with the apostolic churches and ends with the early 1800s. We show that sound churches have existed side-by-side with apostate ones through the centuries.

I am currently on chapter three of Bible Time Ancient Kingdoms and I am finding it fascinating. It is well written and so informative. You will find lots of other ebooks and Bible studies there. There is even a nice selection of free ebooks for download. While I don’t agree 100% with the author on every topic, I do find that the majority of his work to be sound and edifying. (And, after all, who do we agree with 100% of the time…? That will be one of the most wonderful things about heaven! We will all know the truth about every single doctrine big or small and, therefore, we will all agree!)

The Fuel Project over at YouTube has a FANTASTIC series called Know Your Enemy. It is a thorough overview of Satan’s influence on history. You will never view the world the same again after watching it. It is well-documented and very eye-opening. It gives you the knowledge to understand who our enemy really is and clearly shows how he often presents himself as light and good, all while being the mastermind of deception. I really can’t recommend this highly enough.

_______________________________________________

However we choose to use any bit of extra time we’ve been gifted, may we use it wisely. May we not waste hours and hours glued to the news or scrolling through social media. These things aren’t bad, in and of themselves, but let’s keep them from stealing an over abundance of the precious hours we’ve been gifted with.

 

 

At All Costs

We have a chocolate Lab named Macy. If you’ve been a reader for awhile, you will probably remember other posts about her. She is passionately–even desperately–attached to me. She goes into a bit of a panic if I am not around. If I run over to the office or take some trash out, I can be sure she will be right behind me because she has even learned how to let herself out of the house. If I am working outside, I can be sure she will be laying somewhere nearby. If I hop on the Gator she runs along side it, trying to keep up. I usually slow down a bit so that she can.

The other morning I awoke really early. I couldn’t get back to sleep so, finally, around 5am, I stole quietly from the room leaving my husband and Macy sleeping peacefully. I glanced to make sure she wasn’t ready to get up yet and then closed the bedroom door and headed downstairs to sit outside and watch the sun rise. The sky was already brightening as I took my cup of coffee outside.

I sat there for an hour or so, when suddenly I heard a scratch at the door. My husband was not far behind and opened the door, letting me know that she had discovered I wasn’t in the room and had been crying. I felt kind of bad. He doesn’t get to sleep in very often. I had been so sure she was sound asleep. How did she even figure out I wasn’t in my bed…?

But that’s how she is. If I’m around she’s at peace. If I’m not around she’s not. Macy doesn’t like to disappoint me and so she is a very obedient dog. If I tell her to come, she comes. If I tell her to lay down, she listens to me. Well, unless there is food involved. She struggles to be obedient when there is food involved.

But, overall, she does everything in her power to please me and to be close to me. She follows me everywhere. It can actually be annoying sometimes–like when she follows me into the bathroom or she stops right in front of me and almost trips me in her efforts to make sure I am following closely behind her and am not taking some surprise detour. But it is also a bit endearing. How can you not love a dog that loves you soooo much?

As I reflected on Macy’s passion and zeal for me the other day, it gave me pause for thought.

I mean, I know she’s a dog and all, but bear with me.

As I pondered her passion and zeal for me, I had to ask myself: Where is my passion and zeal directed? Am I even passionate and zealous about anything?

Do I feel like all is wrong in my world if I am doing my own thing apart from God? Do I hate to disappoint my Master? Do I do everything in my power to remain close to my Master’s side?

I finished a book yesterday called Hunted and Harried. It is about the persecution of the Scottish Covenanters during the 1600’s. (I recommend it. It was very thought-provoking and easy to read.) As I read of these men and women who chose to be martyred rather than to turn from true faith, I wondered if I would do the same thing? Could do the same thing?

Is my passion and my zeal for the Lord more important than my reputation? Than my family? Than my possessions? Than my very life?

If it’s not, then something is dreadfully wrong. Jesus challenges us with this very thought in Matthew 10:37-39–

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

And Paul reiterates this in Colossians 3:3–

For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

And Galatians 2:20–

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

True Christianity means dying to self.

Dying to self in order to follow Christ may lead us into great suffering and persecution. It will probably lead to unpopularity in the Church and to antagonism from the world. Obeying and pleasing Him will most certainly make us appear odd to a world bent on pleasing self.

But none of that should matter to us. Like Macy, we should have one goal in mind and that is to stay close to our Master. And what is the best way to do this?

We read, study, and memorize the Word. We submit and obey what we find there. We yield our wills, desires, and dreams to the will and purposes of the Father.

It’s so incredibly opposite of what we hear these days coming from the pulpits across America, isn’t it?

And, yet, we can’t study scripture and understand it any other way.

The wonderful thing is that while we are dying to self and serving God with passion and zeal, He is faithfully caring and protecting and loving and growing us. He is a the perfect Master and yielding our lives to Him brings true peace and joy that the world can never experience.

I am human and sometimes I can get frustrated with Macy. But God never does this. He wants us close by His side. He never grows weary of us or rejects us for even a second. His love is completely and utterly unconditional. He is wholly deserving of our most fervent devotion and dedication.

We can get caught up in this world and become oh, so distracted. We can forget, as we go about our everyday lives full of busyness, that we are not are own.

So perhaps we should regularly ask ourselves this question: Just how much passion and zeal do I have for God?

Am I willing to follow Him anywhere? Am I willing to lose popularity, reputation, family, or even my life for Him?

Come what may, I hope the answer to these questions for all of us is YES. May we be willing to follow Christ at all costs.

 

I’m Not the One Who Moved

This is for my Christian critics. The ones who label me narrow-minded and arrogant because of what I believe. I hope that this post will also encourage and aid my readers who are also labeled in this way.

There is a really important thing that our critics have forgotten–

We aren’t the ones who moved.

Seriously.

While there was always a remnant of believers who lived according to the Word even during the Dark Ages, we saw that, with the Reformation, there came a return to the important five solas–key doctrines of scripture.

These five solas returned a wayward mainstream Christianity back to its core and we owe much gratitude to men like Hus, Tyndale, Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin (and so many others) who were persecuted and even died because they stood firmly on the Bible and its precepts.

I am watching the first three of these five solas slowly being eroded away by mainstream evangelical Christianity but I still believe them. Many of us have always believed them–even without a history lesson on the Reformation– because they are what the Bible teaches.

The first point, Sola Scriptura (Scripture is sufficient and authoritative) is being ripped to shreds all around us. Belief that God is still speaking flies in the face of Sola Scriptura. Scripture cannot be sufficient if we are still receiving revelation from God. So is scripture sufficient or isn’t it?

I believe it is both authoritative and sufficient. I do not make that statement lightly and I have given the issue both research and prayer. Here are four key reasons why I absolutely believe it is sufficient. I have attached a link after this section that goes into this a bit more–

1) If scripture is not sufficient then we have a veritable Pandora’s Box of chaos. Anyone can say anything and claim it’s from God. And yet there is no way to prove any message is from God. Some will say that if it agrees with scripture then we can know it’s from God. Well, if that’s the case, then why do we need to be told this same thing in a supernatural way? Why not just read the Bible? And here’s another thing we know: Satan masquerades as an angel of light. He can–and does–use these things to pretend to be our godly advisor, only to eventually draw us off the narrow path. My rule: Don’t trust the voice inside my head. There is absolutely no way to know if it is God or isn’t. None.

2) If scripture is not sufficient or the authority of our lives, then we are going to be driven by things outside of the Bible like culture, felt needs, and other dangerous doctrines. Because if scripture is not sufficient then we naturally have to concede that scripture does not tell us everything we need to know. This kind of thinking leaves a very dangerous door open. And it’s the door that brings in most, if not all, false teaching. In fact, this door is the one that Joseph Smith walked through, deceiving millions. He claimed to have further revelation and started the Mormon church. I can’t think of one false religion that did not begin with “special revelation” or a vision from “God”. There may be one, but I can’t think of one.

3) If we are hungering for supernatural experiences directed to us personally, we naturally have to admit that this takes the focus off of God and puts it squarely on us. Our religion becomes about our purpose, our dreams, our needs, our wants. This is in complete and utter contradiction to what scripture teaches, where we read that we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross. (Matthew 16:24)

4) Special revelation breeds pride and division. When we think we should be hearing from God but aren’t we grow envious and jealous of those that are or we grow discouraged that somehow we aren’t spiritual enough. When we think we are hearing from God, we grow prideful and arrogant, thinking that we have some special connection with God that others do not have. The fruits of this movement are clearly disturbing, a fact we must face.

You can find a more in-depth article that I have written on this topic here.

We also see the second and third solas disappearing: Sola Fide (by faith alone) and Sola Gratia (through grace alone) (Ephesians 2:8) If we believe that salvation is by faith alone through grace alone then we must conclude that any religion that doesn’t teach this truth is a false one. And, yet, there is this powerful effort from well-known leaders that would encourage us to unify with Catholicism (faith plus works), Mormonism (works plus faith), and even Islam (works and a little faith). We are all to be one big happy group together serving God. Any refusal or even hesitation to follow after this movement brings accusations of divisiveness and intolerance.

But let’s be honest: Their God cannot be the same as the One, True God. And the real Jesus is obviously not the same as their “Jesus”. How do I know this? Because they require other things besides faith for salvation. Because what they are teaching is not what the Bible teaches. And because their religious rules and regulations are in direct opposition to what Jesus taught in the scriptures (John 14:6).

This is what Orthodox Christianity has believed for thousands of years because this is what the Bible teaches. But sometime in the not-too-distant past, things started to subtly change. Special revelation, hearing the voice of God, dreams and visions–a claim made by only the heretical fringes of Christianity throughout history–became the norm while pastors we loved and trusted started to push us to be joined together with false religions and false teachers.

What is going on??

And then there is the whole moral shift. Two big things come to mind, although I know there are more. First, since the inception of Christianity, the main goal of a Christian was to grow in holiness and godliness (I Peter 1:15-16; Titus 2:12). We were to separate from the world and to set ourselves apart for God’s service (James 1:27; I John 2:15-17). What has happened to these principles? Where is the separation from the world? Where is the encouragement to be holy and sanctified? It has all but disappeared in a “Christianity” that takes the focus off of the Gospel and puts it on fixing the culture. That tells us to follow our dreams and that we deserve our best life now. A warped “Christianity” that ignores true doctrine and bases its false doctrines on felt needs, feelings, and human wisdom and that encourages a sensual, earthly type of worship.

And then there is the latest thing I have to confess I didn’t really think I’d ever see. But here we are. Did you ever think you’d see a day where someone who claims to be “evangelical” would say it is normal to be gay? That God created them that way? Whatever happened to Romans 1 (Romans 1:24-27)? Where does that fit into their premises? And, yet, this is what we have. Respected leaders of the evangelical movement assuring us that it is okay to be a celibate gay person–that God made them like that. (If you need proof, check here and here.)

In light of all of these things we find that–

by default, the narrow road is becoming even more narrow.

Those of us who haven’t moved are not the ones making it narrow. We are standing where we have always stood. But with so many people walking away from biblical Christianity and heading for the broad road, the narrow road has naturally become more sparsely populated.

Those of us who hold to biblical Christianity find ourselves growing lonelier and lonelier. We find ourselves mocked, marginalized, ignored, and sometimes even persecuted. This narrow road is becoming more and more difficult to traverse. It is a rocky, difficult road and it is easy to see why so many leave it.

(Please keep in mind that I am making no judgments on why those who are moving away from biblical Christianity are doing so nor am I speculating anything about their eternal destinies. I am simply, like you, watching, broken-hearted, as so many turn away from all they’ve ever taught and believed. A sad thing indeed.)

As more and more people defect to the mystical, ecumenical, and communist/left evangelicalism, it naturally makes those of us who have chosen to stay where we have always been look narrow-minded and arrogant.

But, again, I want to remind you that we are not the ones who moved. We are not the ones re-defining Christianity. We are not the ones changing how we interpret scripture. We aren’t the ones going against what scripture teaches, teaching unbiblical things such as: Christianity is here to change culture, that Christians deserve to have their dreams fulfilled, that worldliness has nothing to do with godliness, and that the local church is to be designed around the needs of the lost. We are not the ones who are speaking at conferences with those who are clearly false teachers, giving validity to their ministries by speaking alongside them.

What is wrong with this picture? Why are those of us that refuse to move the “bad guys”?

Actually, I know why.

Peer pressure is a very powerful thing. And those that don’t fit in the mainstream have never been and will never be popular. Whether you are talking about church issues or work issues or school issues. The one who won’t fit in with “group think” is inevitably marginalized, maligned, ignored, or persecuted.

And, so, here we are.

If someone out there can give me a valid explanation based on scripture on why I should change my views, I am here to listen with an open mind. If someone wants to show me how my traditional Christian beliefs, backed by thousands of years of Christian history, are no longer correct with an argument that is based on the Bible, I am willing to listen. I am not closed-minded, nor am I hard-hearted or arrogant. I know full-well I don’t have all of the answers.

But here is what I do know: The Bible does have the answers. It has the answers for the here and now and it also has great insight into the future. And its predictions about the last days are becoming a shocking reality more each day in a way I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.The Bible is true and real-life events are most definitely confirming this.

So, forgive me, if I don’t hop on the mainstream evangelical bandwagon. I don’t belong there and I firmly believe that you don’t, either.

 

 

Remembering the Reformation: A Timeline

Reformation

As I have been filling my head with information about the Reformation through websites, podcasts, YouTube videos, and books, I have realized something: It is like a bottomless well of information and I am just touching the surface. I feel completely inadequate to even present a timeline. The more I know about the Reformation, the more I realize how much I don’t know. But I am going to go ahead and present a basic timeline of the most important events with just a bit of information about them. (If you think I missed something important please don’t hesitate to let me know so that I can add it). I hope this is a helpful resource as we continue our study on the Reformation.

One thing that is of important note before I give the timeline is just how much the Reformation changed Western culture. As one speaker put it: The Reformation is the foundation of Western Civilization. This period of time re-established the authority of scripture, the priesthood of the believer, and the importance of a personal relationship with God—all things taught in the New Testament but lost among the common man in the false religion of Catholicism. It also brought about the birth of free enterprise and highlighted the importance of education and literacy. And, let’s not forget–it changed how the culture viewed marriage and family.

It is safe to say that it would be a very, very different world, if not for the Reformation.

We tend to think of this time as religious only, but what I have realized is that God’s ways are perfect–not just for our spiritual health, but in all ways. The Bible teaches us tools for all of life and we can see this truth when we look at the Reformation.

Here is the timeline–

1440— Somewhere around 1440, Johannes Gutenberg invents the printing press. I include this as the first item on this timeline because without a printing press there would not have been a Reformation. It was this machine that enabled Luther’s 95 Theses and other writings to be spread across the land.

1517–Luther nails the 95 Theses on to the church door at Wittenberg

Luther becomes distressed at how the pope, Leo X, has decided to use indulgences to raise funds for his dwindling coffers. A guy by the name of Tetzel is Leo’s representative in the region where Luther lives. Tetzel comes up with a little jingle (that rhymes in German as well as in English!): Every time the coffer rings another soul from purgatory springs. With his coffer and jingle, Tetzel travels the countryside, convincing people that their dead loved ones will remain in purgatory unless they pay to get them out. It is specifically in response to this unbiblical practice that Luther writes his 95 theses. He takes them and nails them to the door of the Wittenberg church. He actually receives little notice from the academic world (his intended audience), but a few students find them, copy them into common vernacular, and disseminate them all through Germany.

1519– Leipzig Debate

Luther is invited to debate Johann Eck at the Pleissenburg Castle in Leipzig, Germany. Here they discuss many different topics of the Catholic religion. There is one thing that Luther says during this debate that fans the small flame he had started two years before with his 95 theses and it is this: Scripture is the sole authority in the life of a Christian and that Christ is the true head of the Church. This statement is considered heresy, since the Pope is viewed as the sole authority for all people and also as the head of the church (and, by the way, he is still viewed that way in Catholicism today). These statements by Luther start the fires of the Reformation to start sweeping across the land.

1519– Ulrich Zwingli starts preaching expositionally through the New Testament

While Luther was causing people to re-think religion in Germany, Zwingli–completely independent of Luther–was doing the same thing in Switzerland. His sermons through the New Testament would serve as the catalyst for the changes he would bring to religion there. In a few years he would write his sixty-seven theses against many of the man-created Catholic church practices.

1520– Luther publishes the Christian Nobility of the German Nation

It is in this publication that he teaches the priesthood of the believer.

1521– Diet of Worms

In 1520, Pope Leo had issued a papal bull calling Luther a heretic and so the Holy Roman Emperor at the time, Charles V, calls for the Diet of Worms which will serve as an inquisition into the accusations against Luther. Here Luther reaffirms his commitment to scripture and confirms that he will not recant. He is quoted as saying– “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”

1522– Luther publishes the German Bible

Luther is captured on his way home from the Diet of Worms by Frederick the Wise, in an effort to protect his life after his refusal to recant.  During his ten month captivity in Wartburg Castle, he translates the New Testament from Ancient Greek into German in just ten weeks.

1525– Luther marries Katherine Von Bora

Katherine is a former nun and wastes no time making a godly home for Luther. Together they completely change how the culture views marriage and family, particularly for the clergy. Before their marriage, women and marriage were viewed rather negatively. Luther proclaims that marriage is a God-given blessing and then lives this by his example. We cannot underestimate the importance of the Luthers’ godly marriage and loving family. I know it sounds redundant but it is worth repeating: The Luthers were critically instrumental in changing how Western culture views marriage and family.

1526– William Tyndale published the first English Bible

Tyndale, driven by a like-minded conviction as Luther to make the scriptures available to the common man, was the first to translate the scriptures into the English language. This was condemned not only by the Catholic Church but also by the King of England, Henry VIII.

1531– Zwingli is killed in battle

Preaching the Gospel in Switzerland is prohibited and a few are even being martyred as heretics for their stands against the Catholic church. This eventually leads to the Battle of Kappel and Zwingli falls while defending Zurich against Catholic forces.

1534– Ignatius of Loyala founds the Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

This Roman Catholic missionary organization was part of an effort to create a Catholic counter-reformation and parts of Poland, Hungary, and Germany are recovered from Protestantism back to Catholicism. This society is still at work today and there is much that could be written, but you will have to research the Jesuits on your own (a very interesting and fascinating study, to say the least!)

1534– Henry VIII declares himself Head of the Church of England

Disgruntled at the Pope’s unwillingness to grant his divorce from Catharine of Aragon, Henry breaks from the Catholic church and creates the similar “Church of England”. The Act of Royal Supremacy restores the power of the church back to the King of England where, according to this document, it had been before it was supposedly usurped by the Roman Catholic Church.

1536– Tyndale is martyred

Tried and convicted on a charge of heresy, he is burned at the stake. His last words were “Lord! Open the king of England’s eyes!”

1536– John Calvin publishes the Institutes of Christian Religion

This systematic theology encompasses all of Protestant beliefs into one work. Calvin–so sadly known often only for his stand on pre-destination–wrote many other wonderful and edifying books about the Christian faith. He was a truly gifted man who was used by God to change the world. (I will write more about him later.)

1545-1563– Council of Trent

This council meets to reform and clarify Catholic doctrine. Incidentally, the modern day Catholic church has never rescinded the extra-biblical and unbiblical doctrines and beliefs confirmed during the Council of Trent and therefore must be viewed as a false religion.

1560– Geneva Bible is published

This is the first English edition to use chapter and verse divisions.

1611– The King James Bible is published

King James of England orders this new translation to try to unify the various religious factions of his kingdom and to replace the controversial Geneva Bible, which had included revolutionary notations (not part of the original manuscripts) in the margins. In fact, he specified that there were to be no notes in the margins of this new translation!

1618-1619– The Synod of Dort

The Dutch Reformed Church holds this Synod to discuss the issues raised by the supports of Jacobus Arminius. At the synod, five-point Calvinism is upheld in opposition to Arminianism. (It is worth noting that it is at this time that John Calvin’s name becomes so associated with this doctrine. This leads many who could grow spiritually from his many worthwhile books to avoid them. It is quite unfortunate.)

 

Wow! That is a lot to take in. If you are still reading, I am impressed! Of course, Church History doesn’t end in 1619 and there are so many events and people worthy of blog posts. I didn’t even touch on the Puritans, who were so incredibly instrumental in upholding literal interpretation of scripture and were most surely reformers in their own right. I also didn’t get into anything regarding the Anabaptists, led by Menno Simons and also worthy of note during this time. As I have time to learn more I may come back and add more to this timeline. But, for now, I do hope that this will be a helpful resource to you and that you have learned something new today.

I will be taking a break for a few weeks from this series as I will not have time over the next few weeks to do the research necessary. But when I return, I will be covering some individuals and the part they had to play in the Reformation. In these posts, I will give more detail than I was able to give here. Hope you will stick around as I continue the series!

 

If you’d like to know more, these are most of the resources I used. I especially recommend the lecture by Nathan Busenitz (the first link) and the video by Ryan Reeves (the second link)–

https://www.gracechurch.org/sermons/13326

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pn0QlENHlrQ&t=61s

https://www.tms.edu/preachersandpreaching/the-fire-that-fueled-the-reformation/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qrSgNbeG5E&t=1228s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Faf6ISLbPQ8

http://www.ligonier.org/store/luther-and-the-reformation-download/

https://www.thelocal.de/20150717/this-week-in-history-martin-luther-and-the-leipzig-debate

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/zurich-revolutionary-ulrich-zwingli/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wartburg

http://discerninghistory.com/2015/08/ulrich-zwinglis-death-at-kappel/

https://www.gotquestions.org/Tyndale-Bible.html

http://protestantism.co.uk/timeline.html

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/jesuit-order-established

http://www.britannia.com/history/articles/relpolh8.html

http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1601-1700/story-behind-king-james-bible-11630052.html

https://www.gotquestions.org/Diet-of-Worms.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering the Reformation: Before the Beginning

Reformation

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther allegedly nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg church. I use the word “allegedly”, because there is actually some debate about exactly how it all happened. What we do know is that Martin Luther did clearly present 95 theses as a challenge before the Catholic church, which officially began the period of time we know of as the Reformation.

But what was going on in the true Church before the Reformation began? While God used the Reformation in a mighty way, what exactly was going on in the Church during the preceding Dark Ages? I’d like to give a {very} brief overview of church history before Martin Luther. This will help set the stage for the rest of this series.

During the rule of the Roman empire, we know that Christians were viewed unfavorably. In fact, they were dreadfully persecuted and even martyred under certain emperors. They were thrown to lions for sport while the bloodthirsty Romans looked on; tied in bags with serpents and thrown into the sea; lit as torches for Nero’s parties, along with many other inconceivable tortures. But, surprisingly, during this time, the Church grew. Instead of the persecution functioning as a deterrent to keep the church from growing, it worked in the opposite way. People were attracted to a faith that kept a soul at peace during even the most horribly unthinkable circumstances.

And so it comes as no surprise that Satan came up with a Plan B: If you can’t beat them, then join them to eradicate and extinguish from within. The Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, would be the instrument he would use to do this. It was under Constantine’s reign that, in the year of 313, Christianity was decriminalized. Eventually it would become the official state religion.

But was this true Christianity? A look at historical facts will reveal that it wasn’t. First, we will find that Constantine himself gave no proof of being a Christian. He continued on in his pagan practices and lifestyle. It would appear that he made this move to Christianity for political reasons only. And, second, you will find that Catholicism has an uncanny and unsettling resemblance to pagan religion of old. And so we can be certain that even from its inception, this state religion called “Christianity” was actually a deadly mingling of paganism and Christianity that became an accepted–but deceptively false– religion that was simply not (and still isn’t) biblical Christianity (Read this article for specific examples). This can easily be proven by comparing its dogmas and doctrines to scripture (read this article for more information). If you want to know how this all came about, you will find this short video to be a well-researched explanation—Know Your Enemy: Roman Catholicism.

It is extremely important that we come to a study of the Reformation with the knowledge that the Roman Catholic system is a false, satanic system. This gives us the background we need in order to do an accurate study of church history.

(Please keep in mind that I am judging the system of Catholicism and not any individual’s salvation. God, in His grace and mercy, may save someone who is caught up in that false system. I do believe that a true believer in the Catholic church who studies the Bible will eventually recognize the discrepancies and choose to leave).

From the point where Constantine validates this false Christianity, we find a church that becomes all-powerful in the lives of its parishioners—demanding things from them in life, as well as falsely teaching that they can control what happens to them after death. Many of Martin Luther’s 95 theses are specifically targeted towards the unbiblical teachings of purgatory and indulgences. We also find during this time the persecution of true Christians. In fact, we see the beginning of papal persecution, in earnest, around the 11th century. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs puts it like this:

Disregarding the maxims and the spirit of the gospel, the papal church, arming herself with the power of the sword, vexed the church of God and wasted it for several centuries, a period most appropriately termed in history, the “dark ages.” *

It started with the Waldensians and went on to include other pockets of true believers throughout the next several centuries, including many martyrs during that terrible time known as the Spanish Inquisition. (It would later include the persecution of the Huguenots in France and the Anabaptists in Germany.) This persecution included familiar names from this time such as John Wycliff and Jan Hus, as well as countless unknown names.

These records and other historical accounts of these groups and individuals makes it clear that, while Catholicism (which was false from its inception) dominated and controlled the lives of the general population, there were always those who sought the Truth. There were always those who fought against the false system. True Christianity did not disappear during the Dark Ages.

The common thread that drew all of these forerunners of the Reformation together was a commitment to the authority, inspiration, and inerrancy of the whole Word of God in its totality. This same thread runs through all of the Reformation, throughout all of Church history, and continues to be the same common thread that ties those of us together who desire to stay true to biblical faith in a world (and church) that has seemingly gone mad.

And so there is a brief– and hopelessly incomplete–history of the Church before the Reformation. It is my hope that this study will give you a deeper appreciation for the Word of God and the critical place it has played in all of Church history. It is also my desire that it will cause you to reflect on the pivotal place the Bible continues to play in this day and age, in the mainstream church and within our own churches.

We can see that Satan has tried all through the ages, and in many different ways, to twist, manipulate, and destroy God’s Word. We know this is because it, alone, is our revelation from God in this Church age. It is our only anchor for true faith and sound doctrine. We can also see that it is the Word that drew (and continues to draw) people back to true and pure faith. Keep this in mind as we continue our study.

Next time I will endeavor to give a general outline of the Reformation’s most important events.

 

Please note: I had a suspicion when I set out to do this series on the Reformation that my outline for posts could change. I will make the changes accordingly on the introduction page, so that each post can be clicked on from there.

 

*Foxe, John. Fox’s Book of Martyrs Or A History of the Lives, Sufferings, and Triumphant Deaths of the Primitive Protestant Martyrs (Kindle Locations 998-1000). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Resources:

Long Before Luther: Where was the Gospel Before the Reformation? By Nathan Busenitz

The Fire that Fueled the Reformation by Nathan Busenitz

Know Your Enemy: Roman Catholicism by the Fuel Project

What Is the Origin of Roman Catholicism @GotQuestions.org

How Was the Gospel Preserved Throughout the Middle Ages? @GotQuestions.org

Fox’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe (free for Kindle!)

CARM: Attaining Salvation in Roman Catholicism by Matt Slick

Constantine the Great and Christianity @Wikipedia

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: