Volume. XXXII, No. 20
Sunday, 12 November 2017

After Darkness, Light: The Dawning of the Reformation (Part 1)

Inaugural message delivered at the Combined BP 500th Anniversary Reformation Conference on 9 August 2017. The article has been modified to enable publication in the Lively Hope.


The date 31 October 1517 and Martin Luther have a special place in the history of the Christian church. It is a lamentable fact that many Protestants today are either indifferent to or ignorant of its doctrinal significance. Almost a thousand years of spiritual darkness in the medieval age came to an end finally. Yet not many churches commemorate this 500th year of this historic event in their annual calendar. We do well to commemorate and recollect the spiritual lessons of this life-changing event of the 16th century. These last perilous days with all the ploys of religious compromise in the ecclesiastical arena warrant a vigilant and knowledgeable Christendom.

Prevailing Historical Circumstances

There were many favourable reasons that accounted for the final outbreak of the 16th century Protestant Reformation. There are as follows :

1.       The Pre-Reformers: John Huss, John Wycliffe, John of Wessel, Savonarola, Jerome of Prague, Brethren of the Common life, the Waldenses etc. They blazed the trail for the main Reformers to come.

2.     The Medieval Church, its decline in spiritual bankruptcy, corruption and moral ills.

3.     The Renaissance, the humanistic intellectual awakening of Europe from 13th century in a rebirth of culture and the arts, the thalassic travels, architecture, the languages and the opening of the minds of the people to the truth of God.

4.    The rise of nation states and the decline of feudalism in Europe (i.e. Germany).

5.     The invention of printing in 1455 by Johann Gutenberg and the rapid dissemination and spread of religious literature.

6.     The edition of the Greek New Testament by Erasmus of Rotterdam in 1516 that led to the translation of the Bible later into other languages.

The Matter of Indulgence

The chief precipitating factor for the Reformation was the gale of indulgence or forgiveness tickets sanctioned by the Roman Church and led by a Dominican friar named Johann Tetzel. It is a strange teaching that you can buy forgiveness with money to alone for all your sins. This was the very reason that prompted Martin Luther, a former Augustinian monk and lecturer in Wittenberg University to write and nail the 95 theses on the castle door of Wittenberg church in Saxony, Germany in Latin when it was later translated into German and was distributed widely in Europe and used of the Lord to transform hearts all over the world.

The 4 Rights of the Reformation

1. Right Period
There had been efforts to reform the Roman Church before the 16th century, but they had no complete or lasting success. There were also reform movements or groups outside the Roman Church, such as the Albigenses, the Waldenses, brethren of the common life but they were met with little success.

There is a time for everything. King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:1 says that there is a  ripe season for things to happen. God appointed the 16th century to be the ripe time (or right period) for the protestant reformation (just after the Renaissance), and had pre-pared the Church in many ways for this Reformation. Religious, economic and political factors that had been brewing for centuries and had set the stage for the full impact of the Reformation.

2. Right Place
The fact that the reformation started from Germany and Switzerland and not in Spain or Italy or Portugal, revealed to us that the place or country is also important. The countries that were revived were ready and prepared by God, with the rise of nation states and protestant nobles (i.e. Germany) who were able to stand up to the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire as they held on to Protestant convictions with strong social and political influence. God has His ordained time and place to raise up the right people too in His sovereign will.

3. Right Persons
The Reformers, Martin Luther, Calvin, Knox, Zwingli, Tyndale, Cranmer, while not perfect, were chosen men of God with the right transformed hearts and motives and right giftedness. They were unique in the history of the church as men of intellectual ability and passion for Jesus Christ. The Reformers were moved of the Spirit (and their successors) and though they were unique and different in their backgrounds but they ably and solidly set forth their belief in the Bible as their sole authority.

The reason for the 16th century reformation is based on one concern, how can a guilty sinner seek peace with a thrice holy God. The heart of the reformation is the reformation of the heart. It was not political nor social but it started from the heart and mind of an Augustinian monk, Martin Luther (and others) who was sincerely seeking to be justified before God in their personal walk of faith. They asked how can a guilty sinner stand before a holy and just God? He was a man of great intellectual ability and oratorical skills and he wrote many gospel and doctrinal pamphlets to defend the faith.

4. Right Precepts
They all stood for sound and fundamental Doctrines in the Bible and preached and defended them with evangelical zeal. Consider these important doctrinal implications besides the famous 5 solas (i.e. Gracia, Fide, Scriptura, Christos and Deo Gloria).

To be continued…

More Lively Hope



- An afternoon of Carols & Items of Praise - Sun 10 Dec at 2pm, followed by refreshments.  Please inform Elder David Yeo or Sis Sally Teng of any items to be presented.
- Access to CLG will be prohibited on Mon, 20 Nov, from 8 am due to asbestos removal.
- Please note: Non-designated offerings on Sun, 3 Dec, will be given to IBPFM. Christmas Day offerings will go to Voice of Matyrs.
- Bro Charles Scott-Pearson will be speaker for Integrated Fellowship on Fri, 24 Nov, Worship Service and Adult Sunday School on Sun, 26 Nov. All worshippers are encouraged to attend.

Praise and Thanksgiving
- New worshippers and church activities in the past week.
- Journey mercies to all who have travelled.

- Healing
- Journey Mercies: Pastor Ki (Melbourne) and others who are travelling.
- Australian PR Application.
- Health and safety in pregnancy.
- Exams.



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