Rom 1:16-17                        The Tumultuous Sixteenth Century                  10/29/2006      ßà   

  • Halloween or Reformation Day?





#1.       October 31, 1517, Luther at Wittenberg





  • The Just Shall Live by Faith (Rom 1:13-17, 3:22)





#2.       1534, Calvin at Basel





  • What Is the Meaning of “By Grace Alone”? (Rom 9:15-18,11-13, Psalm 76:10)





#3.       1572, The Huguenots





  • In the World Ye Shall Have Tribulation (John 15:18-22, 16:1-4,33)




Please open your Bibles to the Epistle to the Romans, Rom 1:13 (2X).

  • Halloween or Reformation Day?

Toward the end of the fifteenth century entire Europe was enveloped in the clutches of deep and dark idolatry. In the Balkans was the Ottoman Empire, which was clearly an idolatry. In the remainder of Europe, from the tip of Norway to the most southern tip of Spain the Roman Catholic Church reigned unchallenged. The church had no specific territory, but it was a state. The absolute monarch was the Pope. The church appointed rulers, it went to war, it negotiated treaties, it collected taxes. More than 80 % of the people were poor peasants who on Sundays went to church, and there they fell down before statues of saints and angels, burnt candles in front of the statues, and sent up their prayers and tears before these statues. All to no avail, for they were cruelly oppressed by most of their landlords.

In medieval times a festive day called “All Hallows” was kept on October 31, which was the eve of the Roman Catholic day called “All Saints Day”. It was a Celtic festival at the end of summer, and its importance was indicated by the rekindling of fire for the coming year, and by the practice of divination and its association with the dead, whose souls were supposed to revisit their homes on this day. And thus this festival acquired a sinister tone with ghosts, and witches, and fairies, and demons of all kinds roaming abroad. It was the only day on which the help of the Devil was invoked for divinations for such things as marriage, luck, health, and death. Immigrants to the United States, particularly the Irish, introduced in the 19th century the Halloween customs that we know today. On the other hand, in the year 1667 the day October 31 was declared “Reformation Day” in Saxony, Germany, in remembrance of the protestant reformation that swept through entire Europe 150 years earlier, and from there the custom spread quickly to other countries. You might think that the much nobler cause of Reformation Day would quickly replace the ugly custom of honoring the Devil on October 31. But herein you can see the depravity of mankind, for today the custom of Halloween has almost drowned out the custom of Reformation Day. But God is in control of history, and since we live near the end of time we know for sure that Reformation Day will bite the dust. Regardless what other people do, here in this little church we will continue to remember October 31 as Reformation Day, and we will have nothing to do with the wicked practices of Halloween. Since Reformation Day is a historical event, it is necessary that we look at some of the historical events leading up to the great movement that is called “The Reformation”. Let us then consider the events that took place in the sixteenth century, which I titled, The Tumultuous Sixteenth Century (2X). In this sermon I will focus on three dates in that century. The first one is:

#1.       October 31, 1517, Luther at Wittenberg

Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk, a priest, and a professor at the University of Wittenberg in Saxony, Germany. Even though he was a learned professor of theology, Martin Luther was very concerned about his own salvation. Finally, in studying the Scriptures in preparation for his lectures, he suddenly found in the Epistle to the Romans the key he was looking for. It was in a single word, the same word that had been the cause of his despair. It was the word “Justice”, or “Righteousness”. Luther had associated the righteousness of God with his eternal condemnation. But in Rom 1:17 he read, “The just shall live by faith”, and in a flash the words took on a new meaning. Luther wrote, “Finally God had mercy on me, and I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that gift of God by which a righteous man lives, namely, faith”. The despair of Luther’s life had been that he saw himself as undeserving of salvation. That is true of every human being. But now he saw the mercy of God on him personally. Now he was convinced that God gave (2X), He did not buy and sell, and thus grace was not purchasable, and could not be earned or deserved for turning to Christ in faith. Those who are saved are singled out not by their own merits, but by the grace of the Mediator, Jesus Christ, which means they are justified as by a free favor. Luther began to see that God the Holy Spirit had given him a change of heart. And thus regeneration of the soul could not be earned or deserved, but it had to come about through faith in God, which was given as a free gift. That was the start of Luther’s theology, and he labored hard to work these ideas into his lectures. Soon he began to criticize the worship of the saints, and then the trafficking in indulgences. There were many indulgence preachers all over Europe, but the most notable was John Tetzel, a Dominican friar. Then Tetzel came to the border of Saxony, and the Wittenbergers streamed across the border to buy their indulgences. Luther was aroused to indignation over Tetzel’s circus-like performance, and Luther summarized his ideas in the form of 95 theses for debate, which he posted on a placard nailed to the door of Frederick’s Castle Church. That date was October 31, in the year 1517. Luther sent copies of the placard to a few friends; the friends circulated it among their friends, who passed it on to printers, who sent it to other German cities almost overnight. In a few months they were distributed all over Europe. Luther was summoned to Rome. But the ruler of Saxony, Frederick the Wise, jealous of his territorial authority, did not allow a Saxon to leave Germany to be judged by Italians. In the meantime Luther continued to publish books. He wrote, “An Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation”. Then he published a book titled “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church”. Then he published the book “Treatise on Christian Liberty”, where he declared that man was bound only to the Law of the Word of God, and that the clergy was not to be elevated above the rest of mankind. Rome had delayed too long. In June of the year 1520 the Pope issued a bull, which is a decree from the Pope, condemning Luther’s works and ordering them to be burned. Luther was given 60 days to recant, or be excommunicated. But Luther was not afraid. He responded with the book, “Against the Execrable Bull of Antichrist”. And the people were on his side. All over Germany students rioted and burned anti-Lutheran publications instead of Luther’s works. Finally in April of the year 1521 Luther was summoned to appear before Charles the fifth, Emperor of the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. The meeting place was the city of Worms, in West Germany. Luther was assured that he had a free pass to and from Worms. There at the Diet of Worms Luther was shown 20 of his books, piled on a bench, and he was asked if he would recant the heresies they contained. Luther asked for time; he was given a day. The next day Luther gave his reply which he concluded with the words, “Unless I am convicted by Scripture or by right reason … I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience. God help me. Amen”. A month later the Emperor declared Luther an outlaw. But his protector, Frederick the Wise, arranged to have Luther taken to a mountain fortress where he remained in hiding for a little over a year. While he remained in hiding Luther translated the New Testament into German; an excellent translation, which was a tremendous help for the translators of the KJ Bible many years later. After this year in hiding Luther returned to Wittenberg where he remained for the next 25 years. And the Reformation which started by Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg took Europe by storm. For more than a century other men had tried to bring reform and failed. But Luther appeared at a decisive moment in history, just when the printing presses were invented; he came at the right time, and at the right place, at a position of authority at the University of Wittenberg. Now let us look at those words from the Epistle to the Romans, which made such an impression on Martin Luther.

  • The Just Shall Live by Faith (Rom 1:13-17, 3:22)

Ro 1:13  Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,)that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

Ro 1:14  I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

Ro 1:15  So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

Ro 1:16-17  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.          For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

If I may paraphrase, the Apostle Paul says here to the Christians in Rome: I often desired to come to you, for my only purpose is to reap fruit for the Gospel. My desire to visit Rome is based on my calling as the Apostle to the Gentiles, and I am ready to preach the Gospel to you that are at Rome also. What was the Gospel that the Apostle was ready to preach? The Gospel is another word for “the Good News”. What is the Good News, and what is the bad news? The bad news is that every man or woman or child is on the way to Hell, for we all came into the world as enemies of God and are all in rebellion against the Law of God. And God has decreed that the wages of sin is death, which is the second death in the Lake of Fire. But I am not afraid to preach this Gospel, for the Good News of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who has received the faith to believe this Gospel. Salvation means you are saved from going to Hell. The Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, for the Good News is that Christ will save everyone who believes in His atoning death on the cross. Before we go too far on this theme let us be clear that the Good News must be taken together with the bad news. The bad news is that all mankind is dead in trespasses and sins, even little babies. The bad news is that all mankind is totally depraved and is not able to turn to Christ in faith. Therefore if God wants to save some, then #1 God Himself must give to that man the grace to recognize that he is a sinner on the way to Hell, and #2 God Himself must give to that man the grace to believe that he has received mercy from God because he can see that he is drawn to believe the true Gospel. It is easy to say, “The just shall live by faith”, but we must understand that we cannot of our own selves conjure up that faith, for first we must be convinced that God gave, like God gave His only begotten Son. God does not buy and sell; God does not trade our conjured up faith with something that He has to sell, and thus grace is not purchasable, and could not be earned or deserved for turning to Christ in faith. Therefore, since we cannot of our own selves conjure up that faith, it is the power of God that saves a person. And since historically the elect among the Jews had first knowledge of this Gospel before the elect among the Gentiles knew any of this, therefore we read, “To the Jew first and also to the Greek”. For therein, that is in the Good News, is the righteousness of God revealed out of faith into faith. The righteousness of God is that attribute of God whereby He is altogether sinless, and perfect, and perfectly just in all His judgments. God says in Rom 3:22 (2X) that this righteousness of God is given to all those that believe. For through the faith of Jesus Christ, through the faith that His Father would not leave His soul in Hell, Christ purchased the right to give us the faith of Abraham, and to give us thereby the righteousness of God. What an incredible gift! That is why we read in Rom 1:17, “from faith to faith”, or literally from the Greek: “out of faith, into faith”. This great gift of God is made possible only through the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ for the sins of all those He came to save.

Let us now look at the second date in this “Tumultuous Sixteenth Century”.

#2.       1534, Calvin at Basel

John Calvin was born in 1509 in northern France. Expecting to become a priest Calvin went to Paris to study theology. Midway in his studies he was suddenly sent by his father to study law at Orleans. While at Orleans, Calvin also was overwhelmed by the evangelical literature, and began to associate with reformers. But France in the 1530’s was an uncertain place for men of unorthodox views. In the fall of 1534 king Francis 1st was on the offensive against the Reformation, and he equated the new faith with lawlessness. It was then that Calvin left France for Basel. Basel was a city in northern Switzerland. In Basel Calvin undertook to write “The Institutes of the Christian Religion”. This book was even more powerful than any single work of Martin Luther. It was the first significant comprehensive and logical exposition of the beliefs of the reformed faith. From the Scriptures Calvin understood that God was absolutely sovereign, and that His sovereignty was God’s most significant attribute. On the question of salvation Calvin differed with both Luther and with the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic stand was that salvation could be merited by good works, especially water baptism. Luther denied that this was true, and claimed that salvation was dependent on faith alone, provided that this faith was a gift from God and not a conjured up faith. Calvin reduced this principle to the doctrine of the elect, by which only the chosen of God were saved. Only the chosen of God would receive a regenerated soul, and with this changed disposition they only would turn to Christ in faith. Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Romans, Rom 9:15 (2X). We shall see in a few moments why Calvin limited salvation only to the elect. Finally, and most significant for the course of the Reformation in history, the Institutes dealt with the relationship between church and state. Calvin wrote that “Man is the subject of two kinds of government, the civil law and the Law of God, and that the civil government is designed … to establish general peace and tranquility, and that it is impossible to resist the civil government without at the same time resisting God Himself”. But to this exaltation of the civil law Calvin added weighty restrictions. “When Moses led the children of Israel against the king of Egypt he was armed with authority from heaven and punished an inferior power by a superior one. Therefore, the correction of tyrannical domination is the vengeance of God. And thus, the obedience due to the civil government ought not to seduce us from obedience to Him to whose will the desires of all kings ought to be subject”. These words traveled all over Europe and set the continent on fire with political revolution that would rage for the rest of the century. After publishing the “Institutes” Calvin left Basel and intended to travel to Strasbourg where he intended to do more writing and studying. On the way he stopped in Geneva, meaning only to stay for the night. Instead, except for an absence of a few years, he remained there for the rest of his life. The people of Geneva who were so proud of having overthrown the rule of the dukes of Savoy and of the Roman prelates, submitted willingly to the disciplined lifestyle of John Calvin. Influential citizens kept him going. Swiss independence had been born of discipline, and most of the Swiss took discipline for granted. Graduates of his academy went out all over Europe carrying Calvin’s influence as far away as Scotland. And here his teachings were taken up by another man, John Knox, who grafted Calvinism onto the Scottish soul, and in the bargain also transformed the social and political organization of an underdeveloped nation. Let us now see some of the verses that John Calvin saw as the doctrine of the elect.

  • What Is the Meaning of “By Grace Alone”? (Rom 9:15-18,11-13, Psalm 76:10)

Let us remember the definition of grace. Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve. Grace is “unmerited favor”. Can anyone merit unmerited favor? Absolutely NOT! On the other hand Mercy is God withholding what we do deserve. What do we deserve? We deserve Hell for all our sins. But if God shows His mercy towards us, then God withholds Hell from us because Christ already endured the equivalent of an eternity in Hell in our place. All those on whom God has mercy, who do not have to pay for their sins in Hell, are also the ones on whom God lavishes His grace. It was grace when He chose them from before the foundation of the world. It was mercy when Christ suffered and died for them on the cross. It was grace when God the Holy Spirit regenerated their soul. It will be grace when Christ shall give them their glorified bodies at His second coming. Now we read in Rom 9:15 (2X),

Ro 9:15  For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

Ro 9:16  So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

Ro 9:17  For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

Ro 9:18  Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

Verses 15 and 16 plainly teach the doctrine of election. In fact this entire chapter breathes the doctrines of election and reprobation. Paraphrased God said to Moses, I will show mercy and grace to whosoever I planned to show mercy and grace. I will show compassion on that person on whom I intended to show compassion. And I am not making up my mind in the course of time, for I have already from the beginning determined on whom I will show mercy. Earlier in verses 11-13 God said, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated”, and God said this before the children were born, before they could have done any good or evil, and God said this in order that the purpose of God according to election might stand. Therefore God said in verse 16, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy”. In other words, it does not depend on him that desires to be saved, or it does not depend on him that runs to do the Lord’s work in order to be saved. For if they do not have the grace and the mercy of God they will always run after other gods and they will always pray to other gods for salvation, for they do not know the God of the Bible. And then God writes verse 17, which is a chilling declaration to all those whom God never intended to save. God says to each one of them, “For this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show My power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth”. And through this we can see that “even the wrath of man will praise God” (Psalm 76:10). For example, the wrath of man was the instrument through which Christ was crucified, and this was an act which was altogether glorifying to God. Therefore, verse 18 says, God will have mercy on whom He intends to have mercy, and whom God does not want to save He hardens them in their rebellion. Clearly, God saves “By grace alone”, by His unmerited favor alone.

Let us now consider the third date in this Tumultuous Sixteenth Century. Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel according to John, John 15:18 (2X).

#3.       1572, The Huguenots

More precisely, the date was August 24, in the year 1572. No single event did more to seal the great divide between Roman Catholics and Protestants than the infamous St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. King Henry 2nd of France had married Catherine D’Medici, an Italian. After the death of Henry 2nd his son Francis 2nd became king at the age of fifteen, but he died a year later. His younger brother was too young to exercise authority, leaving the real power in the hands of his mother. But Catherine plotted against the Huguenots, who were the Calvinists of France. Catherine plotted with the duke of Guise to exterminate all the Protestants in France. The duke of Guise was put in full command of the enterprise. He told the commanders of the French soldiers that it was the will of the king that they should take vengeance on the band of rebels while they were sleeping. Victory was easy and the booty great. The signal to start the massacre should be given by the bell of the palace. Early in the morning, while Paris was still sleeping, they broke down the front doors of those who were known to be Huguenots, dragged them out of bed into the streets where they were massacred. No one was spared. Men women and children were all violently killed. The Protestant leader, Admiral Gaspard de Coligny was beheaded and his head was sent to Rome. There Pope Gregory the 13th received it joyfully and struck a commemorative medal celebrating his latest Catholic triumph. This massacre continued to spread into the provinces of France, and in six weeks more than 10,000 Huguenots were killed. Keep in mind that the population of France was much smaller in those days. Today this would be equivalent to having 500,000 Frenchmen killed, just because the queen did not like their religion.

Did the Lord Jesus tell His disciples that this was going to come to pass? The Lord said in Jo 16:33

  • In the World Ye Shall Have Tribulation (John 15:18-22, 16:1-4,33)

Let us begin to read in John 15:18-22,

Joh 15:18  If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

Joh 15:19-20  If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.                 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

Joh 15:21-22  But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.   If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.

This is not the world that God so loved, like in John 3:16. Most of the time the word world breaks down into two opposite concepts: It is either a world that God loves, a world of God’s elect, a world who loves God, or it is a world whom God hates, a world of all the non-elect, a world of haters of God. Paraphrased the Lord says to His disciples, “Do not be surprised to find that the world hates you. The world hates you because they hated me first”. Here the Lord Jesus introduced them to the sufferings they were going to endure. Christ assured them that they were going on the same path that He walked, and which they were called to follow. Were they willing to follow Him? Yes they were. Are we willing to follow Christ wherever He leads us? Are we not so sure? Remember that in John 10:4 the Lord Jesus said, “when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him”. The Lord Jesus was identifying Himself with the disciples. Does this comfort us that the Lord is identifying Himself with us? If we let the world know that we belong to Jesus that is sufficient to arouse the world’s anger against us. Like in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, we should keep in mind that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Think of the many murderers of Huguenots in the sixteenth century, and think of the many murders that people are willing to commit today for the sake of having a little more comfort, or for having a little more sex in their lives. And when the depravity of sinful men comes to the full, it is most evidenced in their hatred of what is pure and lovely and holy. When we move on to verse 19 the Lord states the various causes of the world’s hatred. Primarily it is because Christ has chosen us out of the world that we no longer belong to it. We no longer share their spirit. We no longer share their goals. We have different goals now. Or do you? Do we desire the smiles of men? Do we desire to stand high in their favor? What are our real interests in this life?

It is remarkable that the first reason why we are no longer liked in this world is because of our election. The Lord Jesus said, “Because I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you”. The world cannot endure the thought of God’s sovereignty and God’s electing love. The world hates the idea of Christians being the singled out favorites of God. Now let us move on to verse 20. The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. We live in a country where there is not much physical persecution going on today. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing that the government protects us from physical harm by those who hate us. But since persecution is today so subtle, we are quick to complain about little things, such as, “So and so does not want to talk with me”, or “I feel left out by the people I am supposed to belong”, or we are quick to feel if someone stepped on our toes, or we are quick to judge because of someone’s color of skin, and all kinds of things. Would we rather be persecuted like the Huguenots? Would we rather wake up early in the morning and find that we must flee the country with nothing else than the clothes we wear? God can arrange that. Let us be content with what we have and stop complaining about little things. The Lord Jesus said in verse 21, “All these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake”. They will persecute you in the name of Christ. They will claim that they are doing God a favor by making your life miserable. The Lord Jesus continues on this theme in chapter 16. He says in:

Joh 16:1 ¶  These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.

Joh 16:2  They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

Joh 16:3  And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

Joh 16:4  But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.

These words ring loud and clear for the Huguenots after the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Those who survived this tragic persecution now understand that their Savior is ready to console them for their loss of family and all their livelihood, and stands ready to receive them into eternal glory. Furthermore the Lord Jesus says to them in John 16:33,

Joh 16:33  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

AMEN.                 Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.