THE 1517 REFORMATION: SOLA SCRIPTURA, SOLI FIDEI, SOLA GRATIA
Dear Members in Christ,
The 1517 Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Soli Fidei, Sola Gratia
The impact of the 1517 Reformation- Emphasis on studying the scriptures (Part II)
This is the continuing series on how the 1517 Reformation brought about focus upon the Scriptures as the authority for the faith and life of the believer. In this part II of the article, we will examine how the truth revealed to God’s people during the 1517 Reformation brought about change in the way the people of God viewed the Bible. From 1517 and the later centuries, the Scriptures became the focus of study, the revival of learning in the original languages of the Bible also intensified. This change had an impact on the teaching of scriptures to the church. In last week’s part 1, we covered the inspiration of the Bible and we considered some important practical ways we can honour God’s word by meditating upon the applications which we glean attentively from a sermon. In the following sections, we shall dwell upon how the Reformation led change from church traditions to the teaching of God’s word and how these changes can be practically applied to our lives.
1. The impact – Institutions for the teaching of scripture to God’s people
One of the key events in the decade following the 1517 Reformation is the establishment of Bible colleges in Europe. Reformers like Luther and Melancthon conducted classes in a Bible college in Wittenburg, Germany. Years later, Calvin is known for two institutions, the College and the Academie in Geneva, where he and other ministers taught the word of God. The college was later called the College Calvin, a school in Geneva, and the Academie became known as the University of Geneva.
During the decades following the Reformation, the study of Biblical languages was emphasized. Even today, the churches (such as Bible–Presbyterian churches) which adhere to the Reform tradition, still place a huge emphasis on the learning and teaching of God’s Word. From the inception of the Bible-Presbyterian movement in the 1950s, Rev Timothy had the vision to start a Bible College. The Far Eastern Bible College is a testimony of God’s goodness, and is an evidence of Rev Tow’s fruit of his labour for the Lord. The BP movement emphasize the biblical teaching of having trained preachers who are called by the Lord for the ministry of God’s Word.
Dearly beloved, remember to pray for the ministry of the Far Eastern Bible College. This college was raised by God to train and equip ministers for the preaching of God’s Word. Today it stands as a bastion against the grave doctrinal errors that are propagated by false teachers and pastors. Include the Far Eastern Bible College in your thoughts and prayers. Pray for the Faculty and staff of this college that God will protect and preserve them against the wiles and deception of the Adversary. Pray that the ministry will flourish, and that ministers of God’s word will be properly equipped and sent forth to the harvest fields.
2. The Reformation emphasis on learning and studying God’s Word
The Reformation call to study the scriptures is not a notion just for the church leaders and pastors. Every man, woman and child ought to be schooled in the reading and study of scriptures. During the years of the English Reformer William Tyndale, he was known to have said to his persecutors, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives a plough to know more of the scriptures than you do.” Tyndale was accomplished in several languages, besides the biblical languages. Like the other reformers, the teaching was to educate and to allow God’s people to have access to the knowledge of God’s Word. Learning and the studying of the word of God was not confined to the few who studied the Latin language, but by the church at large.
3. Your personal responsibility to know and study God’s word
The Reformed churches acknowledge that the preaching and teaching of God’s word requires dedicated servants who will continually study and meditate upon the Word of God to feed the flock (2 Timothy 2:15, 1 Peter 5:2). This is especially so for full-time servants who are called to the ministry of preaching. However, all members who are engaged in any aspect of church service are also strongly encouraged to invest time and effort in the study of God’s word. Whether you are a teacher in Sunday School, a fellowship committee member, an usher or greeter, the knowledge of God’s word is a necessary tool for the workman. One may ask, “If I’m not involved in teaching, but serving as a greeter or usher, what great need is there for me to know the Bible well?”
Brothers and Sisters remember this, firstly, every Christian is required to know and study God’s Word. How else can we know and obey the command of our loving heavenly father? Secondly, the Bible teach us to be ready (under any circumstances) to give an answer to every man who asks about the hope that is in us. As a greeter or usher, or any area of service, we have an opportunity to testify of the Gospel of salvation. In order to testify the Gospel of Christ effectively, we need to know the Bible well. How can we do so? The answer in the Bible is to study to shew thyself a workman approved unto God. The knowledge of God’s word is not going to fill our hearts and minds unless we put in effort to learn and study it diligently.
For such, there are many avenues, for instance there are online classes for laypersons to study and be taught the word of God. The Far Eastern Bible College provide many virtual classes made available via online means. For more details, click on https://www.febc.edu.sg/v15/distance_learning_online. If you have not enrolled, make it your prayer to pluck up the courage and enrol for the next semester. The study of the word of God is profitable for this life and for eternity. Beloved, will you not consider this for the year 2021?
Summary: The Reformers who, by the will of God had brought about the 1517 Reformation, have held the torch, holding forth the Word of Life. As descendants along this precious faith once delivered to the saints, we ought to treasure this legacy that has been reserved for us, paid for by the fire and blood of persecution.
We who confess the Reformed faith, and upholding the cry of “Sola Scriptura,” let us be true to this doctrine of the supremacy of the Scriptures over the traditions of men. Let us invest our time and effort to study the word of God. It is only by this endeavour that we can have the knowledge to walk close to our God in obedience to Him. We pray that the good Lord will bless us and our sons and daughters with faith that will stand the trial and afflictions in this life. May His Name be glorified.
(Part III – The 1517 Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Soli Fidei, Sola Gratia to be continued next week).
Dn. Lim Seh Beng