This month we remember the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. I think it is an anniversary worth remembering. There are things that we take for granted today that are realities because of what took place in the Reformation.
One of those realities is the place of the sermon in the worship service. It was elevated as the most important part of the worship service. Sermons that were expositions of Scripture in the language of the people became common and that still takes place today.
There were a number ofsignificant issues that were brought forth by Martin Luther and the other reformers, but the most foundational was Sola Scriptura. It is the belief that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testamentalone are the supreme authority. Over and over we read in the Bible things like, “thus says theLord”, or “the word of the Lord came to me saying …” So within the Scriptures themselves, the Lordi s telling us that this is His Word. And since it is in fact the Word of God Himself it should have supreme authority in our lives.
If that is true of course, then people need to know what the Word of God says. That means they need to hear it preached and taught in a language they can understand. They need to have access to the Bible themselves so they can read the words of the Sovereign Lord. By the way, the reformers also emphasized the need for literacy so that people would have the ability to read. And there is no book that is more important for us to read than God’s Word.
In fact, if men had not had the ability to read and study the Bible themselves, the Reformation would have never happened. At the time of Luther, the Bible and the worship services were in Latin. But most people could not understand Latin. In the 15th century there was a revival of classical learning. Many were rediscovering the Greek literature of a bygone era. As a part of this renaissance of learning, a man named Erasmus translated the New Testament into Greek. All of a sudden the Scriptures were now accessible to scholars and church leaders. Some of these men began to meet for Bible studies. And what they learned in the Scriptures began to be taught in the universities and preached in the worship services.
But it was not enough to only have expositional sermons on the Bible that people could understand. The people needed to have a Bible they could read on their own. So the reformers were active in translating the Scriptures into the language of the people. Martin Luther translated the Bible into German. William Tyndale translated the Bible into English. Jacque Lefevre translated the Bible into French. Philips of Marnix translated the Bible into Dutch. All of these translations were copied and put into the hands of the people—often at great cost. That is because a translation of the Bible into any language other than Latin was forbidden by the Catholic Church. When people were discovered with a copy of the Bible in their own language, they would often be burned at the stake for this transgression. When the Bibles were discovered they would be destroyed. But the Bibles continued to be printed. And people continued to read them in spite of the danger.
Words are important. We use words to communicate. We use words to teach. We use words to tell someone that we love them. We use words to explain how to build something. We use words for recipes. We use words to sing. We use words to cheer for our teams. We use words to correct our children. It is impossible to even imagine a world where words do not exist. But it is very easy to take words for granted.
It is God who created words and language. I believe one of the reasons that He created words and language is so that He could communicate to us. God inspired holy men to write the Scriptures. He has preserved those words through the centuries so that we could have a Bible in our hands. People have paid a great price so that we could have that Bible in our own language.
No words are more important to us that God’s Words. May the Lord help us not to take our Bible for granted. May the Lord help us to have ears to hear when the minister preaches to us this Sundayfrom that Book in a language we can understand.
Mac Williams is the Pastor at Two Rivers Community Church which is located at 3400 Little York Road. He can be reached at 898-2824 or visit the church’s website at www.tworiverscc.org.