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January 27, 2022 12:01 am
In an era of spiritual darkness and death, the Protestant Reformers proclaimed the light and life of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Today, Stephen Nichols explains why the Reformation holds vital importance both then and now.
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The problem with the medieval church was not administrative. The problem was not even there. Spirituality.
The problem was a hollow theological core and when the Reformation came along the Reformation analyze the problem within acuteness that got right to the heart of the matter with you. On this Thursday for Dr. Steven Nichols is our teacher today as we continue our look at the Protestant Reformation. Dr. Nichols is a noted church historian, but exploring the events and important figures of the Reformation will show us that what happened early in the 16th century is just as important today as we start talking about the Reformation.
I want you to come along with me on a little trip. Let's go across the sea to Germany and let's go to the city of Wittenberg. Let's make it about the 1530s and let's try to show up on a Sunday and a Sunday will do and will walk into the castle church in their high mounted on the wall as the pulpit and there will be Martin Luther and let's try to listen to a sermon by Martin Luther will be talking about Abraham and will be talking about the sacrifice of Isaac and Luther's preaching is a very vivid picturesque preaching for thing he had to. They didn't have chairs and people had to stand and these were German farmers, you know, so there up really milking cows and so he's got an audience yes to connect with so there's telling the story very vividly very powerfully.
I know the story and he takes Isaac up and he puts them on the altar and is about ready to make the sacrifice and here Sally surrounds sermon. Then Abraham found him laid him upon the wood. The father raised his knife. The boy bared his throat if God had slept an instant the lad would've been dead. I could not have watched I'm not able even in my thoughts to follow the lad was a sheep for the slaughter. Never in history was there such obedience, save only in Christ. But God was watching God was watching. And all the angels were watching the Angels cried, Abraham, Abraham see how divine Majesty is at hand.
In the hour of death we say in the midst of life we die. God answers no, in the midst of death. We live know what Luther was doing there at the end of that sermon was actually quoting a medieval saying in the medieval saying was media VTA in Morton Sumas in the middle of life. We are in death know we sometimes call the dark ages, the Middle Ages and it's a bit of a misnomer.
It wasn't entirely the dark ages. There were a lot of bright spots but was also pretty dark time. It was a time of of death time of physical death.
This was before they had the germ theory of disease right this is that the centuries of the plague so death really did surround them in the midst of life so you can understand why they had the saying is they didn't have bumper stickers back in the Middle Ages, but if they had bumper stickers, it would say in the middle of life we die and see what Luther does.
He flips that around right so we move from death to life move from death to life with her first stop Wittenberg we take you to another city in our little Reformation to work with to go a little bit south of Wittenberg in a little bit over to the West right at the foothills of the Alps. You can picture Mont Blanc off in the distance and there's a nice little lake nestled right up against that lake is the city of Geneva, the old city of Geneva. As you walk around the city of Geneva, you begin to see this Latin phrase all over the city and if you've hung around like an ear for any amount of time you've seen this Latin phrase still and that Latin phrase is post 10 of Ross looks after darkness, light, so we go from death to life, and we go from darkness to light and that's essentially what the Reformation was about the Reformation came in a time of intense darkness of death at a time when there was spiritual darkness spiritual death wasn't abnormal. That was the normal that was the standard situation and into that time of darkness and death comes life and light and it comes as the reformers focused on one thing. Now I failed my art classes so I stopped taking art after elementary school, but I did learn one thing in elementary art. If you draw two birds and you put them together get a book so we go from death to life, darkness to light, because we recovered the word of God and when we go to the word. We are very quickly drawn to Christ and there we have the major themes of the Reformation.
We start off with our plight and our plight is death and darkness know that this wasn't true. In 1500. That's true for us today to his but we sort of numbed ourselves to that heavenly sort of anesthetized ourselves to that fact that we live in darkness and that death is all around us, but in the Middle Ages was hard to numb yourselves to that confronted you had on so the reformers take us to this idea of life and light, and they do it by leading us right to the word and leading us right to Christ and that's why the Reformation is such a fascinating time in church history. That's why were doing this series and that's why it's worth camping out for a while. In the 16th century.
This was an era of death and darkness and into this era came the life and light of the gospel. In fact, mention this phrase in the midst of life there is death. Luther actually not only preached at the end of the sermon after he preached that sermon. He was inspired to write to him about it he wrote this beautiful hymn is sometimes called in the very midst of life we just read you view the stands from it in the very midst of life's snares of death surround us, who shall help us in the strife, less the foe confound us, thou only Lord, thou only in the midst of death's dark veil powers of hell overtake us, who will help when they assail to secure will make us thou only Lord, thou only in the midst of outer well when our sins oppress us.
Where shall we for refuge go where for grace to bless us to the Lord Jesus only by precious blood was shed to win full atonement for arson was we spend this time together. Looking at the Reformation.
What were going to do is flush out these themes. These theological themes of sin and the consequences of sin of death and darkness. The theological predicament.
The theological plight were also going to look at the theological solution in the way we get at this is what we call the solos. Now I'm not even sure solos is actually a term because the Latin word is Sola plural is I guess a lie which means the loans but I don't think that's a word either. So just fudge and call it the solos and we've all heard of the five souls will walk through the five solos were actually going to do is try to illustrate through a life biography. Each of the five solos of the Reformation. So that's where were headed with all of this before we go any further. It might help to just backup and take one more look at why were doing this and why we study church history and why we study the Reformation. Now I know you all think it's important because you're all here right so sort of already got you, but I want to make you understand why it's worth your while to spend this amount of time studying church history. I give you three reasons three quick reasons. One is very simply history matters history matters if you stop and think about it we as Christians are a people with the past. We are very much a people with the past, our faith and make no mistake about it, our faith is an historic faith if it were not for an historic event, the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ as an historical faith that we might as well pack everything up and just go home. We have no church without.
Beyond that, at the center of her faith we repeatedly see this in the Old Testament we see with that refrain. Remember the Exodus you know the saying, remember the Alamo. The Old Testament saying is remember the Exodus wireless must remember the Exodus was a time when they can look back and say this is what God did in redeeming us as his people and that matters to us in Israel was building monuments every time something happened they were supposed to gather stones and build a monument over those monuments. For they were markers to remind them that there are people with the past we have a biblical past, but we also have our church history past we can quote Spurgeon and everybody like Spurgeon right the Baptists like Spurgeon because he is a Baptist and we Presbyterians like Spurgeon because he so reformed and even smoke cigars from time to time. So how could you not like Spurgeon but Spurgeon once said I find it odd that someone who thinks so highly of what the Holy Spirit teaches them think so little of what the Holy Spirit teaches others also may see what he was saying. The Holy Spirit is not a unique gift to us as individuals.
Holy Spirit is not even a unique gift to the church in the 21st century as sophisticated as we are with all of our technologies in all of our advances were not the only century that has had the benefit of the Spirit at work and what we need to do is recognize it for the last 2000 years.
The spirit has been at work in building the church so we don't want to just turn her back on.
So history matters to us. Biblical history matters to us, but also church history matters to us can be very humbling to realize that were not coming out this the first time. But not only can church history be humbling to can also be inspiring to us. So the first reason is history matters.
The second reason is that the Reformation really gets at the center of what the church is all about everybody recognize that the wheels were falling off the wagon in the 1400s, the church was in bad shape. We refer to this.
As later medieval ages are the high Middle Ages and that later medieval Catholicism from the 1200s to the 1500s was a time of significant significant deterioration even Catholic historians need to admit these were bad times, and there were various attempts at reform. There was a reform attempt called the conciliar movement and output that appear the conciliar movement. This comes from the word counsel. The idea was that this system with the Pope had led to a corrupt church and what the church needed to do was an organizational shift and administrative change, and they wanted to go back to the early centuries of the church where things were decided in the councils of bishops and so they were proposing a change of shift from the papal line to church councils John Haas, the famous check martyr was a member of the conciliar movement the conciliar movement made an attempt at reform but wasn't successful. There was an attempt at reform called the devotion yo mama dharna, and that just means new devotion and the idea here is that the church needs more spirituality and a famous text of this.
Perhaps the representative of this is the text the imitation of Christ by Thomas on campus and that was part of a movement that text encompass himself as part of a movement to reform the church by addressing his lackluster spirituality. So we've got an attempt to address the administrative change. We got an attempt to address the spirituality that you know those attempts while they did make some headway. They weren't successful at reforming the church and I think the word successful because while they were beginning to rightly diagnose the problem. They weren't at all close to the solution. The problem with the medieval church was not administrative. The problem was not even there. Spirituality.
The problem was a hollow, or maybe we could say rotten theological core that was a problem and when the Reformation came along. The Reformation analyze the problem within acuteness got right to the center of it, and it prescribed a solution that got right to the heart of the matter. The problem was theological. The solution needed to be theological, you know that's true. The church in the high Middle Ages. It's true the church in any age.
And the temptation is to say, well, how do we bring revival or how do we bring reform and what we do right programs. That's what we do but we we turn to gimmicks, we turn to programs about theology need to be led back to theology and when the theology is right. This is the beauty of the Reformation. When the theology is right all of the Pistons are firing. Here's what's happening in the Reformation preaching is happening.
Preaching is returned to the center of church life through the Middle Ages.
It was the mass and occasional homily maybe for AdVent or lent you here homily, but it was just the mass, there was no preaching. The Reformation return preaching to the center of church life about church music. Imagine if you showed up in the Middle Ages and you just felt compelled to sing praises to God, you couldn't do it. Only the choir could sing. There was no Congregational singing you and the reformers brought back to the church music.
If Luther was a theologian, he'd been a musician's instrument of choice was the loot. Luther love music. We should be very grateful for that.
Every time we stand up in the congregation and sing a hymn of praise to our God need to think of the reformers, Christian education reformers are all about it. Luther said listen if we'll train this next generation all of her efforts are for not report all this energy all this effort to training the next generation Christian education and then there's missions were to talk about this later in life of Calvin, but this to me is really one of the un-talked about other were trying to correct that right now by talking about, but this is one of the least talked about elements of the Reformation. These guys Luther and Calvin. They were all about missions. So it so here we go back to you get theology at the center and all those Pistons are far preaching missions Christian and even the social engagement will look at that too is we get to Geneva and on promising you all this even have to keep tabs on me that I actually pay off all these promises are making to you. But as we move further along and talk about Calvin. Look at how the city of Geneva reached out to refugees so we see all this happening and that's why think we want to study the Reformation that they had it all perfect.
Not that they got it all right not that the reformers were without flaws because if we had Luther here.
He would tell us. I've got my flaws to be sure they didn't get it all right but they certainly and maybe we need to hear this from time to time. They certainly get it more right. I think then we sometimes do again. That temptation is to latch onto this program or latch onto this gimmick or or try this, we have to return to God's word return to those doctrines that are at the center of what it means to be Christian. That's what the Reformation was when there's 1/3 reason and it sort of dovetails with what I was just saying and that is we are facing similar battles in our own day and we can actually learn from these reformers not just be humbled by them and not just be inspired by them but actually learn particular things and that's were going to do as the series continues were going to learn some of these, not just the solos but plunge a little bit below the surface about what the solos are all about how they connect to Scripture how they connect to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Twice in three reasons but I'll throw in a bonus reason and that bonus reason is why study the Reformation because these are really interesting people. These are fascinating people. I think we think of them sort of flat you know like like an encyclopedia entry only have that one dimension to them and they do birth date and maybe they were married and had a few kids. They had a death date but no, these were flesh and blood fully dimensional people with a sense of humor. They normally have sense of humor laughed. They also went. They stood by the gravesite of their children stood by the gravesite of their spouse slick Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz right. Pulling back the curtain and there's a funny looking old man back there. Sometimes we need to pull back the curtain on our church history heroes see them as husbands see them as fathers see them as friends who enjoy life, but also recognize that there are times when we mourn and cry and weep.
So we look at these reformers because they were real people give us some insight into what it means to be a Christian. Well, let's get back to the five solos but sort of set the stage for what's coming in our next time together the five solos and we start off with solo script, Torah, and again the Latin word just means alone so solo script tour is the idea of Scripture alone and the issue here is the issue of authority. Obviously there are other things we talked about Spurgeon's quote in others there is tradition. The reformers didn't want to totally every time I hear tradition.
Always think of Tavi and fiddler on the roof you tradition any stomping around. There is value to tradition, but the difference between the reformers and Roman Catholicism is tradition for them is not authoritative tradition is always a second order issue. The first order exclusively belongs to Scripture to see the solo script or principal playing out for us in the life of Martin Luther. The next two go together so LaGuardia which means grace alone, and so left the day which means faith alone. And those two go together to get at the heart of what the gospel is about the gospel is about grace alone through faith alone were to split them up though, and for the grace alone were going to go to a another city in Switzerland. This time Zürich and look at the life of Aldrich. Zwingli, then for so LaGuardia and across the channel and go over to England going to look at a young 16-year-old Queen. She was only Queen for nine days and look at Lady Jane Grey principal solo theater well after Scripture and the gospel we come to solus Christus Christ alone and for Christ alone. Well were going to go back to Switzerland were to go to the life of John Calvin and then our last one is solely and looks like I need to get a bit of a longer board here but will will be erasing a lot. I think as we go along solely Dayo Gloria for the glory of God alone, and for this will go back again to England.
Going to look at the Puritans see this principle worked out in the Puritans on Luther's deathbed.
He had one last sermon in a in his last sermon was quoting two texts. He quoted Psalm 68, 19 to 20. In Psalm 68, 19 to 20 right back to that sermon from Abraham.
Though death surrounds us. Psalm 68, 19 tells us, our God is a God of salvation.
Even in the midst of death. Our God is a God of salvation. After he quoted Psalm 68, 19 to 20. He quoted I kid you not. John 316 God is a God of salvation in Jesus Christ and we learn that as we returned to the word soul. The reformers understood that Scripture was the only remedy for the theological ills of the church and it still is.
Thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind, Dr. Steven Nichols has provided us with insight into the solos of the Reformation today is series is titled Reformation profiles here explores the events of the Reformation from the perspective of important figures from 14 countries in Europe, Germany, Switzerland, France and England would like to send you the DVD containing all seven of his lessons give a donation of any amount to look in your ministries and that you can do that by going online to redoing your my.word or if you prefer you could call us with your gifted 800-435-4343. Look at your ministries exist to proclaim the holiness of God to as many people as possible are Felder, Dr. RC Sproul started this ministry with the goal of seeing the historic Christian faith advance around the world and by God's grace we are seeing that happen in your generous financial gifts provide the needed fuel for our efforts through the years we have produced more than 500 teaching series in more than 500 books plus a magazine that has more than 250,000 readers each month. We also have a free app that is launched.
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