Monthly Archives: October 2017

500th Anniversary of “THE REFORMATION”

On October 31, 1517 a German monk named Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg seeking a discussion on the selling of Indulgences for the remission of sin by the Catholic Church. The aim of the Church in selling the Indulgences was to raise money to rebuild St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Luther, who had become the Professor of Theology at the college, knew from his reading and studying of the Scriptures there was no forgiveness of sin except through the blood of Jesus Christ. The people were being put under great deception by being told by their priests the Catholic Church held the key to God’s forgiveness through the purchase of Indulgences. The simple act of Martin Luther on that day began a Reformation to return to the Truths of Scripture and away from what had become the tenets of a man-made religion.

During Martin Luther’s early days as a monk he came under great conviction of his sinfulness before God. Whereas other monks in the monastery would spend a few minutes a day confessing their sins to the priest, Luther would spend hours confessing his for he was cognizant of how sinful man is in his fallen state. It was not until he read in Galatians 3:11, “But that no man is justified by the Law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith,” that he realized it was not by the works of confession, simplicity of living as a monk, or even self-flagellation that provided forgiveness of sin but having a living faith based totally ALONE upon Jesus’ voluntary death on the Cross for man’s sin, His burial, and bodily Resurrection triumphant over sin and death (Romans 10:9-10). As a repentant sinner, Luther placed his full faith and trust in Christ apart from the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church from which he was eventually excommunicated and proclaimed anathema, bound for hell.

Only available in Latin and confined to only being read and interpreted by the Catholic Church, Luther began translating The Scriptures into the language of the German people so they, too, could read for themselves, “The just shall live by faith,” and find salvation in none other name but Christ Jesus as the Apostles preached on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 4:12). In doing so, Luther found himself having to be in hiding to complete the task as those led by the demons of Hell sought to stop his work. The Scriptures we hold in our hands today, written in our own language, found its beginning in the days of Luther on that fateful day in October 1517 when God opened the floodgates, that whosoever reads and keeps those things written therein will be blessed (Revelation 1:3).

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Making a Name

When those living near Babylon wanted to make a name for themselves by building a tower that would reach unto heaven, their language was changed and the people were scattered (Genesis 11:1-9). When wicked Haman wanted to make a name for himself by killing all the Jews throughout the Persian Empire, he was hanged on the gallows he had prepared for another (Esther 3-7). When Judas desired to make a name for himself by selling Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, he went out and hanged himself (Matthew 26; 27:1-10).

 When God makes a name of someone, an Ark is built to save mankind and the animal kingdom, as with a man named Noah (Genesis 6-8). When God makes a name of someone, a nation is built that numbers the stars of heaven, as with Abraham (Genesis 15:1-6). When God makes a name of someone, a man and young woman become the earthly father and mother of Jesus, as were Joseph and Mary (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38). When God makes a name of someone, a man intent on destroying God’s people becomes the greatest missionary to spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and the writer of the majority of the New Testament, as did the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:1-18). When God makes a name of someone it is life-changing for the entire world.

 

Why So Many Denominations

In his classic book, “The Trail of Blood,” J.M. Carroll, a Texas pastor and educator of the last century, lays out the beginnings of the multitude of different religious denominations. After the ascension of Christ back to Heaven as recorded in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, the spreading of the Gospel by the Apostles and the early Christians continued as Jesus had commanded before His departure, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature,” (Mark 16:15). Once the early believers passed on to Glory through death and new generations arose, the way of salvation in Christ Alone as found in Scripture began to be distorted by some of the churches that had been established throughout the known world. Those churches began requiring the addition of baptism for salvation, referred to as “baptismal regeneration.” It was from this error that the birth of different denominations arose.

The separation of churches thus began. As early as A.D. 251 churches loyal to the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ broke fellowship with the erring churches. As an outgrowth of requiring adults to be baptized for salvation, it was determined by A.D. 370 to begin baptizing infants by immersion, too.

A group of the erring churches formed into the Catholic Church, organized during Constantine’s reign, and became involved in legislative activities. In A.D. 416 a law was passed making infant baptism mandatory throughout the Roman Empire. Those who rejected the practice as unbiblical took their stand against obeying the new law and suffered the consequences. Just ten years later in A.D. 426 the “Dark Ages” began, lasting over 1,000 years with over fifty million Christian martyrs giving their lives for the Truth of the Gospel.

It was not until 1530 during the Great Reformation the Lutheran Church came about in Germany under the leadership of Martin Luther, a former Catholic monk who was converted to faith in Christ Alone upon reading in the Scriptures, “The just shall live by faith,” (Romans 1:17). In 1541 the Presbyterian Church came into being in Switzerland under the leadership of John Calvin who left the Catholic Church upon his conversion to Christ. England’s King Henry VIII established the Church of England around 1534, making himself the head of the church after the Catholic Church would not annul his marriage to his first wife. In spite of their coming out of the Catholic Church, each of these denominations continued the practices of church and state alliances, baptismal regeneration, and infant baptism, which had evolved throughout the intervening years to either sprinkling or pouring for baptism.

The Methodist Church was born out of the work of John and Charles Wesley, and George Whitfield, in the 1700s, who had been members of the Church of England and had hoped to reform it from within. The Episcopal and Anglican churches also derive from the Church of England begun by Henry VIII. Those who remained true to the Scriptures since the days Jesus walked with His disciples and taught them salvation is by grace alone through faith alone were first referred to as Baptists in 1523 in Switzerland.