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A Virtual Tour of the Reformation

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2017-06-11 PM
  • Sermons


Well, as I mentioned, tonight is a little different than what we we ordinarily do on Sunday evening. I'm not going to be walking through a text, although we'll look at a couple as we walk our way through this evening. But I want to step back and do what I've entitled "A Virtual Tour of the Reformation."

There's sense in which it is impossible to establish one date for the Protestant Reformation. There had been a growing push and need for reformation for nearly 300 years before what we call the Reformation began. Nevertheless, it is true—and I think you understand this—that scholars almost universally agree that if we're going to land on a date, the date has to be the day that a young theology professor at the University of Wittenberg nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Castle Church. The date? October 31, 1517. What that means for us is that this year marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. So we want to look at this thing we call the Protestant Reformation from several different angles tonight.

First of all, I think we need to ask the question, what was the Reformation really about? Well, who better to tell us than the Reformers themselves? To try to capture the heart of the Reformation, the Reformers adopted a motto. In fact, what you see on the slide there in front of you is from the Reformer's Wall in Geneva, Switzerland. And in the City of Geneva they imprinted a motto on their coins, and it's engraved on the Reformer's Wall as well. That motto in Latin was this: post tenebras lux. After darkness, light. Post tenebras lux: after darkness, light. In other words, what the Reformers were saying was this: in the Reformation, the light of Scripture emerged from the darkness of medieval Roman Catholicism. It was the dawn, if you will, of the quest to recover the faith once for all delivered to the saints in the Scripture. It was the expository preaching (as we'll see) of men like Martin Luther, John Calvin [and] Ulrich Zwingli that led to the recovery of the biblical truths that, frankly, in most cases had long been forgotten.

The key truths that the Reformers recaptured are described in what we call the five solas of the Reformation. You're familiar with them. Sola Scriptura: the idea that our ultimate authority is not tradition, popes or councils, but it's Scripture alone. In each case the key word is sola, because everything the Reformers affirmed by the other word, the Catholic church affirmed. It was the word sola that distinguished each of these. Secondly, there was solus Christus: God justifies us not based on our own righteousness, but based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. Thirdly, sola fide: God justifies us not because of any human works of any kind, but by faith and faith alone. Sola gratia: we are saved from God's wrath not by our personal merit or our personal initiative, but by Sovereign grace alone. And soli Deo gloria: God created and redeemed us in such a way that we would receive none of the glory whatsoever, but that the glory would be for God alone. Those are the five solas of the Reformation. Those are truths that were recovered.

Now even as you look at those, I think if you're honest with yourself you would have to say that in today's church, sadly, many churches have drifted away from these bedrock truths back into the darkness of error and ignorance. One of the goals of our recent Reformation tour from Countryside—There were some almost 40 of us that went over to Germany and to Switzerland to visit the key sites in the Reformation. And one of the goals of that tour was to deepen our knowledge of and to reignite our passion for these foundational truths.

Now when you look at those five solas, understand this: they are really, in a very real sense, answers to the three great questions that the Reformation answered. These were the theological issues behind the Reformation. Three great questions. Number one, who is the head of the church? From the very beginning that was the issue that was at stake. All the way back to Wycliffe and Hus this was the issue. It was in the 16th century as well. Secondly, what is the ultimate source of authority? Again, the word ultimate is the issue. It's not that creeds and councils have no authority. They can interpret the Scripture, and we ought to take that into serious consideration. What's the ultimate authority? And thirdly, how is a man made right with God? On what basis is a man made right with God? You can see how in a very real sense those last two questions the five solas answer. Four of them have to do with salvation. The other has to do with the Scripture. So those were the issues the Reformation was dealing with.

What I want to do tonight in the time we have together—with that basic theological understanding, I want to weave together a timeline of the Reformation, I want to communicate to you some of the key stories of the Reformation, and then I want to show you some pictures of some key sites in which those events occurred. That's the plan for the time we have this evening. That's why I've entitled this evening's message "A Virtual Tour of the Reformation."

Now let me start by reminding you who the central character in the Reformation is. There's often a lot of confusion about this. It is not Zwingli, and most people don't believe it's Zwingli. Nor is it John Calvin. You may be surprised to learn that it's not even Martin Luther. You see, the key character in the Reformation is our Lord Jesus Christ. That was understood by the Reformers from the beginning. You find in Matthew 16:18 this statement by our Lord: "I will build My church; and the gates of [hell, the gates of] Hades." The idea is the gates of the grave. What's the gates of the grave? Death itself. Death is not going to stand against My church. They can kill My followers, they can take their lives, but My church will advance. That's the story of the Reformation. It is the story of our Lord Jesus Christ marching on against all human opposition to build His church. That's the hero of the Reformation, our faithful Lord.

So with that in mind, let's begin to walk our way through. The Reformation does not begin in the 16th century. It begins with what what we could call the pre-Reformers. And Nathan Busenitz touched on a little of this when he was here. Let me just remind you of those men and movements that happened before the 16th century (before Luther, before Calvin, before Zwingli) who really laid the groundwork for the Reformation.

First of all, there was a man named Peter Waldo, and those who embraced what he believed were called the Waldensians. In the final part of the 12th century, a movement began under Peter Waldo, whose theology, frankly, bears remarkable resemblance to the future Protestant Reformers. It was in the mid 1170s that Waldo, a rich merchant from Lyons, read a translation of the New Testament. He was so impressed with what he read and the claims of Christ that he left all of his wealth (except enough that he needed to feed his family), and he organized a band of laymen who became known as the Poor Men, and also were called the Waldensians. The Waldensians believed that everyone should have a copy of the Scripture in his own language. They believed that Scripture alone should be the final authority for faith and for life. These simple lay preachers went out by twos dressed in simple clothes to preach the gospel in their own language. You can imagine that this was a threat. Even simple laymen preaching the Scriptures were a threat. The Pope saw them as a threat. And in 1184 Peter Waldo and the Waldensians were excommunicated because they refused to stop preaching the Scripture. And in 1215 the Fourth Lateran Council agreed with Waldo's excommunication, and the Waldensians began to be persecuted for centuries. In 1217 Peter Waldo died.

And another group of pre-Reformers then were to come along later. John Wycliffe and the Lollards. John Wycliffe was born at some point in the 1320s. He attended the ancient University of Oxford. (That's really the oldest university in Europe.) And he ended up teaching at Oxford for most of his life. Up until the year about 1378, he simply wanted to reform the Roman Catholic Church, and he saw the way to do that as twofold. One, to root out the immoral clergy that were part of the church. And, to sell its property, because he saw that as really what was causing so many of the corrupt problems in the Roman Catholic Church. That was until 1378, but in 1379 Wycliffe began to realize that those simple reforms were not all that was necessary. And in fact, he began to attack the authority of the Pope by arguing that Christ was the head of the church. He argued that the Bible was the sole authority for the believer; the church should actually follow the pattern in the New Testament. Image that. He opposed the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. And to prove what he was preaching, Wycliffe made the Bible available to people in their own language, in the English language. Now understand, this was the first translation in English, but it wasn't from the Greek manuscripts. Instead, all he had at that point was the Latin Vulgate, so he translated from the Latin Vulgate into English. But it was the first English translation. In 1382 the New Testament was finished. In that same year, his views were condemned, and he was forced to retire from the University of Oxford. But his ideas, his theology, continued to be taught by a group of lay preachers he founded called the Lollards. In the year 1401, the Roman Catholic Church passed a law that made the punishment for preaching Lollard ideas the death penalty. The death penalty. Wycliffe died in 1384. Thirty years later, in 1415, the Council of Constance posthumously condemned him, ordered his body disinterred and burned. In 1428 his body was in fact dug up and burned for heresy. But the biblical teaching of John Wycliffe lived on. In fact, he is called the morning star of the Reformation.

That brings us to a third group of pre-Reformers. And that was Jan Hus. Jan Hus and the Hussites. Richard II of England married Anne of Bohemia, and students from Bohemia came to England to study at Oxford. Some of the them returned to Bohemia carrying Wycliffe's revolutionary ideas back with them. It was in the year 1372 that Jan Hus had been born. He studied at the University of Prague. Later he taught there. He eventually became its rector. He also served as the pastor of Bethlehem Chapel from 1402 to 1414. In the year 1409, Jan Hus read and believed the biblical teaching of John Wycliffe, and he sought as a result to reform the church in Bohemia. Because of his views, he was ordered to the Council of Constance in the year 1415. He was promised safe conduct, a promise that was not honored. And at the Council of Constance in 1415, the views of Wycliffe and of Hus his disciple were condemned. And when Hus refused to recant, the Council ordered him burned at the stake. Here's a description of it by one historian:

On July 6, 1415, Hus was stripped of his clerical robes, decorated with a dunce cap embellished with drawings of demons, tied to a stake and burned to death. According to an eyewitness account, he entrusted his soul to God, sang a hymn to Christ as the flames enveloped him, and once he was dead the authorities ground up his remains and cast them into the Rhine River to keep them from being venerated by his followers.

Those who continued to embrace his views were called the Hussites. And in 1420 they began to be severely persecuted.

Now understand that those three men and those who embraced their teaching were really the primary headwaters of the great Protestant Reformation, and we'll see the connection in just a few moments.

Now the Reformation itself—We've seen sort of the beginnings, the pre-Reformers.—the Reformation itself followed several streams. Admittedly, this is oversimplification, but for the sake of time let me just tell you that you could say there were four streams the Reformation followed. First of all, there was the English Reformation under Tyndall, Knox and others. There was the German Reformation under Luther. There was the Genevan Reformation under Calvin. And then there was the Swiss Reformation under Zwingli. Obviously, both Geneva and Zurich where Calvin and Zwingli ministered are in Switzerland, so in one sense it reached Switzerland and the entire continent. But again, in the interest of simplicity let's describe it that way.

Now our recent trip focused on the final three there, on Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. And that's really where I want to focus in the rest of our time. As we will see tonight, however, the English Reformation and our heritage as English speakers is inextricably interwoven with what happened in Wittenberg, Geneva and Zurich. So let's look then at the key leaders of the Reformation. And let's begin where I think we ought to begin, and that is with the German Reformation under Luther.

Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483, in the town of Eisleben. On November 11th, the next day, he was baptized at this church there in Eisleben. This is the interior. Obviously, it's been renovated and changed over the years, but this is the little town where he was born and the church where he was baptized as an infant as a Roman Catholic. His parents were Roman Catholic, obviously. When you look at his family, understand that his father—and there's a lot of discussion about this. (In fact, one of the most humorous things I ever read [was] when I was an English teacher teaching college English. This wasn't my student, but another professor shared this with me from one of his student's papers. He was writing about Martin Luther, and he wrote this sentence: Poor Martin's mother, with back bent beneath a load of firewood was trying to make both ends meet. Think about that for a moment. With back bent beneath a load of firewood was trying to make both ends meet. OK, that's not exactly true.) There is a tradition that they were poor. In fact, his father was from the middle class. A couple decades after Luther's birth, his father owned shares in six copper mines. But nevertheless, the home into which Luther was born in Eisleben was a very simple home. It still remains. This is the home there in Eisleben. Very simple. These are not, obviously, the original pieces of equipment, but these pictures are just intended to show you what a typical middle-class home in that period of time would have been like. Very simple, very basic.

The home was also difficult and very strictly disciplined. Luther knew very little love as a child. In fact, he recalled being whipped by his mother until he bled because he had stolen a nut. His mother was a committed but superstitious Roman Catholic, and she taught him to share the same superstitions and the same fears. Many of the terrors that he learned at home haunted him as he struggled to discover how to be right with God. Luther was sent from his home to school in Eisenach, where for the first time he encountered genuine love from an older woman who cared for him, a woman named Ursula Cotta.

It was in school there in Eisenach that he learned advanced Latin, which was necessary for university. And in the year 1501 he began to study philosophy at the University of Erfurt. In 1502 he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, and three years later in 1505, a Master of Arts degree. And then after his basic university studies were done, he began to study law, which was what his father wanted him to do.

Barely a month after he began his studies in law, at the ripe old age of 21 years of age, Luther was caught in that famous, violent thunderstorm on July 2, 1505. A lightening bolt literally knocked him to the ground. And in fear (he lived really in fear) he called out to the Catholic patroness of miners, "Help me, Saint Anne, and I'll become a monk!" Much to his father's dismay, he kept his vow. And on July 17, just a couple of weeks later, in the year 1505, he entered one of the most difficult of the Augustinian monasteries in Erfurt.

Now, Erfurt was known as a black town. By that they meant there were so many monks who wore the black gown. More than 20 percent of the town was composed of monks, and so there were a number. Some estimate as many as 20 different monasteries in Erfurt. There were a few of those that were Augustinian. Luther chose the absolute strictest, hardest, most difficult of the Augustinian monasteries there in Erfurt.

It was not long after he entered the monastery—and here you can see. I'll show you some other pictures as well. In fact, let me go ahead a do that. Here's just some pictures of that monastery. This is the living area. You can see there where the brown wood is. And in fact, this building straight ahead here in the picture, on the second floor is where Luther first was boarded when arrived at the monastery in 1505. There's a high degree of certainty about that. It was not long after he entered the monastery—let me show you a couple more pictures. Here's the courtyard in the middle of the monastery. Here's a long hallway looking off of that courtyard. Here's the chapel that's there.

It wasn't long after he entered the monastery there in Erfurt that he discovered that there was such a thing as a Bible. Do you realize this? Luther, as a Roman Catholic in the 16th century, didn't know there was a Bible. He thought the Bible was the little, what were called opuscules, little, like, think Sunday-school curriculum that was handed out each Lord's Day. He thought that was the Bible, but in the library at the monastery he came across a book chained to a desk and realized for the first time (as a twenty-one-year-old Roman Catholic) that there was a Bible.

In the fall of 1506, Luther took his final vows as an Augustinian monk. So about a year later he took his vows to become an Augustinian monk. On April 3, 1507, Luther was ordained a priest here in this cathedral. It's adjacent to the monastery, the Erfurt Cathedral. He was ordained as a priest. And then just a month later on May 2, 1507, he celebrated his first mass as the presiding priest. This is what he wrote about that. He said:

I was utterly stupefied and terror stricken. I thought to myself, whom am I that I should lift up my eyes or raise my hands to the Divine Majesty? I am dust and ashes and full of sin, and I am speaking to the living, eternal and true God.

He understood the majesty of God. He understood the greatness of God. He understood the holiness of God to some extent. But he yet did not understand the grace of God.

What's remarkable about this cathedral where Luther worshiped there in the monastery, where he prayed—he would go into this cathedral and lay himself out on the floor near the altar and pray for hours on end. What's interesting about this cathedral is, in the front of the cathedral, right where the altar is, where the mass is ministered, there is a grave. This is me at that grave. You can see it there in floor behind me. What's remarkable about that grave is the man who's buried there was a priest in this cathedral long before Luther, 100 years before Luther. And he is the man that was the prime, chief witness at the trial of Jan Hus. And because of his testimony, Jan Hus was executed. It's said—and it's never truly been corroborated or substantiated—but it's said that at his death, Jan Hus, whose name means goose, said, "You can cook this skinny goose, but there will come a swan whose voice you will not silence." Luther took that to be himself. And ironically, as an unconverted Roman Catholic priest, he laid himself out on this grave of the man who accused Jan Hus, and he would later come to embrace the very things for which Jan Hus was executed. There is a God, and His providence is truly amazing. Of the one place Luther could've landed, for him to land there.

Luther was an exemplary monk. He fasted. He prayed constantly. He devoted himself to the menial tasks that were assigned him. But above all, Luther spent hours each day in confession. This became a great frustration to his superiors and to his fellow monks. He hogged the confessional, if you will. And I mean, after all, how much trouble can you really get into in a monastery? He didn't get into great and deep sin. He was just struck with the gravity of the sin he did commit: the desire to have, the sort of lusting after his brother's food, the laziness that he saw [in] himself and so forth. Of his days in the monastery, Luther wrote this:

When I was a monk I wearied myself greatly for almost 15 years with the daily sacrifice, tortured myself with fastings, vigils, prayers and other very vigorous works. I earnestly thought to acquire righteousness by my works. I tortured myself with prayer, fasting, vigils and freezing. The frost alone might have killed me.

As I told you this morning, the monks were given to asceticism. They were given to doing harm to their bodies, depriving their bodies as if somehow that would either earn their salvation, as he describes here, or achieve greater holiness or both. But through all of his spiritual exercises as a monk, Luther found no peace for his soul. He writes of that period of his life, "I hand no love for that holy and just God who punishes sinners. I was filled with secret anger against Him."

In the fall of 1508, Luther served as a substitute lecturer for one semester in theology at a new university, a university that had been begun in about the year 1500-1501, the University of Wittenberg. It was about eight years old when he became a substitute lecturer there. And then the following year, on March 9, 1509, Luther obtained his Bachelor of Theology degree.

Theology. In God's providence, Luther's spiritual father at Wittenberg and the man who oversaw his studies in theology was Johannes von Staupitz. Staupitz was devoted to Augustinian theology; that is, the theology of Augustine. And for the first time, from him Luther learned about the sovereignty of God in salvation. Here's what Staupitz said to Luther:

More than a thousand times I have sworn to our holy God to live piously, and I have never kept my vows. Now I swear no longer, for I know that I cannot keep my solemn promises. If God will not be merciful toward me for the love of Christ and grant me a happy departure when I must quit this world, I shall never, with the aide of all of my vows, and all my good works, stand before Him. I must perish. Look [he said to Luther] at the wounds of Jesus Christ, to the blood that He has shed for you. It is there that the grace of God will appear to you. Instead of torturing yourself on account of your sins, throw yourself in the Redeemer's arms. Trust in Him, in the righteousness of His life and in the atonement of His death.

That sounds like a man that could preach behind this pulpit. He understood the grace of God. But Luther didn't get it. There wasn't regeneration. He didn't understand the truth. It didn't pierce through his blindness.

In an effort to ease Luther's burden, Staupitz sent Luther on a mission on behalf of the Augustinian order to Rome in the year 1510. But it didn't help him. He walked on foot from Wittenberg, Germany, across the Swiss Alps down to Rome. And when he got to Rome he was shocked at what he found. He was absolutely disillusioned by the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, by all of the relics that he saw. There actually were—in his day there were relics in Rome that included, supposedly, the rope with which Judas hanged himself; a reputed piece of Moses' burning bush; and, supposedly, the chains of the Apostle Paul. But the worst of all (and you can still see them to this day) were, supposedly, the Scala Sancta, the holy stairs, the very steps they said that Jesus had descended from Pilot's judgment hall. They said they'd been moved to Rome, and if you would climb up those stairs a step at a time on your knees, praying the rosary at each step, kissing each step, kissing the supposed blood stains of Christ, then you could gain the freedom of someone you love from purgatory. Luther did this. This is what he said about that event:

At Rome I wished to liberate my grandfather from purgatory. And I went up the staircase of Pilot praying a paternoster on each step, for I was convinced that he who prayed thus could redeem his soul. But when I came to the top step, the thought kept coming to me, "Who knows whether this is true?"


In the year 1511, Luther was sent to Wittenberg University now not to be a substitute lecturer, but rather to take over the chair of John Staupitz. In 1512 he was awarded the Doctor of Theology degree. And Luther would serve as a professor at the University of Wittenberg for 34 years until his death. He began—and this was instrumental in his life—he began to lecture through books of the Bible, studying them (to make sure he was as accurate as he could be) from the original languages. From 1513 to 1515, he lectured on the Psalms. From 1515 to 1517, on Romans. And later on Galatians and Hebrews. It was during this time that he developed his understanding of the Bible's unique and supreme authority. And it was that understanding that led to the incident behind the beginning of the Reformation.

In the year 1517, Johann Tetzel began his sale of indulgences in a city near Wittenberg. Now understand what was going on with the indulgences. A deal had been struck between the Pope and John Tetzel's benefactor, Albert of Brandenburg. And he agreed, the Archbishop Albert agreed that half of the proceeds from the sale of indulgences would come to him to help him repay the bank from which he had taken out a loan to purchase his position from the Pope. So he had paid the Pope for his position, one of the positions he held in the church there in Germany. He needed to repay that loan. Half of the proceeds from the sale of indulgences would come to him to help him to pay off his loan for the position he'd bought. The other half of the sale of the indulgences would go to help build and to outfit with art St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome.

Now understand that indulgences, a plenary indulgence is simply, supposedly, a piece of paper that you received in exchange for money. Typically, the money charged was based on your capacity to pay. If you were rich it cost you more; if you were poor it cost you less. And supposedly, by paying that money, either you or someone you loved (even who'd already died and was in purgatory) could receive temporal forgiveness for sin. And that would go to lessen the time in purgatory. But understand, this became a deal, so that people would buy indulgences not for sins already committed but for sins they intended to commit.

Lindsay writes this in his History of the Reformation. He says,

Tetzel sold the right of murdering an enemy for seven ducats. Those who wished to rob a church were pardoned if they paid nine ducats, while a murder of father, mother, sister or brother, cost only four ducats. The men and women who bought these indulgences naturally liked to get value for their money, and so crime abounded wherever the pardon seller went. He would send people before him, strangely dressed, proclaiming that he was coming. [He was a marketer is what he was.] And he would send them in front of him, marketing his indulgences, boasting about the pardon tickets that he had for sale.

Here's one of the proclamations that a contemporary wrote that one of these hucksters who went before Tetzel said: "The pardon makes those who buy it cleaner than baptism, purer even than Adam in the state of innocence in paradise." And then came Tetzel, and Tetzel would set up in the middle of town. And when he came, he came with a wagon, placed it in the marketplace. And then he appeared. On his one side was an iron cage in which were these pardon tickets hanging from the bars, and on the other was a strongbox into which you would put your money. And he sold it like a snake-oil salesman or like a quack doctor at a country fair.

Here's an example of one of his sermons. Look how he preys on the people. He said,

Do not you hear the voice of your wailing dead parents and others who say, "Have mercy upon me! Have mercy upon me, because we are in severe punishment and pain! From this you could redeem us with a small alms, and yet you do not want to do so."? Open your ears as the father says to the son and the mother to the daughter, "We created you, fed you, cared for you and left you our temporal goods. Why are you so cruel and harsh that you do not want to save us, though it only takes so little? You let us lie in flames so that only slowly do we come to the promised glory."

You can see the utter manipulation, the wickedness of this practice. Tetzel's most famous line, you've heard before, was "As soon as the coin the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs."

In response to this, Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses on October 31, 1517. Now understand, there were two churches in Wittenberg. One of the churches, the one I'm showing you here first, was the church for the common people. This is where Luther preached most of his sermons. He preached some 2,000 sermons in this church. Here's the interior of that church. That's not where he posted the Theses. The other church in town was the Castle Church there in Wittenberg. The Castle Church was where the nobility and the educated people went. So Luther went to the Castle Church—And this is the door, the recreated door. It was a wooden door at the time. This door has been placed in the hole where that door originally was there in the Castle Church.—and he posted them to the Castle Church, the church of the nobility. And he posted them in Latin, because he intended this to be a sort of intramural debate, a sort of academic discussion about the validity of indulgences. But they were soon translated from Latin to German and circulated by means of the newest technology of the times, a printing press. He took issue with the indulgences. But, according to Luther, when he posted the Ninety-five Theses he still had not come to an understanding of justification by faith. He was simply critiquing and criticizing the abuse of the system of indulgences. In fact, he mentions the Pope favorably several times in the Ninety-five Theses, because he believed the Pope was on his side and that John Tetzel and hucksters like him were abusing the system.

Luther later came to faith. He describes it. Writing in the year 1545, Luther wrote an autobiographical introduction for his collection of Latin writings. And in it he described what has often been called his tower experience.

By the way, this is the interior of the Castle Church, the church of the nobility there in Wittenberg. It was on the door of this church that he posted the Ninety-five Theses. You can see the pulpit there on the right. Pulpits were elevated, and then there was a sounding board. This kind of pulpit would have been put in place after the church became Protestant. And the pulpit was elevated to show that it was exalted above everything else, the Word of God was exalted above everything else. And above it (because they didn't have a sound system) was what was literally called a sounding board. That's where the phrase comes from. And the voice would echo off that sounding board and fill the church. So this is the interior of the Castle Church.

But as I said, in the year 1545 Luther reflected back on his conversion experience, what is often called his tower experience. I'm not going to read all of this to you, but just notice a few excerpts. He said, "In that same year"—1519. So he puts his conversion in the year 1519, two years after he nailed the Ninety-five Theses to the door of Wittenberg. He said,

I had begun interpreting the Psalms once again. I felt confident that I was now more experienced since I had dealt in university courses with Saint Paul's letter to the Romans, to the Galatians and the letter to the Hebrews. I had conceived a burning desire to understand what Paul meant in his letter to the Romans. [And yet he admits he hasn't yet gotten there.]

[He said] Blameless monk that I was, I still felt that before God I was a sinner with an extremely troubled conscience. I couldn't be sure that God was appeased by my satisfaction. [That is, by what I had done.] I did not love, no, rather I hated the just God who punishes sinners. This was how I was raging with wild and disturbed conscience. I constantly badgered Saint Paul about that spot in Romans 1 and anxiously wanted to know what he meant.

I meditated day and night on those words until at last by the mercy of God I paid attention to their context. And I began to understand that in this verse the justice of God is that by which the just person lives by a gift of God, that is by faith. [In other words, he came to understand the gospel. And he says,] All at once I felt that I had been born again and entered into paradise itself through open gates. Immediately, I saw the whole of Scripture in a different light.

So two years after he nailed the Nine-five Theses, Luther says he came to an understanding of justification by faith. And it's interesting, after he came to understand the gospel of faith alone by grace alone, he saw that reform of the Catholic Church was not possible, because it had embraced a false gospel.

So go back to 1518, the year after he posted the Theses. The process began against Luther in Rome. Luther appeared before a Roman Catholic cardinal in Augsburg of that year. And in 1519, that's when he came to faith, but that was also the year in which he appealed to the general council about his views. On June 15, 1520—This is about three years, then, after the posting of the Nine-five Theses.—on June 15th, Leo X issued a papal bull giving Luther 60 days to recant or to be excommunicated. Luther took some time. He reflected on it. He actually wrote three tracts or pamphlets in the intervening time as he was thinking through his own views of the Scripture and how best to respond. And then on December 10, 1520, Luther burned, publicly, he burned the papal bull condemning him, and he burned a copy of the cannon law. He had come to see the Scripture alone was the only right response for a believer. This is a tree, by the way, that is not the original tree (of course, that was 500 years ago), but it's a tree commemorating, in the same spot commemorating the burning of the papal bull. We had a great time there to discuss all that that meant.

Then on January 3, 1521, Leo X followed through on his threat, and Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. In April of that year is when he appeared before the Diet of Worms and [gave] that famous speech in which he said, you know, "My conscience is bound to the Word of God. Here I stand. I can do no other." Although, as Nathan reminded us, there's some question about whether those last words were affixed. But clearly, he refused to recant, stood on the Scripture and the Scripture alone. On May 25, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, issued the Edict of Worms declaring Luther a notorious heretic and a criminal and making it illegal to have any of Luther's books. As Luther, he was given a certain period of time of safe conduct before he was going to be arrested. And as he was on his way back to Wittenberg from Worms, he was kidnapped by his friends, by Prince Frederick the Wise, and was hidden in the Wartburg Castle for 11 months under a false name.

It was at the Wartburg Castle that Luther translated the New Testament into German, from December of 1521 to March of 1522. This is the room, still there, still commemorated, in which he translated the Scriptures. Now unlike Wycliffe, who only had the Latin Vulgate, the times had changed. Erasmus, a Roman Catholic humanist scholar, had Greek manuscripts, and from those Greek manuscripts had produced a Greek Testament. And Luther had that in his possession and was able to translate the Bible from one of the earlier Greek manuscripts into the German language. That was absolutely instrumental. In the year 1522 he returned from Wartburg on March 6. The ban on him was lifted in Germany as his ideas were further embraced. And Luther's translation of the New Testament was published later that year.

Skip a couple of years. In the year 1525, Luther married former nun Katharina von Bora.

And this is very interesting. William Tyndale, the father of the English Bible, visited Luther in Wittenberg and was influenced by Luther's translation. So think about this. It was 1522 when Luther translated the Bible from Greek into German. Three years later, William Tyndale comes from England, stays with Luther in Wittenberg, and the very next year, in the year 1526, the first English Bible translated from the Greek is produced by William Tyndale. What he caught in Wittenberg from Luther was the power of the Word of God, and understanding that, he wanted to make it available in English. And from there, as they say, everything is history.

If you go to 1526, Tyndale's English translation of the New Testament was actually printed in Germany, in Worms, and over 18,000 copies were eventually smuggled into England. I have in my office here at the church a page from the earliest printing of Tyndale's New Testament that's available. You know, there's a copy at the British Museum and there're some others, but a lot of them were burned when he was publicly strangled and burned in the year 1536. Very few survived, and I have a page from that Bible. Do you understand that our English Bible, whatever English Bible you have, it was stamped by William Tyndale? William Tyndale was behind the English translations we have. He coined many of the words we use in English as he translated the Bible into English from the Greek text. So understand this, our spiritual heritage as English speakers runs through Wittenberg, because Tyndale was there and was influenced by them.

In the year 1527, a plague, the plague, the bubonic plague struck Wittenberg. And the Luthers turned their home into a hospital. It was also in that year that Luther wrote "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

In 1529 there was a meeting of the Reformers. Luther and Zwingli met to discuss their views on the Lord's Super, and they couldn't arrive at a conclusion. You know, the Catholic Church teaches transubstantiation: that is that the elements—because of a miracle the priest is able to call into play, the elements of the Lord's Table actually become the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ. Luther said no, that's not true: the elements remain unchanged, but through consubstantiation the physical body and blood of Christ sort of are beneath and above and below and around the physical elements of bread and wine. He didn't go quite far enough. John Calvin said it's not the physical presence of Christ that's present in the Lord's Table, it's the spiritual presence of Christ in the hearts of His people by faith. And Zwingli said no, it's just a commemoration of the death of our Lord. So they couldn't agree, and the Reformers parted ways.

In the year 1546, Luther returned to his home town to where he was born, to Eisleben, to settle a dispute there. But he was sick. In fact, he concluded that he may not be able to return to Wittenberg. He thought he would die in Eisleben. He was experiencing what he described as a crushing weight on his chest. Very likely serious heart issues from all that bratwurst and beer. While he was there in Eisleben he preached his last four sermons at this church, St. Andrew's Church, and his last sermon on February 14, 1546. Luther died in Eisleben four days later, four days after his final sermon on February 18, 1546. And he was then, his body was taken and was buried back in the Castle Church. By the way, this is the interior of St. Andrew's Church there in Eisleben where he preached his last four sermons. That's the—you see the auditorium. You see the pulpit, again, elevated there on the right-hand side for the best potential sound. And he preached his final message there. And then his body was taken and was buried actually under the pulpit at the Castle Church in Wittenberg. And his ministry went on.

Understand this. Luther was a man with a heart for Christ, a heart for the gospel, a heart for the Scripture. But he was not a perfect man. He had feet of clay. He was, toward the end of his life, very antisemitic in his comments. He struggled with a number of issues in his life. But I think you need to understand and appreciate not where Luther didn't go but, in light of the times in which he lived, you need to thank God for how far he went, where the Lord took him in His grace and mercy.

Luther was also, remarkably, a humble man. He didn't like that the churches that he founded we called Lutheran churches. In fact, he said don't call them Lutheran churches, was Luther crucified for you? He said I am a bag of maggots. That's his term. Typically Luther. I'm a bag of maggots, why should a church be called after me? Devoted to the Word and to Christ to the end. My favorite Luther quote (and I'm paraphrasing it for you) is when he said, talking about the Reformation, he said listen, I did nothing, the Word did everything. He said I simply preached the Word of God, and then I slept, and as I slept the Word did everything. That's what he believed and embraced. And he's absolutely right. It was his translation of the Scripture into German and his faithful, week-in-week-out thousands of expository sermons that the Lord used to frame up the Reformation in Germany.

Now very briefly. And our visit to these two places was brief, and so I'm just going to summarize the two other streams of the Reformation that we saw. First of all, in Geneva under John Calvin. Calvin was born on July 10, 1509. So notice, Calvin was really a second-generation Reformer. He was born later. He was born after Luther was teaching in the university. He was born in France. But in the year 1533, Calvin had what he described as a sudden conversion. He left his humanistic studies, and then he eventually had to leave France because of growing persecution against Protestants and the views that he had embraced. In the year 1535 he arrived in Basel, where he penned his first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, which were then in 1536 published. Calvin in that year set out for Strasbourg but was forced to travel through Geneva to avoid French troops. And you remember the story—Nathan told it to you.—how William Farel convinced (threatened) Calvin that he had to remain in Geneva. Calvin wanted to be a quiet student of the Word in some place away from the crowds. And Farel knew they needed a man like Calvin in Geneva, and he said, "May God curse your studies if you don't stay in Geneva and pastor." Calvin was absolutely overcome by the force of William Farel and the Lord's work through him, and he agreed to stay in Geneva. So they began to minister there. But two years later, in the year 1538, Calvin and Farel were expelled from Geneva for a variety of reasons; were gone for the better part of a little over two and a half [to] three years. And then in 1541 Calvin returned to Geneva and initiated the Reformation there.

Here's where he preached. This is St. Pierre's, St. Peter's or Calvin's Cathedral (as it's usually called) in Geneva. Here are some people you recognize in front of it. And then this is the interior looking both ways. You get a feel for Calvin's Cathedral. Here is Calvin's chair where he often sat. Not a one for great comfort as you can see. And this is his pulpit. Again, this is not the original pulpit, but this is a replica of the pulpit where he preached. And you can see that huge sounding board that caused the sound to be cast across the room, that was placed strategically for that reason.

What I think is important about John Calvin—again, back to our story—is realizing that in the middle 1500s, during the years when Bloody Mary was on the throne in England, the Protestants hand to leave. They were forced to leave England. And in 1553 Calvin influenced John Knox, who would, of course, become a great English Reformer. In 1555 Calvin sheltered other English Protestants. And in 1559 Calvin completed his final edition of the Institutes. He'd gone through many different versions and much had been added.

But what's interesting to me is, after he sheltered the English Protestants, it was in Geneva under John Calvin's direction that the Geneva Bible was created. It's the Bible of the Puritans, the Bible they brought over on the Mayflower. It's the Bible of America. It's the one that was brought. I have a copy of it in my office that was printed in the year 1599. And it was the first Bible with versification. It was the first Bible with notes in the margin. And the notes were done in Geneva by the English Reformers under the direction of John Calvin. And it was printed after they had been in Geneva in the year 1560.

In 1564, John Calvin died on May 27th.

One other to look at briefly. The Swiss Reformation under Ulrich Zwingli. Ulrich Zwingli was born on January 1, 1484. This is one year after Luther. So he's really a contemporary of Luther. His parents sent him to school at Basel, Burn and later to the University of Vienna. From Vienna he then returned to Basel where he studied theology under an interesting man—a man I want to learn more about—Thomas Wyttenbach, whom Lindsay calls "One of those theologians who were accustomed even then to denounce indulgences on the ground that Christ by His death had paid a ransom for all men's sin." So Zwingli studied under someone we might call a pre-Reformer. And Zwingli never heard of Luther's teaching. It wasn't that he heard Luther; in fact, Zwingli himself said this: "All deference to Martin Luther, but what we have in common with him we knew long before we had heard his name." Where [sic] did they get there? How did they arrive there? Well, I think under people like Thomas Wyttenbach, but also because of his study of the Scripture, as well see in a moment. Zwingli received his M.A. degree in 1506 and then was appointed a priest of a small parish. His favorite New Testament books were Paul's epistles. Are you ready for this? He copied them with his own hand from more than one manuscript and then memorized them.

In 1516 he began to preach about the folly of some of the abuses of the Catholic Church: image and saint worship and so forth. In one of his sermons he said this: "In the hour of death, call upon Jesus Christ alone, who bought you with His blood, and is the only mediator between God and man." The Pope's representative was ordered to silence him. Guess how? By giving him a promotion. That's interesting. Zwingli refused the promotion. But later he was offered—in 1519 the Council of Zurich offered him to come as pastor of the Grossmunster, the big church, and he agreed. Here is the little church on the right-hand side, and there's the big church, Grossmunster, on the left-hand side. That's where he was asked to come and pastor. And he began immediately preaching verse by verse through the New Testament from his Greek Testament. He also began his famous lectures on the New Testament in which he explained the doctrines of grace and of justification by faith alone. Soon after he arrived in Zurich an indulgent seller came, and Zwingli preached against him, convinced the authorities to send him out of the country. He really launched the Reformation in Zurich when he preached a sermon against mandatory fasting for Lent. It was in March of 1522. Four days later some of his followers broke the fast of Lent by going to the center of Zurich and enjoying a feast of sausages, smoked sausages. And the Reformation was born, really. It's amazing what sausage can do.

After that, Zwingli persuaded the Council that there would be a public debate and discussion, and that he would prove all of his opinions from the Scripture in the presence of the people. This, by the way, is his church. This is another view of Zwingli's church there in Zurich. The door, each of those panes in the door tells a story or has a verse of Scripture. Pretty amazing. And then there's inside the church. So in 1523 the Council fixed a day for the debate. He had drawn up a list of 67 theses stating the points on which he disagreed with his Roman Catholic accusers. The result, really, of that document was a great summary of Protestant theology. There were other debates that followed, and Zurich was convinced. The Council and the people of Zurich embraced the Protestant Reformation because of the teaching of Ulrich Zwingli. He produced a Swiss translation of the New Testament. And then, eventually, he died on a Swiss battlefield as the Roman Catholic cantons of Switzerland came and surprised the Protestant canton of Zurich. And he died on the battlefield on October 11, 1531.

These are three stories, three stories of three men. But their story has the same point, and I want to end by taking you to one passage of Scripture. Turn with me to 2 Timothy. Here's the story of the Reformation. And by the way, this is why it matters still for us. Look at 2 Timothy 1:14. Paul says to Timothy, I want you to "Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you." Literally, Paul says, "Guard... the good deposit." The word "treasure" is the word "deposit." "Guard... the [good deposit] which has been entrusted to you." What was that good deposit? Well look back up at verse 13: "Retain the standard of sound words which you... heard from me." You get the picture of what Paul is saying? He's saying the truth of the Christian faith contained in the Scripture is like a treasure of inestimable value. And it's like (with us as it was with their generation, with Luther and Calvin and Zwingli) that good deposit, that treasure of the truth, has been deposited to us. And what are we supposed to do with that treasure? Those who've gone before us have deposited that treasure with us. We stand on the shoulders of the Reformers. God enabled the truth to be recovered through them, but they stood on the shoulders of Jan Hus and Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe. So in every case, the truth like a treasure, like a baton, if you will, a baton of gold, is passed from generation to generation.

And what are we supposed to do with the treasure? Well, I wish I had time to show you here in 2 Timothy, but let me just tell you. First of all, we are to live the treasure instead of defecting from it. That's what he means in 1:13: keep the pattern of sound words. Live it instead of defecting from it. Secondly, we're to guard it against false teaching instead of allowing it to be eroded. Verse 14 says guard the good deposit. And then look down at 2:2. We're to entrust that treasure to the next generation, so that they will be faithful with the treasure that's been passed on to them. Whatever your role might be—whether you are a friend, a father, a mother, grandparent; whether you're simply someone who serves in this church, who loves the people of this church—every single one of us has received the treasure. It is been passed to us at great cost. And our responsibility is to live it, to proclaim it, to guard it, and not allow its truth to be eroded, and to pass it on faithfully to the next generation. That's the story of the Reformation, and that needs to be our story as well. Let's pray together.

Father, we thank You for the treasure. The story of the Reformation is Your story. It's a story of Your Word. It's a story of Your Son building His church. It's a story of faithful men who lived the Truth, who proclaimed the Truth, who guarded the Truth, and who passed the Truth on to the next generation. O God, make every one of us here who knows and loves You, make us faithful to the treasure. We pray in Jesus name, amen.