Church History: Reformation (2)

By Aude McKee

I. Last week we gave attention to the factors and people who were responsible (at least in part) for the reformation:

A. Corruption within the Roman Catholic Church.

1. Wicked popes.

2. Internal strife.

3. The Inquisition Courts.

B. External factors.

1. The Renaissance.

2. Bible translations.

3. Invention of the printing press.

C. People.

1. Albigenses.

2. Waldenses.

3. John Wycliff – “Morning Star of the Reformation.”

4. John Huss.

II. In this lesson, we notice the formation of the first Protestant denomination and some general things about the reformation.

A. It needs to be pointed out that the men involved in the Reformation did not intend to begin new churches.

B. The aim of these men was to reform the Roman Catholic Church.

1. Heb. 6:1-6 is speaking of individual apostasy; however, the principle might be applied to the situation under discussion. The writer said, “It is impossible to renew them again to repentance.”

2. The Roman Catholic Church had gone too far to be reformed.

3. Viewed from this standpoint, the reformation was a failure. But good, as well as evil and error, came out of it as we shall see.


I. Luther’s Experiences (1483-1546).

A. Son of a poor miner but was given a good education.

1. In higher education began a study of law.

2. In 1505 the death of a close friend caused Luther to enter the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt.

3. In 1507 he was ordained a priest and assigned to Whittenburg, Germany.

B. Luther then began a serious investigation of the Bible – his troubles began.

1. In 1512 he was awarded a Doctor of Theology degree and began lecturing at the University.

2. About this time he was sent to Rome on a special mission and the corruption he saw helped crystalize his convictions.

II. Luther’s Break With The Roman Catholic Church.

A. John Tetzel came into Germany selling indulgences.

1. Luther preached against such and on October 31, 1517, nailed his 95 thesis to the church door of the All-Saints church in Whittenburg.

2. Luther did this, not to fight against the Catholic Church, but to preserve the honor of the Church.

3. Copies of the propositions spread all over Germany and Luther’s name became a household word.

B. Out of this, John Eck branded Luther as a heretic.

1. This led to a 23 day debate between Luther and Eck. Eck’s purpose was to draw out Luther enough on his doctrines so that the Pope could be persuaded to excommunicate him. Eck was successful.

2. The Papal bull of condemnation was then issued against Luther. When it was delivered to Luther, he made a public display of burning it on the streets of Whittenburg. He was then excommunicated.

C. In April 1521, Luther was summoned to appear before the Diet of Worms.

1. Before this tribunal he was offered the opportunity to recant. His reply was: “Unless I shall be convinced by the testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear reason, . . . I neither can nor will make any retraction, since it is neither safe nor honorable to act against conscience; I can naught else! Here I stand! God help me!”

2. On May 25, he was declared an outlaw.

3. As he returned to Whittenburg, his friends “kidnaped” him and for about a year he remained in Wartburg Castle.

4. During this time he translated the New Testament into the German language.

III. Formation of the Lutheran Church.

A. As an outgrowth of all these events, groups of people began to meet together who were in sympathy with Luther’s teaching.

1. The movement was given added direction by Luther with his publication of two catechisms in 1529.

2. In 1530 Philip Melanchthon published the Augsburg Confession which helped form the doctrinal foundation of the Lutheran Church.

3. Lutherans hold to the so-called Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.

B. Interesting facts about the Lutheran Church.

1. Doctrines.

a. Two Sacraments – baptism and the Lord’s Supper (“sacrament” unscriptural).

b. Baptism is “by washing, pouring, immersion and sprinkling” (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:4).

c. Infants born totally depraved; therefore must be “baptized” (Ezek. 18:20; Matt. 18:3; 19:14).

d. The body and blood of Christ are “in, with and under the bread and wine of the Supper” (this is close to the transubstantiation doctrine of the Catholic Church).

e. Direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the heart of the sinner; faith is “wholly and solely the gift and work of God”; salvation is by faith alone (Mk. 16:15-16; Rom. 1:16; 10:17; Jas. 2:24).

2. Organization.

a. Locally – congregationally governed by a “church council” consisting of the “pastor” and elected “lay officers.”

b. Synod is the next higher body, composed of “Pastors” and “lay representatives” elected by the congregations.

c. Highest level of Lutheran government is the general body. It may be national or even international and meets annually, biennially, or triennially.

d. See Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-3; Heb. 13:17; Eph. 4:11; Phil. 1:1.

3. Division.

a. At one time there were no fewer than 150 different Lutheran bodies in this country.

b. Today that number has been reduced to less than 20.

IV. Fundamental Principles On Which The Reformation Movement Was Based.

A. The Bible was accepted as the only rule of faith and practice.

1. This was in opposition to the Catholic position that tradition is equal in authority with the written Word.

2. This position, if it had been completely believed and respected, would have resulted in the restoration of the Lord’s church instead of the establishment of Protestant denominations.

3. But this truth was modified (its power destroyed) by the following:

B. “What is not contrary to Scripture is for Scripture and Scripture for it.”

1. These are Luther’s words and the idea remains an important one in all Protestant denominations.

2. Simply stated, it says that anything may be accepted in religion which does not expressly contradict the Scriptures!

3. When Luther left the Catholic Church, he carried many false teachings with him such as instrumental music and sprinkling.

4. He, and other reformers, justified their unscriptural practices by this appeal to the silence of the Scriptures.

5. How many volumes would it have taken for the Lord to have included every specific prohibition? How many catalogues would Sears have to publish to list all the prices they are not asking for the items they sell’? How many woods did God tell Noah not to use? Can we put steak and coke on the Lord’s table? When you send your child to the grocery, do you put on your list all the things he is not to purchase or the items you want?

C. The doctrine of justification by faith only.

1. This extreme was produced by the Catholic doctrine of salvation by faith and works of human merit.

2. God’s order, from Adam down to the close of the last New Testament book, is this: Man believes (through the evidence God provides); God commands; Man obeys; God blesses.

D. The principle of the priesthood of all believers.

1. This was in contrast to the special priesthood of the Roman Catholic system.

2. When carried to its logical end, this would destroy:

a. Infallibility of the Pope.

b. The special powers of the Cardinals and all other Catholic officials.

c. Auricular Confession.

d. “Ordained officials” baptizing, serving the Lord’s Supper, etc.

3. See Peter 2:5,9.

E. The removal of obstructions placed between the believer and Christ.

1. This does away with intercession of saints, praying to Mary, veneration of relics and images, etc.

2. 1 Timothy 2:5; John 14:6.


1 . People reared in the 20th century have problems just as those people did who lived back in the 16th century.

2. With all the religious confusion about me, what should I believe? Whose doctrine should I follow? What church should I join?

3. The answer is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

a. Believe nothing but God’s word – it alone is inspired!

b. Follow no teaching but Christ’s – he has all authority (Matt. 28:18)!

c. Join no church! The church is God’s house or God’s family (1 Tim. 3:15).

d. Obey the gospel of Christ – the Lord will save and add to his church (Rom. 6:17-18; Acts 2:36-47; Heb. 5:8-9; 1 Pet. 4:17).

4. Remember that the decision you make will face your at the judgment!

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 16, pp. 488-489
August 18, 1988