Today we come to the concluding part of the series whose purpose is to cast the spotlight on the significance of progression (and the principal cause behind it) in the spiritual realm, even while tracing the history of the Church (in brief) till the Reformation movement of the 16th century.
We can fully appreciate the significance of reformation only if we fully grasp to what depraved depths the Church had plummeted in the “Dark age”. Power corrupts, and Popes, Bishops, etc. were sadly no exception to this truth. Somehow, just as our Lord had prophesied that in the good field the Devil would one day plant tares (See Matt 13:24-25), the enemy number 1 got his men into key positions, and spiritual malaise infected and then spread in the once “pure” Body of Christ (refined by persecutions) like never before.
Non-Biblical practices (I say this with utmost love and concern for my fellow dear Brothers and Sisters who have been misguided) began, such as:
a) The worship of Mary. Shecame to be seen as the “divine mediator”, in blatant violation of Scriptures: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” (1 Tim. 2:5 ESV). Remember that Jesus Himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6 ESV). Some Catholic apologists even today try to present Luther himself as Mary worshipper. A proper, analytical study of his works, however, clearly point to the contrary.
b) Selling of Indulgences, meaning that a person who has committed a sin can go and “buy” his forgiveness from the Pope by shelling out some money. This is also in gross violation of Scriptures, which state that the Blood of Christ alone atones for the sins: “He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins–and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” (1 John 2:2 NLT. See also 1 John 1:7).
c) Prohibition of Scripture-reading amongst the Laity, in stark contrast to the Scriptural mandate that Scriptures should not only be read, but also memorised and medidated upon, often by both Clergy and Laity: “but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2 ESV. See also Ps. 119:11).
d) Climbing 28 steps of what is known as the St. Helena’s or Scala Sancta staircase on knees to “win over” God’s favour (St. Helena the Mother of Emperor Constantine had shipped this structure from Jerusalem to Rome. It is believed that this staircase bears the marks of blood which had oozed out of the Saviour’s head as he wearing a crown of thorns had climbed these steps to stand in his trial before Pontius Pilate- John 19:1-5). The assumption that this one-time act of scaling the steps on one’s knees would “win-over” God’s favour by way of temporary withdrawal of the Divine punishment for the sins committed (plenary indulgence and all that) is in stark contrast of the Scriptural mandate that a life-long walk of faith alone would please God: “but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” (Heb. 10:38 ESV. See also Hab. 2:4, Romans 1:17)
It is said that only when Martin Luther himself was performing this unbiblical ritual of scaling St. Helena’s steps that he received a divine revelation that these practices do not lead a man to right relationship with God; but rather, that, “…the just shall live by faith.” (Rom. 1:17 KJV). It was this revelation which triggered the Reformation movement, of which all of us are beneficiaries.
It must be noted here that while due credit needs to be accorded to Martin Luther for initiating the Reformation, there were other fully committed, sincere Christian leaders at that time like William Tyndale, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, Menno Simmons, et al, who also “put their shoulders to the wheel” so to speak, in their own inimitable ways, to take the Reformation movement forward. How these inspired souls weathered the consequent persecution that followed from the powerful Papacy constitutes yet another shining chapter of the Reformation history. More about it…some other time…even while we remain riveted to the subject (events leading to Reformation) in hand.
Yes, since all of us who constitute the “Body of Christ” are beneficiaries of this monumental Reformation movement that led the then “Body of Christ” from “darkness to light”, we need to celebrate with much thanksgiving that Landmark day, 31st October, 1517, when that great German Reformer nailed his 95 theses on the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
To put it in a nutshell, his 95 Theses contained a sound Biblical argument as to why the non-biblical practices, such as the ones I had outlined above, are “far off the mark” scripturally when it comes to pleasing the Lord. Just imagine still being under the yoke of those rituals. It is scary, to say the least, to think that many are still doing this in 2017! Yes, we all need to be profusely thankful for the Reformation which removed some of the “spiritually debilitating unnecessary, paralysing weight” off our shoulders.
The Protestant Church itself, even after enduring for some time the “rough weather” of Papal persecution, would in due course become “complacent and sickly” when persecutions ceased! Enter the likes of Jonanthan Edwards, Wesley Brothers to set right the matters…well…that’s a different story altogether…
Meanwhile, let’s celebrate with much thanksgiving the 500th year of the birth of Reformation movement on 31st October 2017. Hallelujah!
Prayer: Father, like in Israeli history, in Church history too, You have from time to time used great Reformers to bring back Your wayward people onto the right track. We praise and thank You for the Reformation movement of the 16th Century, thanks to which, we are possessors of sound doctrine today…applying which would please Thee. If there is any waywardness in us today, Father reform us. We are open to Thy correction. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
An unworthy servant
J and SM Ministries
(To access the entire “Of Motion, Reformation and Celebration” mini-series, please click here.)