I think it was Winston Churchill who said, “one who can look the farthest back in history can see the most forward.” The past teaches the future. Now, close to Reformation Day, it is good to be reminded of the Spirit-led work of Martin Luther and John Calvin during the Protestant Reformation in 1517. (If you haven’t read last week’s blog, it may be helpful to go back to last weeks Westview Wednesday).
Rarely in human history has one man so thoroughly shaken this world as Martin Luther did. He touched the hearts and minds of vast numbers of people in Europe and gave voice to the downward moral and spiritual indignation of his time. He appeared, like Queen Esther, for such a time as this. Luther didn’t have an easy time of it. He struggled mightily with the question of facing a holy and righteous God. It is said that he starved himself until his “belly button touched his backbone.” He strove to “out-monk the monks.” Luther’s breakthrough came when he studied the Psalms and book of Romans. It began to dawn on Luther that we do not make ourselves holy enough to earn God’s justice by pious practices. Rather, God views us through Christ’s blood-stained glasses and by Christ’s righteousness alone imputed upon us, we are able to stand before God. Luther came up with 95 Theses (propositions or postulations) that on October 31, 1517 he nailed to the church door of the Wittenberg Germany church. There is a whole lot more Martin Luther did. Did you know that with the help of Philip Melanchthon, he translated the Bible into German? A huge boost to the Reformation! But let us turn to another Reformer.
John Calvin, believe it or not, was a quiet and intellectual Frenchman who considered himself “a poor, timid scholar.” He turned away, originally, from a religious vocation to study law and civil politics. When he and others moved away from Catholicism, King Francis I reacted with determination to once and for all rid France of “the poison of the Protestants”. Hundreds were imprisoned including Calvin for a short time. Many were executed, including Calvin’s brother. It was time to seek a safer environment. John Calvin went to Basel Switzerland and there he quietly wrote his first edition of the “Institutes of the Christian Religion.” The most influential single book of the Protestant Reformation. I have the book in my office if you want some bedtime reading. John Calvin did not escape sorrow. His wife Idelette de Bure was an invalid and died after 8 years of marriage. Calvin was heartbroken and never remarried. A child of John and Idelette died in infancy as well.
Protestant Reformers in Europe and England, Martin Luther, John Knox, Phillip Melanchthon, and John Calvin, turned the world upside down and the church right-side up. We are grateful for these men, led by God, to be faithful to their hard calling. Because of them, today we can affirm the five solas. sola scriptura (Scripture alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), and soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone). They were like “a peg nailed into a sure place” and now they have a seat of honor (Isaiah 22:23). Oh, that we would take our spiritual walk as serious as these men.
Anyway, that’s how I see it. – Pastor Pete