For What? 10-25

Reformation, Persecution, Bible, Word of God, Wycliffe, Martin Luther, Protestant, Torture

Please remember that sermon notes are meant to act as a guide and may not be exactly what was preached.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

It was in the 5th century that the Roman Empire fell. At that time there was no secular power that was strong enough to form a centralized secular government, but there was one of ecclesiastical power already in place: The Roman Catholic Church. From that time until the Reformation in the 16th century the Church, through the Pope, claimed authority over the kings and emperors of Europe. In fact, the church of Martin Luther’s day owned 1/3 of the land in Europe.  

The Church was a political and economic power to be reckoned with. They were the ones that performed the social services of the day: education, orphanages, and alms distributed to the poor. All these things came from the Church.

Today is Reformation Sunday. On October 31, 1517, 503 years ago today, Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the church door at Wittenberg castle and started the reformation. His thesis against the selling of indulgences for the forgiveness of sins was the spark that started the reformation of the Church and a separation of those who protested what was being taught back then. Thanks to the printing press, the writings of Luther spread through all of Germany in the common language of the day.

Over the next three years Luther continued to preach against the practices of the Church of his time. His main points were that salvation was a free gift of God’s grace, through faith in Christ, and that the Bible was, and still is, the sole source of divinely revealed knowledge; not the church or its human leader. Within a few years the Protest (Protestant) against the Church had spread to England with Henry the 8th and to France with John Calvin.

The original text of God’s word was written in Hebrew and Greek. But in the late 4th century (382) the Pope wanted the Bible in one language. So, before the Reformation, the Bible was in Latin only. Most people during that time would probably only meet one person in their life time who could read the Bible: the parish priest, IF they were lucky. After all, a good portion of the clergy were illiterate and could only repeat what they had memorized to the people, repeating Latin prayers and chanting Latin hymns which, of course, could not be understood by most. The priests of that time lead the services, heard confessions, granted forgiveness, and took money to release the dead from purgatory. So, for hundreds of years, for those under the influence and power of Rome, there was only one translation of the Bible.

Until the Reformation.

By Church edict it was immoral and unlawful to have the Bible, read the Bible, or learn the Bible in any other language. In fact, in 1519, six men and a woman were burned in Coventry England for teaching their own children the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles Creed in English. Nothing brought more alarm and unwanted attention from those in power than the thought of the spreading of God’s word in a language everyday people could understand.

Less than 150 years earlier John Wycliffe had translated the Bible into English and with the help of a few scribes managed to get a few copies, and many parts, of the Bible into the hands of the people. To have any part of the Bible in English was punishable by death. The translation of the Bible so infuriated the leaders of the Church that 44 years after the death of Wycliffe he ordered Wycliffe’s bones dug-up, crushed, and thrown into the river. In 1536, in the midst of the reformation, William Tyndale was strangled and his body burned at the stake for translating the Bible into the common English of His day.

Man sought to keep the Church, and the power and influence of God’s word, for their own use. To be able to say that you spoke for God in all matters, both moral and secular, with no one to say that God’s word said differently, gave those men power. That power corrupted some of those all too mortal men of the Church. The proverb, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” proved true.

All of that is history, water under the bridge.

Today, there are over 450 English translations of the Word of God and yet, for the most part, we are no better off than those people of the Dark ages who did not have the light of God’s word. The time we live in is no less dark. Cultural and educational enlightenment may have taken place, yet we live in a time when we are too busy or too lazy to read and study the Word of God.

We have the knowledge of the world at our finger tips, we reap the benefits of every intellectual and technological advance there is, but our morals have turned backwards because the Bible no longer influences our neighbors, our communities, and the World…Because of the disobedience and ignorance of God’s people…

 2 Timothy 3:1-5

We are in the last days. 1 Corinthians 10:11, Matthew 13:39-40, and Hebrews 9:26 all tell us that this is the last age. 1 John 2:18 tells us it is the last hour. And Hebrews starts out with, “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son” (vs. 1-2).

In the Bible we have the words of Christ, God the Son. In some of your Bibles they are in red. But understand this, the whole Bible is God’s Word to us and we have it at a cost. People have been tortured, burned alive, strangled, and burned at the stake (William Tyndale)!

Unfortunately, there are religious organizations where a vote taken by man out weighs what the Bible clearly teaches and they have embraced what God clearly calls sin. The Church is the body of Christ!

Can sin and holiness dwell in the same place? The world and its rulers would have us be tolerant of what is clearly defined as sin. When men’s ideas are valued over the Word of the living God, then they no longer recognize the Bible for what it is. Having lowered it to the same level as other worldly organizations it has become just another book.

Digging Deeper

  • Do you believe that the Bible is the very Word of God?
  • How often do you invest time in God’s Word per week compared to how much time you spend on entertainment?

Further Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Isaiah 40:8, Isaiah 55:11, Matthew 4:4, John 17:17, Romans 10:17, Ephesians 6:17, Colossians 3:16, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 4:12, James 1:21-22

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