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Restoration to end 19th Century

Restoration from Reformation to 1900

Luther defends himself before the Emperor at the Diet in Worms, 17-18 April 1521

Luther defends himself before the Emperor at the Diet in Worms, 17-18 April 1521

There is no doubt that the Reformation was a great event in the history of Christ’s church. At the heart of all its benefits was a new allegiance to the Bible, which became the plumbline, the measuring rod, the litmus test for all God’s truth. ‘Sola Scriptura’ was the watchword of the Reformers. The Reformed traditions of Protestantism see the Bible as the sole, infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice. Until the Reformation the laity was forbidden to read the Bible. The ultimate authority was the Church ie the Church’s leaders, particularly the Pope. The Reformation changed all that! Charles Spurgeon later said, “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.” That’s precisely what the Reformers did.

The translation, printing and distribution of the Bible was the spark that kindled the fire of the reformation. This has always been God’s way. ‘In the beginning was the Word’ John 1:1. ‘The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.’ Ps 119:130.

When revelation came, the goal of the Reformers was to reform the entire Latin church. That was their dream! But it was an impossible dream. The Church was resistant to change – even if that change was to return to the Bible’s teaching. Instead, the Church excommunicated Luther and demonised all who dared challenged the Holy Church. The Reformation caused something of a revolution!

Luther’s major points of reform

Luther had three central ideas:

1. Scripture is the final authority on all matters of faith.

2. Justification by faith alone, which asserts that God’s pardon for guilty sinners is granted to and received through faith alone, excluding all “works” (good deeds).

3. The priesthood of all believers regardless of their vocation.

There were less significant doctrines and practices that were challenged, but these three are the main and central basis of the Reformation.

Did Luther’s Reformation work?

Unfortunately not! New churches were born and set free from the tyrannical rule of a corrupt and delinquent church. What a triumph! It brought spiritual freedom to millions of people. But it was only a partial reformation – only a few doctrines and practices of the Biblical church were truly restored.

1. Scripture is the final authority on all matters of faith.

Luther correctly used the Bible to test all the heresies of his beloved church – and found them wanting. He exposed relics, pilgrimages, purgatory and five of the seven sacraments, amongst other issues. But he failed to explore the Bible to find a broader view of what the church should look like – its ecclesiology. He majored on soteriology – but there was so much more that God wanted to reveal through His Word.

In addition, Luther was not comfortable with the entire Bible. He majored on Pauls writings but was not comfortable with James, which he called ‘an epistle of straw,’ and never really accepted Revelation as part of Holy Writ. He effectively handicapped the church in its eschatology and its hope for the future.

The ‘Sola Scriptura’ was compromised throughout. He failed to apply the Scripture to the whole Christian life and the whole of church structure.

2. Justification by faith alone

This was Luther’s most famous rediscovery, which had to do with the fundamental basis of biblical Christianity: ‘How can a person be saved?’ or How does a person become a Christian?’ This was the most essential doctrine that needed to be restored to the church in the sixteenth century – and any century! But Luther made justification the beginning, the middle and the end of soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. It was another 100 years before sanctification was restored and another 400 years before a full revelation regarding the Holy Spirit (pneumatology) was restored.

3. The priesthood of all believers

The priesthood of all believers was applied to the old ‘priesthood and laity’ divide. Luther’s point was that there was no difference in the standing of a church leader and any church member. The only difference was one of role, not of status before God.

But is that all the Bible means by the priesthood of all believers? It took 500 years of church history for God’s people to recognise that every member of Christ’s body has a function which is essential to the churches health and growth into maturity. Only in the late 21st century did ‘every member ministry’ become a practice rather than a doctrine – and even then it had very limited application in the Western church.

Conclusion

Luther’s contribution to the life of God’s church was indeed remarkable – but he wasn’t perfect, neither were his teachings. He was just another cog in the machine of God’s restoration of the church which continued on through every century until today. Our purpose today is to complete Luther’s reformation and be part of God’s great plan to completely restore the church before Jesus returns.

Restoration from the Reformation to the Twentieth Century

This is a provisional list of men and movements that God used to restore various doctrines and practices to the church from the Reformation to the end of the 19th century. We will add to these as our research continues. There are a vast number of restorationists in our glorious history – and the end is not yet!

Anabaptists

Michael Sattler

Ignatius Loyola

John Denk

Grebel and Manz

Puritans, Smyth, Robinson

Quakers, George Fox,

John Bunyan

Jean de Labadie

Baptist-Seperatists

Pietism, Spener, Franke

The Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, John Wesley and the Methodists, Count Nicholas Louis Von Zinzendorf and Moravians

2nd Great Awakening 1800 – Thomas Campbell, Alexander Campbell, Barton Warren Stone

Robert and James Haldane

Stundists

Plymouth and Christian Brethren, J. N. Darby, A. N. Groves, George Müller, Henry Craik

Disciples of Christ

Edward Irving

Charles Finney

1859 revival

D. L. Moody

Keswick Movement