The Protestants date back to Christ and the apostles. They came out and separated themselves from a religion of forms and ceremonies. Luther and his followers simply accepted it as presented by Christ and His followers. Those reformers whose protest has given us the name of Protestants, felt that God had called them to give the light of the gospel to the world. In doing this they were ready to sacrifice their possessions, liberty, and their own lives.
Question: By what great movement was the influence of the Papacy over the nations weakened?
Answer: By the great Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.
Question: In what country and under what servant of God was the Reformation most prominent?
Answer: Germany, under Martin Luther. See note.
Question: On what two great principles was the Reformation based?
Answer: “The principles contained in the celebrated protest [at the Diet of Spires] on the 19th of April, 1529, constitute the very essence of Protestantism. Now this protest opposes two abuses of man in matters of faith; the first is the intrusion of the civil magistrate; and the second, the arbitrary authority of the church. Instead of these abuses, Protestantism sets the power of conscience above the magistrate, and the authority of the word of God above the visible church.
In the first place, it rejects the civil power in divine things, and says, with the prophets and apostles, ‘We must obey God rather than man.’ In the presence of the crown of Charles the Fifth [civil authority] it uplifts the crown of Jesus Christ. But it goes further; it lays down the principle that all human teaching should be subordinate to the oracles of God.”—D. Aubigne, Hist. Ref., book 13, chap. 6.
Question: What was the language of the protest as regards the faith of others?
Answer: “We form no judgment on that which concerns you, most dear lords; and we are content to pray God daily that He will bring us all to unity of faith in truth, charity, and holiness, through Jesus Christ, our throne of grace, and our only Mediator.”— Id., Protest of Spires, par. 8.
Question: How, in their view, was the commandment of God and their soul’s salvation affected by numbers?
Answer: “It concerns the glory of God and the salvation of our souls, and that in such matters we ought to have regard, above all, to the commandment of God, who is King of kings and Lord of lords, each of us rendering Him account for himself; without caring the least in the world about majority or minority.”— Id., Protest of Spires, par. 7.
Question: What did Luther say as regards the matter of force in religion ?
Answer: “I have made it my earnest prayer that the German princes would oppose the Romans by the wisdom of their counsel, not by the sword.”—Id., book 7, par. 40. Luther asked only protection for himself equally with all others.
Question: What does a Protestant authority say of the Protestant standard?
Answer: “The Bible, I say, the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants. Nor is it of any account in the estimation of the genuine Protestant how early a doctrine originated if it is not found in the Bible. He learns from the New Testament itself that there were errors in the times of the apostles, and that their pens were frequently employed in combating those errors.
. . . The consistent and true-hearted Protestant, standing upon this rock, `the Bible and the Bible only,’ can admit no doctrine upon the authority of tradition; . . . he who receives a single doctrine on the mere authority of tradition, let him be called by what name he will, by so doing, steps down from the Protestant rock, passes over the line which separates Protestantism from popery, and can give no valid reason why he should not receive all the earlier doctrines and ceremonies of Romanism, upon the same authority.”—Dowling’s History of Rornanism, book 2, chap. 1.
Question: What further testimony does the historian bear as to the basis of true Protestantism ?
Answer: “The Reformation was accomplished in the name of a spiritual principle. It had proclaimed for: its teacher – the word of God; salvation – faith, king – Jesus Christ, arms – the Holy Ghost; and had by these very means rejected all worldly elements. Rome had been established by the law of a carnal commandment; the Reformation, by the power of an endless life.” – D’ Aubigne’s History of Reformation, book 14, par. 1.
Question: What power alone could it bring to bear upon rulers and people?
Answer: ” Thus one of the greatest tasks of the sixteenth century was to restore the spiritual element to its rights. The gospel of the Reformers had nothing to do with the world and with politics. While the Roman hierarchy had become a matter of diplomacy and a court intrigue, the Reformation was destined to exercise no other influence over princes and people than that which proceeds from the gospel of peace.”—Id., par. 3.
Question: Was the principle of the separation of church and state a gospel principle?
Answer: And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him. Mark 12:17.
Question: What did Jesus say with reference to the use of carnal means for the promotion of the gospel?
Answer: Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Matthew 26:52.
Question: By what means only was His cause to be advanced?
Answer: Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 4:6.
Question: Why could not the kingdom of God be carried forward by carnal means?
Answer: Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. John 18:36.
Question: Why is it impossible for carnal men and means to enforce the law of God?
Answer: For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. Romans 7:14.
Question: In what realm does the real Christian warfare exist?
Answer: Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 2 Corinthians 10:5.
Question: What weapons, then, are to be used ?
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:13-17.
Question: What, therefore, is the duty of the servant of Christ with respect to others?
Answer: Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. 2 Corinthians 5:11.
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20.
Question: What rebuke did Christ gave to those who demanded of Him, and who themselves assumed, magisterial power?
And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? Luke 12:13, 14.
And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. Luke 9:54-55.
Question: In short, therefore, what is the object of Christ and His church?
Answer: For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. Luke 9:56.
Question: Does the gospel condemn those even who do not believe in Christ?
Answer: And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. John 12:47.
Question: What is the attitude of Christians toward rulers ?
Exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 1 Timothy 2:1-3.
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 1 Peter 2:13-17.
Question: Yet when human laws conflict with God’s law, what is the Christian’s duty?
Answer: But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. Acts 4:19.
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29.
Question: On what, therefore, were the principles of the Protestant Reformation based?
Answer: The everlasting gospel. Revelation 14:6.
Question: If these principles had been followed, what would have been the result?
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. John 17:21-23.
The Reformation was not confined to Germany. It permeated all Europe, aroused the wrath of the Papacy, and brought upon the Christians greater persecution. Reaction from this persecution came when France was depopulated of its best souls, when all Europe was torn, distracted, and weakened, when the mystery of iniquity was revealed in its wickedness. The refuge for the oppressed of all was opened in an unknown part of the world – America. “The earth helped the woman.” Revelation 12:16. In 1776 Maria Therese, empress of Austria, issued a decree that all Christians should be tolerated. Shortly after this (A. D. 1798) the persecuting power of the Papacy was taken away.
The experience of those noble reformers contains a lesson for all succeeding ages. Satan’s manner of working against God and His Word has not changed. He is still as much opposed to the Scriptures being made the guide of life as in the sixteenth century. In our time there is a wide departure from their doctrines and precepts. There is need of a return to the great Protestant principle – the Bible, and the Bible only, as the rule of faith and duty.
In the days of Paul, the gospel for which he was imprisoned was thus brought before the princes and nobles of the imperial city. So on this occasion, “that which the emperor had forbidden to be preached from the pulpit, was proclaimed in the palace; what many had regarded as unfit even for servants to listen to, was heard with wonder by the masters and lords of the empire. Kings and great men were the auditory, crowned princes were the preachers, and the sermon was the royal truth of God.” “Since the apostolic age,” says a writer,“there has never been a greater work, or a more magnificent confession of Jesus Christ.
God’s faithful servants were not toiling alone
While principalities and powers and wicked spirits in high places were leagued against them, the Lord did not forsake his people. Could their eyes have been opened, they would have seen as marked evidence of divine presence and aid as was granted to a prophet of old. When Elisha’s servant pointed his master to the hostile army surrounding them, and cutting off all opportunity for escape, the prophet prayed – Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. 2 Kings 6:17. And, lo, the mountain was filled with chariots and horses of fire, the army of Heaven stationed to protect the man of God. Thus did angels guard the workers in the cause of the Reformation.
When powerful foes were uniting to overthrow the reformed faith, Luther wrote: “Satan is raging; ungodly priests take counsel together, and we are threatened with war. Exhort the people to contend earnestly before the throne of the Lord, by faith and prayer, that our adversaries, being overcome by the Spirit of God, may be constrained to peace. The most urgent of our wants – the very first thing we have to do, is to pray; let the people know that they are at this hour exposed to the edge of the sword and the rage of the devil; let them pray.”
From the secret place of prayer came the power that shook the world in the Great Reformation
God did listen to the cries of his servants. He gave to princes and ministers grace and courage to maintain the truth against the rulers of the darkness of this world. Saith the Lord – Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner-store, elect, precious, and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 1 Peter 2:6. The Protestant reformers had built on Christ, and the gates of hell could not prevail against them.
Christ was a protestant. He protested against the formal worship of the Jewish nation, who rejected the counsel of God against themselves. He told them that they taught for doctrines the commandments of men, and that they were pretenders and hypocrites. Like whited sepulchers they were beautiful without, but within full of impurity and corruption. The Reformers date back to Christ and the apostles. They came out and separated themselves from a religion of forms and ceremonies. Luther and his followers did not invent the reformed religion. They simply accepted it as presented by Christ and the apostles.
Opposition is the portion of all whom God employs to make an advance move in His work
He does that by presenting truth specially applicable to their time. The controversy between Christ and Satan is to increase in intensity to the close of this earth’s history. Those who dare to present truths that are not in harmony with the popular churches and with the world, will thereby become the objects of slander, reproach, and falsehood.
There is today the same disposition to substitute the theories and traditions of men for the word of God as in the days of Christ, Paul and Luther. Ministers advance doctrines which have no foundation in the Scriptures of truth. In place of Bible proof, they present their own assertions as authority. The people accept the minister’s interpretation of the word, without earnest prayer that they may know what is truth.
All who possess reasoning powers can know for themselves what is truth. Those who pray and search for light, will receive light.
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Isaiah 8:20
The advocates of truth in our day should not expect their message to be received with greater favor than was that of the early Reformers. Nay, rather, they should expect greater difficulties and more determined opposition than were experienced by Luther and his fellow-laborers. Satan’s hatred for the truth is the same in all ages. As he sees that his time is short, he makes one last mighty effort, by signs and lying wonders, to deceive and destroy. His prey is not merely the unbelieving world, but the great mass of professed Christians who have not received the love of the truth that they might be saved.
- Lessons on the Great Three-Fold Message of Revelation 14 – 1896
- GC88 207-210; RH, June 1, 1886; ST, Jun, 1883 – The Ellen G. White Estate
- King James Version (KJV) Bible – BibleGateway
- Image courtesy – Pixabay
Last Update: November 9, 2018
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