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Evangelist, Baptist, Husband, Father, Mid-30's.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reformation Day, an Eye-Witness Account

A sermon preached last year:

Text – Romans 1:17

Good morning, isn’t it a beautiful Wednesday October 31st, Anno Domini 1517? My name, for today, is Reverend Scherer, Augustinian Monk in Wittenburg, electorate of Saxony, Confederation of the Rhine, which is in Deutchland. Something is going to happen today, I fear, for Brother Martin has been complaining of the validity of some of the practices within the Papacy. I share some of his concerns, but he has written 95 charges against the Church and the Pope, surely this will bring great dissension and maybe even cost Brother Martin his life! I mean, a few may start a dialogue, but 95 will start a war!

Let me give you some background. The year is 1517, Anno Domini, which means 1,517 years after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, as estimated by a Scythian Monk named Dennis the Short in AD 525. Throughout this time the Lord has had a church on earth, a representative of his kingdom, an ambassador to the heathen.

This church has had such great saints in it as Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp bishop of Smyrna who remained true to Christ in such great persecution, Augustine of Hippo who wrote that great systematic theology, Nicholas bishop of Myra who stood up to that antichrist Arius who denied Christ as God, Patrick who converted Ireland, Boniface who converted our beloved Germany, Francis who preached directly out of God’s Word in the open air and called men to repent and trust in Jesus Christ, Savonarola who fought corruption within the Church, and Christopher Columbus who has just recently taken the gospel to previously undiscovered heathen lands; time would fail me to tell of all of the great men and women who stood and even died for the one true faith delivered once for all.

But alas, there is great corruption within the Church, just last year John Tetzel came to Wittenberg to sell men tickets to sin, called indulgences! Only a hundred years ago there were two Popes operating in Christendom…at the same time! It is said that there is a prostitute in Rome for every ten men, and some of them even dress as nuns! It is a sad day in the Church, surely something must be done.

I have here a Bible authorized by the Papacy, translated by that godly man Jerome of Stridonium. Beloved, I would that you could read this book, but it is in Latin, and you speak German, and most of you cannot even read that language. I could read it to you, but I am untrained in how to interpret it for you, and the true meaning seems to be veiled to my eyes; from Rome comes the message of which I will preach to you on Sunday, and even then I will deliver this message to you in Latin, a language I hold a masters degree in from Erfurt, but still find difficult to understand.

This Book is God’s Word to us, and the German language is too harsh for us to dare translate it into, lest we blaspheme our Creator. Two men whom the Church leaders hate, Jon Hus and John Wycliffe, did presume to translate this Book into the vernacular, the common language, of the people. Wycliffe into the English language, and though sentenced to death by burning escaped only by natural death, a stroke most likely. Hus into the Bohemian language, and he was burned at the stake for it. Aha, Wycliffe did not escape the fire though, for they burned his bones along with Hus’. Oh how the Church hates these men!!! But…I am not so sure they were in the wrong, for I have been reading this Book in a new light ever since I have been talking to Professor Luther.

Brother Martin asked me to read Romans 1:17, which was strange because my Bible does not have numbers in it, which won’t be added until 1558, but he asked me to read this verse.

Romans 1:17 Iustitia enim Dei in eo revelatur ex fide in fidem sicut scriptum est iustus autem ex fide vivit.

Isn’t that beautiful! How have we missed that until now? It means things that we have not been taught by the Church, it says that our greatest fears are relieved by our amazing God, it sets my heart at ease! It attacks those who say we can buy our way into Heaven, it rejects our Prince’s relics which we look upon to hope for Heaven, and it rejects that wolf Tetzel who comes and steals from our widows and orphans by selling them a license to sin. Oh how I hate that extortioner Tetzel, who uses religious ignorance and our sinners’ heart to deprive us of us sustenance and sends the money to Rome to build that worthless Basilica of St. Peter.

Oh beloved, this verse in Romans is so beautiful; Brother Martin says when he read it a light broke forth over him! He felt that he was instantly born again, and that he entered into the kingdom of paradise through open gates! Oh the beauty of this verse, don’t you agree? What? You don’t understand it! Oh, forgive me, I forgot that you do not speak Latin.

Oh beloved, in order to translate this for you I put my own ordination at risk, I break Roman law not to preach the Word of God in the vernacular of the people! Oh, but is it wise to obey men or God? I must speak that what I have seen and heard of this Christ!

Romans 1:17 Sintemal darin offenbart wird die Gerechtigkeit, die vor Gott gilt, welche kommt aus Glauben in Glauben; wie denn geschrieben steht: "Der Gerechte wird seines Glaubens leben."

Now you must see it! Surely you see it?! No? Oh, we’re not German, we’re only pretending, let us try one more time!

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."

The righteous shall live by faith! We are not saved by indulgences, or prayers, or offices, or relics, or Sabbaths, or priests, or baptisms, or Church membership, or communion, we are saved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, received through faith, for, righteousness is revealed from faith for faith! Beloved, you have no idea how this puts my soul at rest, I had tried so hard to keep the laws of God, but in my body I feel that I am slave to sin, that I have no ability to choose good nor God, and that my sin had utterly separated me from Heaven! But thanks be to Jesus Christ who paid for my sins, who bore my condemnation, who indeed paid it all, and now beloved, all to him I owe.

And now Brother Martin is going to start a theological war with the Papacy, he has detailed how Rome has failed to adhere to the Bible, he has placed the Bible as his sole authority. I would like to take some credit for this, for Brother Martin was once an amazing priest of the Roman Church, a better priest could not be found. He took his ordinances seriously, he spent hours in confession boring the confessional priests with peccadillo, or petty sins, and he became exceedingly angry on that day when he heard me joke in my duties. For you see, when we Roman priests take the bread for communion and lift it in thanks, we are required to say, “Hoc Est Corpus Meum” and declare the bread to be the very body of Jesus Christ, but beloved, in my boredom and God feeling so distant, once I said, “Panis es, et panis manebis,” which is certainly the truth, that “Bread thou is, and bread thou shalt remain.” Dear Brother Martin overhead and became irate, but ever since then he has diligently studied the scriptures and has genuinely become a new man! I wish that I could take credit for his conversion, but I know that all honor and power belong to the Holy Spirit of God.

At this very moment Brother Martin is on his way to nail his list of grievances to the door of the Cathedral where all public announcements are made. Ninety-five grievances, no more, no less, all vehemently attacking the corruption of the Church. Are these Theses perfect? No, by no means, I see a great many errors even in my early reading of the Holy Scriptures, but I have no doubt that Brother Luther will grow much in the following years, that is, if he survives this war he is about to declare. I have no doubt that he will grow greatly in his understanding of the Word, especially as he has confided that he would like to translate the Bible into the German language. But as for these Theses, some are quite good and accurate, I have here a few of his theses which I would like to read,

#1 When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

#21 Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope's indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved.

#27 There is no divine authority for preaching that as soon as the coin in the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory springs.

#32 All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

#52 It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.

#62 The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

#82 To wit: -- "Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial."

These are the statements which Brother Martin has taken to the church. I tried to stop him, asking him if his life and the unity of the Church were worth him making his statement. He replied to me that he sought peace if possible, but truth at all costs.

Today, I see that Martin Luther is birthing a veritable Reformation of the Church! I see that unless God does a mighty work in the hearts of the Papists, we must split and become two churches, one following the truth, and the other a lie. Oh that this division would not have to happen, for many of my friends are loyal to the Papist cause, and it is my fervent hope and prayer to God that they may be saved. But see that there are great distinctions which will grow out of Martin Luther’s call for truth, something which some day may be called the Solas of the Reformation.

Sola Fide – Faith Alone, we see this preached oh so clearly in Romans 1:17, that we are saved not by works plus faith, but by faith alone. We trust in Christ, and it is counted to us as righteousness.

Solo Christo – Christ Alone, that our salvation was accomplished totally by our great God and Saviour on the cross and in his resurrection, not that he opened a way or made it possible for us to be saved, but that he has forever secured for us salvation, if we trust in him. Would someone please read for us Hebrews 10:14, in English, please,

Hebrews 10:14 by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Sola Gracia – Grace Alone, of course we see now that it is not Christ plus our good deeds, but Christ alone that has saved us. Beloved, I have thought on this long and hard, and it seems that we must view grace in light of justice. For justice is when we get what we deserve, and having transgressed the laws of Heaven, what we deserve is the punishment of God. If God were to merely commute our sentence and give us mercy, we would be freed from punishment, but we would still miss Heaven. Here is grace, that what we did not deserve, entrance into the very kingdom of Heaven, God has given us as a free gift, purchased at so great a cost on Calvary’s cross.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone, no-one can or should speak for God apart from his Word, it is how he speaks, it is what he intends for us to know about him. The Archbishop of the Roman Church, known as the Pope, has claimed to be able to speak for God, but we have seen him fail time and time again, and it has become clear to those of us reading our Bibles that the Word is how God speaks to us, not through prayers, not through funny feelings, not through hunches, not through dreams, not (dare I say it) through Popes; but by the very Word of God.

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria – Brother Martin has put it so well, The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God. The purpose of our salvation is not primarily for our benefit, it is to exalt our Sovereign Lord, demonstrating the extent of his justice by punishing sin so violently on the cross, and magnifying his grace by giving us the righteousness of his Son freely; truly this is a gospel worthy of all acceptation.

1 John 2:12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.

Sola Sacerdos – One of the reasons I became an Augustinian Friar is because of the things which the Papists believe the priest, the Sacerdote, is able to do. For example, you saw earlier that it is believed that I have the power to turn bread into the very body of Christ. The priest in the confessional is able to forgive sins, it is believed, and a priest can turn your money into a pardon for sin in paper form.

The Church, and I myself, have become guilty of Sacerdotalism, of worshipping the priesthood instead of God! It is tragic, beloved, and if what Brother Martin has deduced from the Bible is true, it is just a matter of time before this separation of priests and laity fails and we become a church of Sola Sacerdos, of one priesthood, where there is no distinction in God’s eyes between male and female, slave and free, Jew and Greek, and priest and parishioner.

In a Sacerdotal religion, only priests can approach God to receive grace, but in a religion of priests, everyone can enter into the holiest of places, for Christ has made us a congregation of priests, and now we all can enter into his holiest of places.

Hebrews 10:19-22 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

This has huge implications for me beloved, for I stand before you in this priests’ frock, a manner for separating me from you and identifying myself as having more grace and favor than you. But if this Christ esteems us all the same and gives to us all of the same privileges, then this outfit means nothing.

These things, beloved, that I have said to you are radical to the Church at Rome, truly I could be defrocked just for saying them, that is ejected from their priesthood, but to reject the tradition of men and be welcomed into the priesthood of Christ is gain, for though it took so long and so much effort to earn this frock, I count it as rubbish compared to the gain I have in Christ, being found in him with a righteousness not my own, but one received through faith, knowing the power of his resurrection. This may mean that I must suffer many things for his name’s sake, but I know that I will be made like him in his death, with a full assurance of partaking in his resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-9)

Beloved, I perceive that in the future as this Reformation of the church continues, the wearing of vestments, of robes, will become a matter of greater and greater contention. Men ordained to the gospel ministry, having read their Bible, will refuse to put on a robe, and some of them will even die for it. Others will attempt to redefine the purpose of this robe, stating that it is to take the emphasis off of the pastor and put the emphasis on the Word. Those that redefine this robe will begin to refer to it as a Geneva Gown, named in honor of the Geneva Reformation which will be sparked in only a few years. Two-hundred years in the future George Whitefield will preach in a robe very similar to this one for 18,000 sermons, calling two entire nations, England and America, to repentance in the Living Christ.

But as for me, beloved, I will be reminded that this Reformation is born in Sola Fide, and it is growing in Sola Scriptura, and these two are vitally important, as are the rest, but if this Reformation survives until Christ returns, it will be sustained in Sola Sacerdos, with every believer knowing that they are a priest of the most high God, Christ our overseer of the church, and these priests will take their duties seriously, knowing the scriptures, and carrying the gospel of grace to all peoples. For beloved, there is great darkness in the world today, even in the Church, but this Reformation will preach under a banner of “Post Tenebras Lux”, that after darkness comes light. This world is set to explode in light, for the Word of God has been revealed. Within fifty years, a man burned in Britain will say to his companion, “Play the man, Ridley, for we this day shall light such a candle in England as I trust shall never be put out.”

In just a few years a new believer, William Tyndale, will translate the Bible into English, and he will say of the Roman priesthood, “A boy behind a plow will know more scripture than you.” He will lose his life, burnt at the stake, for his belief in the priesthood of believers, but his prediction will come true. Brother Martin, starting this war, will spend years in seclusion hidden in a castle as he translates the Old and New Testaments into German, and God will mercifully spare his life and bless his efforts. The printing press, invented less than 100 years ago, will ensure that these Bibles are disseminated, and that gospel tracts containing the glorious gospel of Christ will flood throughout the continent and the British isles.

I represent any number of reformed believers, my name is lost to history, but my labor in the Lord was not in vain. I will remove this robe and preach no longer in Latin, but in the vernacular of the people, for faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of Christ. I will not submit to a man acting vicariously in the place of Christ, but my affections and loyalties will only be to the King of kings. Many whom I represent will be hunted and killed by the Papal Church, but this gospel of Christ will not fail before it accomplishes its purpose, that someone from every nation and tongue will praise the name of Christ for his grace and sacrificial death on the cross.

Beloved, as you hear this message, I implore you first and foremost to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ and Christ alone. Then know your Bible, for it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its content. Men have bled and died so that you can own this Book and read it in English. They have given their lives in the gospel ministry, knowing that any gain apart from Christ is utter rubbish, and that each of us has only one life, and it will soon be past, and only what is done for Christ will last.

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