The Magisterial ReformationPost Tenebras Lux - Out of Darkness Light
Reading Should be Fun and Informative
The history of the Reformation is a demonstration of one of the greatest revolutions that has ever been accomplished in human affairs by the sovereignty of God. In many respects the history of the Reformation is distinct from that of Protestantism. In the former everything bears the mark of a regeneration of the human race, of a religious and social change emanating from God himself through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Reformation was not a single moment in time where the stalwart reformer Martin Luther stood against the Roman Catholic Church at the Diet of Worms. Instead, in looking at the history of the Reformation, we find it to be a much more complex organism and the direct result of God’s vast work of providence across continents and countries. Many times such a history is complex and difficult to wade through for the student. In this work, the Reformation is made easy.
Read about the sovereignty of God in action during the greatest revival and recovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in church history – the Reformation…and all of it MADE EASY.
Do You Have the Marks?
5 Marks of Biblical Reformation by C. Matthew McMahon
Everybody loves to claim the magisterial reformation for their own! Everyone wants to be a reformer in that way.
But take God’s principles of a Biblical Reformation and apply them to the church in practical daily living, then that’s a different story all together.
How many ministers have you met who are sowing reformation in their churches in tears? In our day, the current temperature of the Evangelical church has been watered down by shallow, non-doctrinal preaching that tickles the ears and woos people into the pews. Churches are filled with emotionally charged seeker sensitive services, catering to jingles and emotional feel-good “worship” that eradicates true worship and exalts feeling good over glorifying Christ. People attend churches based on criteria surrounding whether or not the foyer’s coffee shop serves hot lattes, how short the service is on Sunday so they can get home to mowing the lawn, or whether they can conveniently go to a thirty-minute Saturday night service and disregard the Lord’s Day all-together. Is this biblical reformation? Not at all. It’s quite the opposite. So, what are the marks of true biblical reformation? Do you know what they are? Are you set on fire through the unction and power of the Spirit of God and his word to reap something spiritually beneficial, heartily reformed yet laced with Christian joy? Are you on fire for Biblical Reformation before God for the glory of Jesus Christ?
Table of Contents
Introduction to Reforming
Mark 1: Spiritual Growth in Biblical Reformation
Mark 2: Guarding the Heart and True Biblical Reform
Mark 3: Rejecting Partial Reformation as Sin and a Full Offense to God
Mark 4: Reformation and Prayer
Mark 5: The Spirit in Biblical Reformation
Appendix: I want to be Reformed!
It is commonly believed, and rightfully so, that the Puritans were second generation reformers – they loved justification by faith just as much as the magisterial Reformers did! They persisted in the same theology where the first generation reformers were commensurate. They were not those who sowed the reformation harvest, but rather, they cultivated the theological crop. In this brief historical survey, my intention is to set forth a biographical account of those men who set the stage for Puritan Theology.
It is obvious by their writings that the Puritans stood upon the shoulders of men like John Calvin, Martin Luther, Theodore Beza, and other first generation reformers. These in turn stood upon the shoulders of men like Augustine, and Chrysostom; early fathers of the church who in turn bowed before the presence of Jesus Christ and His Word. Calvin was an Augustinian. Augustine, (tongue in cheek) was a Calvinist. The doctrines of these reformers were the doctrines of the Puritans, and vice versa. These Puritans honed and sharpened reformation doctrines to crisp edges able to magnify the God who was worthy of such praise for the redemption wrought in Jesus Christ. They harnessed the seeds of the reformation and cultivated a model of life and doctrine which was closely knit together in biblical harmony. This can only be appreciated when one ventures back to the dawning of the Reformation, and peer into the lives of the early reformers.
It would not be beneficial in this introduction to transcribe the entire History of the Reformation by D’Aubingne, or The Reformation in Scotland by John Knox, when one can much more conveniently buy the books, and others like them, and read them at their leisure. This is simply a short timeline of events and people leading up to the Puritans and their mark on history. It is a terse depiction of those who were used of God to prepare theology for the development of A Puritan’s Mind.
First, it must be asked, “What is a Reformer?” This term is used to describe those men who desired to reach back to the foundations of the Word of God and the true Gospel of Jesus Christ in light of human traditions and ecclesiastical corruption. A reformer’s intention, when applied in this way to church history, was particularly seen in the reformation of the corrupted Roman Catholic Church. To “reform” something is to “make right that which is wronged” or to “amend, rectify, or remedy” something. The reformers desired to “rectify or amend” the corrupt traditions of the Roman Catholic church and turn it back to the Bible’s authority alone. However, this term can still be used throughout church history meaning to “continually amend that which is wronged.” The church is not perfect, and will never be perfect while it is here on earth. It is made up here of imperfect people. Thus, it continues to be reformed and amended before God in all its ways. The term Semper Reformanda ought to be continually enforced, in that the church should be “always reforming.”
Many scholars would set the dawn of the historical landmark of the Reformation on the shoulders of Martin Luther. Their focus would fall upon the nailing of his 95 theses to the door of Wittemberg as the inauguration for the Protestant Church and its endeavor to change the darkness which had settled upon the Roman Catholic church for so long. I believe this to be an inaccuracy. The Reformation began over 100 years before the Augustinian monk had ever been born. We could in fact go further back to the medieval monks like Gottshalk of Orbis who held foundationally to Augustine’s doctrines and the biblical treatment of grace. However, for an “introduction”, we simply begin with Wycliffe.
Wickliffe was well respected and had a wide influence with his teaching and preaching. He wrote against the Roman Catholic church on many doctrinal points. He did not believe in the clerical ownership of land and property, as well as papal jurisdiction in secular affairs.
In reaction to Wickliffe’s open “defiance” of the Roman Catholic church and the Pope’s authority, a Papal bull was issued against Oxford to impede him from teaching. It also noted that Wickliffe was to appear before a “hearing” which, unsurprisingly, charged him with heresy against the mother church. He did attend that hearing and was formally charged with heresy. The Roman Catholic church was adamantly opposed to his teachings, especially when he attacked the Mass. He also rejected all ceremony and organization not mentioned in the Bible (which would have excluded almost everything the Romans Catholic church performed), as well as the heretical doctrines of transubstantiation and the clerical “power” of the priesthood. His views on doctrines were more and more closely matched with that of St. Augustine. Nevertheless, as a result of his political connections, Wickliffe was not arrested at this hearing.
Wickliffe’s best known work was that of the translation he accomplished from the Latin Vulgate to English. Though he did not translate the Bible from the original languages (the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) he still placed the first English Bible into the hands of the people. The translation was made available to the English people through the hands of the Lollards (or “poor preachers”) These Lollards were Wycliffe’s trained lay preachers who took up the task of spreading the Gospel even in light of the anathema of the Roman Catholic Church. They traveled with their Bible, and the clothes on their back, gaining sustenance by those who would take them in.
Wickliffe died in 1384 from two strokes. The Roman Catholic church never caught him to burn him at the stake. In spite of this, 40 years after his death, they dug up his bones and burned them to ashes, scattering them in a river, and formally excommunicated him from the Roman Catholic church.
In 1402 Hus was appointed rector and preacher of Prague’s Bethlehem chapel, the center of the Czech reformed movement. During these years, many of Wickliffe’s expositions of the Word of God moved the true Church closer and closer to biblical thinking. By 1407, adopting many of the same biblical insights, Hus was clearly identified with this kind of reforming thought by the Roman Catholic church.
Hus wrote and preached against papal indulgences, clerical abuses of power, immorality of high living within the Catholic clergy, and the veneration of the Pope. He wrote to promote piety and godliness, rather than riotous living and excess which the Roman Catholic church allowed, and still allows.
You may have heard the phrase, “your goose is cooked”. This was first coined from the martyrdom of this reformer. Hus’ name in German sounded like “goose”. Thus, as he was burned, they coined the term “Hus is cooked (or, “your goose is cooked)” in German. Yet, Hus said to the Archbishop during his trial, that though he–the goose–be burned at the stake, another will come–a swan–to teach and preach the doctrines of the Bible; to finish the work of reformation which had begun. This swan would be no other than Martin Luther in the early 1500’s.
Tyndale secretly finished the translation with the help of colleagues, and smuggled the new translation into English hands.
Luther was not invited to Strasbourg to debate with Dr. John Eck. Actually, Luther’s colleague, Dr. Carlstadt, was the one chosen as a representative of these “novel” reformation teachings. The meeting was to be structured as a debate. Luther was not invited because if he had left the Wittemberg area, he would not be under the protection of the German Prince Elector Duke George of Saxony, who was favorable to Luther. But because the invitation gave Carlstadt and “any whom he may invite” safe conduct, Luther decided to attend, as well as Phillip Melancthon. Here Luther had his famous debate with Dr. John Eck. Luther defied Eck and astounded him with his extensive learning. Though Eck tried to stand his ground, he was taken back by the reformer’s biblical stance and prowess. Those adhering to biblical truth knew Luther stood firm. He brought forth the truth of God and stated “The plough-boy with scripture is mightier than the greatest Pope without.” He was obviously charged with heresy. But was not arrested at that time.
Luther was summoned by King Charles and the Bishopric to stand trial for his work. They beckoned him a summons to appear in the city of Worms before the king while under the crown’s safe conduct. Luther was under the impression that he was attending a formal debate to present his views but this was not the case. Luther was to attend the meeting, called the Diet of Worms, and defend himself. The King and Roman clergy had his books strewn upon a table in plain view. Luther was beckoned to come forward, and was asked two questions, 1) Are these your writings? Luther conceded they were. Secondly, 2) Will you retract them? Luther’s response was “Most gracious emperor! Gracious princes and Lords. His majesty asked me two questions. As to the first, I acknowledge as mine the books that have been just named: I cannot deny them. As to the second, seeing that it is a question that concerns faith and the salvation of souls, and in which the Word of God, the greatest and most precious treasure either in heaven or earth, is interested, I should act imprudently were I to reply without reflection. I might affirm less than the circumstance demands, or more than truth requires, and so sin against this saying of Christ:–whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father in heaven. For this reason I entreat your imperial majesty, with all humility, to allow me time, that I may answer without offending against the Word of God.” Luther was given one day to reflect on these things. That night he prayed this prayer:
O Almighty and Everlasting God! How terrible is this world! Behold, it openeth its mouth to swallow me up and I have so little trust in Thee! How weak is the flesh and how power is Satan! If it is in the strength of this world only that I must put my trust, all is over! My last hour is come, my condemnation has been pronounced! O God! O God! O God! Do thou help me against all the wisdom of the world! Do this; Thou shouldest do this Thou alone for this is not my work, but Thine. I have nothing to do here, nothing to contend for with these great ones of the world! I should desire to see my days flow on peaceful and happy. But the cause is Thine and it is a righteous and eternal cause. O Lord! Help me! faithful and unchangeable God! In no man do I place my trust. It would be vain! All that is of man is uncertain; all that cometh of man fails O God! My God, hearest Thou me not? My God, art thou dead? No! Thou canst not die! Thou hidest thyself only! Thou hast chosen me for this work. I know it well! Act, then, O God stand at my side, for the sake of they well beloved Jesus Christ, who is my defense, my shield, and my strong tower.” After a moment of silent struggle, he thus continues: “Lord! Where stayest Thou? O my God! Where art Thou? Come! Come! I am ready! I am ready to lay down my life for Thy truth patient as a lamb. For it is the cause of justice-it is Thine! I will never separate myself from Thee, neither now nor through eternity! And though the world should be filled with devils,-though my body, which is till the work of Thy hands, should be slain, be stretched upon the pavement, be cut in pieces, reduced to ashes, my soul is Thine! Yes! I have the assurance of Thy Word. My soul belongs to Thee! It shall abide forever with Thee! Amen! O God! Help me! Amen!”
The reason I included this at length, is because it is characteristic of the spirit behind the Reformation. Wickliffe, Hus, Luther, Calvin, Beza, and all the Puritans had a disposition which trusted in the power of Jesus Christ and the Lord God alone. They were very aware of their inherent weakness and their sinfulness.
Luther appeared before the Diet once more the next day. He gave a long speech in defense of his works. And in conclusion replied in this way to the question of recantation:
When he had ceased speaking, the Chancellor of Traves, the orator of the Diet, said indignantly: “You have not answered the question put to you. You were not summoned hither to call in question the decision of councils. You are required to give a clear and precise answer. Will you or will you not, retract?” Upon this Luther replied without hesitation: “Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require from me a clear, simple, and precise answer, I will give you one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the Pope or to the councils, because it is clear as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning,- unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted,-and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience.” And then looking round on this assembly before which he stood, and which held his life in its hands, he said: “Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me! Amen!”
Luther spent a great time in hiding after that meeting. As a matter of fact, his colleagues (friends of Duke George) kidnapped him that night in fear of his life, threw a sack over him and “stole” him away. This was unknown to Luther, yet, it most assuredly saved his life. He then spent a great deal of time in hiding. He took this time to teach, catechize, preach, and translate the Scriptures into the German tongue. One of the greatest Reformational works was written by Luther is called The Bondage of the Will. Luther believed this was his greatest work. It is still available to buy today and deals with a refutation of Erasmus’ denial of total depravity and a setting forth of the biblical picture of man’s total inability to save himself. Luther died in 1546.
Zwingli took Zurich to spiritual Reformation, by the grace of God. He preached straight through the Gospel of Matthew, which in those days was very rare to preach exegetically and continually through one book. It transformed the people to embrace the heart of the Reformation. Zwingli was killed during a war at that time in which he ministered to the soldiers. He died on the battlefield.
The greatest magisterial reformer to rival the eminence of Martin Luther during this time is John Calvin. Not only was Calvin an astounding man of his time, but his theology, resting upon Augustine, and upon the Apostles and Jesus Christ, shaped the theology of subsequent generations, including the Puritans.
Calvin was extraordinarily gifted by God. He was born in 1509 in Noyon, Picardie. His father was a notary who served the bishop of Noyon, and as a result of this connection Calvin, while at the age of 12, received 2 chaplainries which in turn paid for his education. Although he commenced training for the priesthood at the University of Paris, his father, because of a controversy with the Bishop and clergy of the Noyon cathedral, now decided his son should become a lawyer. (Luther also studied law and left it to become a priest as well). Later he studied at Bourges where he became converted, and joined the reformation cause against the Roman Catholic heresy.
After his father died, Calvin returned to Paris where he joined friends there and wrote his Institutes of the Christian Religion. It was published when he was only 27.
While Calvin was pastor of the Eglise St. Pierre and spent much of his time preaching, his greatest influence came from his writings. Both his Latin and his French were clear and his reasoning lucid. He wrote commentaries on almost every book of the Bible, all of the New testament except The Revelation of the Apostle John. He produced a great number of pamphlets, of which is notable The Necessity of Reforming the Church. It is a short work which should be read by every pastor today. But most important of all, his Institutes were rewritten a number of times and published through 5 editions. They began as a small book of 6 chapters, and were finished in the much larger work of 79 chapters.
Calvin’s influence through the Reformation was specifically seen in his work in Geneva, Switzerland. Though he was not happy to take up this work as chancellor over the entire city, still, if God desired to use him there, he would no doubt stay. A maxim which he vigorously lived by, even to his detriment, was, “Eat little, sleep less, and study more.” Calvin’s work in Geneva resulted in the creation of a religious paradise where the Scriptures ruled the hearts of men from the rich to the poor. When John Knox visited Geneva, he said that it was as if “visiting heaven on earth.” The Lord used Calvin to convert the “city” into a religious city-state and a central hub of learning during the time of the Reformation.
The Reformation under men like Wycliffe, Hus, Zwingli, Tyndale, Luther and Calvin, solidified the Biblical doctrines of the faith, recapturing the true faith from the Roman Catholic church’s counterfeit faith. The content of this victorious reaffirmation of biblical doctrine can be summed up in the five slogan terms of the Reformation. Here is a brief summary of their content:
Sola Christus: Christ alone. That only through the work of Jesus Christ alone may a man be saved. It is not by foreseen faith, or by good deeds, or by human merit that a man may obtain faith – these are all works stemming from a wicked and depraved heart which all men possess. Rather, it is solely on the merit of Christ’s atoning death on the cross. Man’s salvation is exclusively accomplished by God’s work through his Son.
Sola Scriptura: Scripture alone. That Scripture is final authority for salvation and sanctification for the Christian. It is not by papal edicts, or priestly verdicts which have authority over the consciences of men. A man’s conscience may never be bound by human inventions or traditions, but only by the Word of God alone. Where the church and the word of God differ on doctrine, the Word of God takes supreme prominence.
Sola Gratia: Grace alone. Works that are accomplished by human effort have no place in the salvation of the soul. Men are miserable wretches in the sight of God. They are unworthy and worthless. Men are only saved by the electing grace of God in Christ. God is never obliged to save anyone. He acts completely by mercy and grace on those who are undeserving.
Sola Fide: Faith alone. That a person may, upon one act of believing, be justified in the sight of God for all eternity. It is a belief by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. It is one act to be justified by faith, then the remainder of the Christian life is a glorifying of God through holiness and obedience of a purified life. One cannot mix works and faith for salvation. Faith alone, as a gift given by Christ, and applied by the work of the Holy Spirit, is the efficient cause of justification.
Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God alone. All things live and move and have their being to glorify God. God will be glorified in everything. He is glorified by those in heaven under His mercy, and is glorified by those in hell who glorify His justice. God shall be glorified by the saint and the sinner. Men shall reflect back to Him the radiance of His worth. All that men do will ultimately be for His glory, and for none other.
In the blessing of these men is the spirit of the Reformation which under girds the theology of Puritanism. Puritan theology lies in the exposition of the Word of God by men who were specially blessed by God in the faculties of the mind. The Puritans extracted and cultivated the gold in the books of the Reformers. They harvested what the Reformers planted. They emerged with A Puritan’s Mind.