Why I Am Thankful for the Reformation

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Reformation Day is this coming Tuesday. I have no doubt that you will read many blogs about the importance of what Martin Luther did on October 31, 1517, as well as the glorious results that came from the era of the reformation (approx.. AD 1500—1650). It was an important time in the life of the true church of Jesus Christ. The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) had spiritually abused people for 100s of years (and continue to this day) and God had had enough. So He sent a mass of men (Luther, Knox, Calvin, Tyndale, Zwingli, Hus, and others) to expose the abuses of the RCC and to bring God’s truth that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone. There are many good books written on this time period and I hope that you would go and 95thesesread in order to have your faith stirred by the men of the past who stood strong for God’s truth, even when it was unpopular and cost them their very lives. The best short read on Martin Luther is Steve Lawson’s 120pg The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther (Reformation Trust, 2013). A newer work that just came out is The Legacy of Luther (Reformation Trust, 2016). I have not received my copy yet, but R. C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols are the editors, so you can bet it will be a good read. Or if you want a decent movie, Luther (2003) does a pretty good job. If you want more of an overview of this time period, Bruce Shelley does a fine job in his Church History In Plain Language (4th edition; Thomas Nelson, 2013).

Now what I want to express today, in a bit of a shorter post, is why I am grateful for the Reformation. To put it simply: I thank God for the translation work of the Bible during the Reformation.

You see during the late middle ages, the RCC had imprisoned God’s Word in the Latin language, a language the common people of Europe did not speak. Therefore, the RCC held everyone’s spiritual life in their own hands. If the priest/bishop/pope said something about God or about Christ or about salvation, then the attitude was, “well, they can read God’s Word, so we have to believe them.” The worst part of this is that the RCC had abused this knowledge, to the point that they made up doctrines (e.g., indulgences) to keep people from the truth. I am personally convinced that the RCC banked on the notion that if people would read the Bible, they would lwilliamtyndaleeave the RCC in droves. So to keep their “ministry” and their buildings and their authority, they had to keep the Bible from the people. In step the Reformers.

The Reformers (specifically Luther & Tyndale) unlocked the Scriptures by translating them so that the common man could read them and therefore keep the church accountable to God’s Word. This was a monumental moment in human history that cannot be overlooked if you are a Christian. These Reformers rightfully challenged the religious authority of the day that would effect generations to come, including ours. For now the Scriptures, God’s very Word, was accessible to you and me. What a privilege! What a blessing!

A few quotes from these men I think will help you see this passion and maybe spur yours to further love your Bible:

Luther

“I wish every town would have its interpreter, and that this book alone, in all languages, would live in the hands, eyes, ears, and hearts of all people.”

“By the Word the earth has been subdued; by the Word the Church has been saved; and by the Word also it shall be reestablished.”

“No matter what happens, you should say: There is God’s Word. This is my rock and anchor. On it I rely, and it remains. Where it remains, I, too, remain; where it goes, I, too, go.”

Tyndale

 “It was impossible to establish the lay people in any truth, except the Scripture were laid before their eyes in their mother tongue.”

“I defy the pope and his laws. If God spared him life, ere many years, he would cause a boy that drives the plough to know more of the Scripture than he does.”

“Give diligence, reader, I exhort you, that you come with a pure mind, and as the Scripture says, with a single eye, unto the words of health and of eternal life.”

 

Of course, all of the reformers had the same passion to see the word of God understood

Tyndale's New Testament, 1526

by the common man, but these two men specifically made it their life’s work to get God’s Word into the hands of the common man and the plow boy. Luther spent much of his life translating the Bible into spoken German, while Tyndale was martyred working on an English translation. Both men worked out of the original languages (Hebrew and Greek) and so their translations were far superior that say what Wycliffe did by translating from the Latin.[1] And it is because of their passion for God’s Word to be in the hands of God’s people that I am grateful for their work in translation, because without their work, I would not have a Bible in a language I can read. Yes, I went to seminary and learned Hebrew and Greek and continue to work in those languages. But my English Bible is my most prized possession because it is God’s Word in my mother tongue. What a precious gift and it is because of the Reformers and the Reformation that I own it.


[1] Not that I am diminishing what John Wycliffe did in translating the Bible into English for the first time. All I am pointing out is that Tyndale & Luther worked from the original languages instead of the Latin Vulgate.

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  • Karl Heitman

    A pro Reformation Day post on PS23!?!? Oh, my! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!!

    BTW, Reformation Day is this coming Monday, not Tuesday. 🙂