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Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Great Reformers Had Great Flaws

Great Reformers
The Great Reformers of the 1500s - and indeed in every age - had equally great flaws. We rightly thank God for the Luthers, Zwinglis, Bucers and Calvins. Through them the Gospel was restored to the church, having been lost for a thousand years under the rubble of human tradition and satanic error.

To then add that they had great flaws is not to be judgemental. A judgemental spirit is a spirit that puts onself above the reformers, and since we are all sinners saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, alone, none of us has  the right to judge another.

No, to acknowledge their faults is to glorify the God who is pleased to work through flawed people for his great glory.

Some of the great church Reformers
One Example - their argumentative nature
The Reformers of the 1500s lived in a brutal age and this spilled over into language. To be honest, we live by contrast in a namby-pamby culture of washed out greys, so we should not over-judge them for their loud language.

Unfortunately, it was their argumentative spirit which ill-served them.

Erasmus, the "humanist"
Erasmus was the most famous "humanist" of his age. That word does not refer to what we think as "humanism" - life lived without God. The humanists of the 1500s were deeply religious men who wanted to live a morally upright life.

But Erasmus would not join the reformation because the reformers were so argumentative - interestingly enough, no tragically! - over secondary matters, such as baptism.

On the 11th November, 1527 Erasmus wrote to Martin Bucer, the Strasbourg Reformer, and gave him three reasons why he would not join the Reformation:

(1) "My conscience has held me back." He was juts not convinced that the movement came from God, he says. He is completely mistaken in this view, we are sure.

(2) Lack of fruit. What worried Erasmus was that "there are a number of people in your camp who are completely unknown to Evangelical Truth." He meant that some of the folk who had joined the Reformation band-wagon were not living out godly lives "As far as human judgement will allow, it seems to me that many of them have become worse and none have improved." He goes on, "The Gospel would have looked good to everyone if the husband had found it made his wife nicer, id the teacher saw his student more obedient, if the magistrate had seen better-behaved citizens, if the employer found his employees more honest, if the buyer saw the merchant less deceitful. But, as things are now, the conduct of some people has thrown cold water on the enthusiasm of those who initially supported the movement."  So he did not see the changed lives he expected to see.

(3) The third reason is the saddest of them all: Erasmus was fed-up with their argumentative spirit. "The third thing which has held me back is the constant in-fighting between the leaders." He goes on to say, "In actual fact, if you were what you brag of being, they would have set an example of goldy and patient conduct which would have made the Gospel widely accepted."

Now, we do not judge the Reformation by a "humanist" but we can learn from his comments.

Two Lessons
Two lessons to draw from Erasmus' letter are these:

God is pleased to use "earthen vessels" in his kingdom. Great flaws do not prevent us from being greatly used in God's kingdom. This is an encouragement to God's people, when Satan points out our weaknesses.

Secondly, don't follow men, follow Jesus! If we follow men, at some point or another, they will disappoint us, but if we set our eyes on Christ Jesus, he, the perfect, sinless Son of God, will never disapoint us.

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