Monday, October 17, 2011

The Reformation and the Men Behind It

As Reformation Day (Oct. 31) approaches, we will be presenting a series of posts about the major Reformers who led the effort to restore the church in the sixteenth century—Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, William Tyndale, Heinrich Bullinger, and John Calvin. These posts are excerpted from Pillars of Grace by Dr. Steven J. Lawson. In this book, Dr. Lawson traces the teaching of the doctrines of grace from the Early Church Fathers to the Reformers. Each chapter focuses on one man and includes a biographical sketch. It is these biographical sketches that we will be posting on the blog. We hope you will enjoy and learn from the stories of these remarkable men. In today’s post, Dr. Lawson offers some background on the Reformation and the Reformers.

The Protestant Reformation stands as the most far-reaching, world-changing display of God’s grace since the birth and early expansion of the church. It was not a single act, nor was it led by one man. This history-altering movement played out on different stages over many decades. Its cumulative impact, however, was enormous. Philip Schaff, a noted church historian, writes: “The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history. It marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII: Modern Christianity—The German Reformation [1910; repr., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980], 1). The Reformation was, at its heart, a recovery of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and this restoration had an unparalleled influence on churches, nations, and the flow of Western civilization.

Under the guiding hand of God, the world scene had been uniquely prepared for the Reformation. The church was greatly in need of reform. Spiritual darkness personified the Roman Catholic Church. The Bible was a closed book. Spiritual ignorance ruled the minds of the people. The gospel was perverted. Church tradition trumped divine truth. Personal holiness was abandoned. The rotten stench of manmade traditions covered pope and priest. The corruption of ungodliness contaminated both dogma and practice. To read more, click here.

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