Studying and Examining Reformation and Christianity
“The very Hermeneutics that seemingly began the Reformation were that salvation according to the Scriptures is by grace through faith, and that it is a gift of God. A gift is not worked for or earned from church attendance or religious rhetoric. The reading of the bible and proper exegetical hermeneutics tells us clearly, that we do not need a priest, we do not need to pay a penance of money or works, because Jesus paid it all. Just like the old hymn. Jesus Paid it All, all to Him I owe. It is to Him I owe, not a priest or organization because Jesus is our High Priest who made a way because we could not.
The Reformers paved the way for the children of the King to have practical, proper, principles to use in order to interpret the Scriptures. They sacrificed in some cases their lives, and freedom in order for us to have the book we call the Bible at our fingertips. Erasmus, and Luther translated the Scriptures from the original languages into German, making it possible for people to read the Scriptures for themselves instead of being dependent on the priests and monks to interpret the Latin for them. The Reformers started a wave of Biblical translation that exploded with the development of the Gutenberg printing press.
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Luther discovered the truth through the studying of God’s word and he wanted the rest of humanity to have the same opportunity. The problem was though that very few people at that time had access to it or simply could not read it. Part of the Reformers mission was to set about translating the Bible into an easy, understandable everyday German vernacular, so that all those around him might gain the same clarity that they possessed. This effort spread far and wide, in England, a young priest named Thomas Bilney read the word of God and came across the words “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. Before for that eye-opening moment he was filled with guilt. But the words he read in the Scriptures changed those feelings. He said “Immediately I seemed unto myself inwardly to feel a marvelous comfort and quietness, insomuch that my bruised bones leaped for joy. After this, the Scriptures began to be more pleasant unto me than the honey or the honey comb.” Another man from England who made the same discovery was a genius linguist who’s name was William Tyndale. He described what he found as “good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad and maketh him sing, dance, and leap for joy.” People of that time were so excited to read the words of God that priest actually complained of how, even during their sermons, the people were reading the Bible out loud to one another.
Not only did these men give us a way to just possess the Scriptures, but they rightly devised the proper ways for us to read it and left a legacy of the importance of knowing it for ourselves. The arduous effort of Luther to make his translation of the bible as accurate as possible went far toward the establishing of sound methods of criticism and exegesis. Luther’s exegetical works in Latin by Elsperger, Schmid, shines light on Luther’s legacy by saying this: “His knowledge of Hebrew and Greek was limited, and he sometimes mistook the meaning of the sacred writer, but his religious intuitions and deep devotional spirit enabled him generally to apprehend the true sense of Scripture.” That is our ultimate goal when it comes to Scriptures, “to apprehend the true sense of Scripture.” Hermeneutics makes such a goal attainable in every believer’s life.
Examining God’s Word
James C. Hefley describes the Scriptures like this: The sixty-six books are a perfect whole, a purposeful revelation, a progressive proof that the Bible is more than the work of fallible men.”
William Lyons Phelps, Yale Professor says this regarding the Bible: “Our civilization is founded upon the Bible. More of our ideas, our wisdom, our philosophy, our literature, our art, our ideals come from the Bible than from all other books combined.”
The vital importance of studying and examining the Holy Word of God is crucial to every believer. From Martin Luther, to John Calvin, to us today in the evangelical church. As we have looked back at the Reformers and the path, they pioneered for us to have what we have, to them it was worth their lives and excommunication from the Catholic church. The reason they were willing to sacrifice it all is because they grasp the utter importance of the God breathed words on each page and they rested their lives on it. They refused to let another man or Pope dictate to them what the Lord was speaking. They let the Lord himself illuminate each precious word on every page of Scripture. They did not get to this place lightly they poured themselves into the study of the Word day and night. These men are Hermeneutical Pioneers they advanced the principles of exegesis that have been developed to this day. Impowered by the Spirit these men that have come before us understood what the Bible is all about.
Today in two thousand nineteen we need another Biblical Reformation. God’s people urgently need to get back to the book. We need to stop chasing big named preachers and start chasing the Word of God. We need to teach our children and the church once again the process and structure of true hermeneutical Bible study and exposition. May we have the diligence of Martin Luther, who said, “For some years now I have read through the Bible twice every year. If you picture the Bible to be a mighty tree and every word a little branch, I have shaken every one of these branches because I wanted to know what it was and what it meant.”
Examining the Scriptures is not a scholarly task, although there is certainly need for Biblical scholars. I believe the new believer who has never picked up a copy of the Bible or a believer who has only followed along in a church service can commence their examination by resolving four straightforward questions.
The Bible is a book like no other book. It’s a collection of books written over a long period of time by a diverse group of authors in many different places. Using three different languages, it contains a variety of writing genres such as prophecy, poetry, and narrative. Yet, in all of this diversity, there is a unique unity. From Genesis to Revelation, the unfolding story of the Bible is God’s redemption of his people through the person and work of Jesus Christ. So, what’s the key to understanding and interpreting the Bible? Jesus Christ is the key. All Scripture both the Old Testament and New Testaments point to Christ. Martin Luther’s biblical expositions led him theologically to develop a unique Christological interpretation in which he taught that everything in Scripture must point to Christ in order to have authority for the Christian. Time has not changed this truth all Scripture is a sign post pointing to Christ.
How do both Old and New Testaments point to Christ? Luke records Jesus’ answer to this question near the end of his Gospel in the familiar Emmaus road story (Luke 24:13-49). The two travelers talked with Jesus, whom they did not yet recognize, and explained their confusion about recent events. We know from other sources hat the Jews of that time were expecting a Messiah who would incite a military coup to defeat the Romans which, to their disappointment, did not happen. The two men failed to see the big picture and the way in which God had fulfilled his promises through the events they had just witnessed. Jesus responded to their sad story saying, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (vs. 25)
Then he began to explain the connection between the Scriptures and himself. We can picture Jesus describing how the Old Testament sacrificial system pointed to His substitutionary death for sinners on the cross, how God’s presence in the tabernacle came to fuller expression when Jesus lived among His people, and how David prophesied the ascension of Jesus. Jesus opened their eyes so that as they shared a meal, they recognized him. Afterward, they described how their hearts had burned within them (vs. 32) as Jesus opened the Scriptures to them. They had understood what the words of Scripture said because they had studied them, but they had not understood their significance or meaning. Christ had to take the very words they knew and understood on one level and open their understanding to the fact that the Scriptures are all about Jesus, He is the key in both the Old and New Testaments. The central purpose of all Scripture is to bear testimony to Christ and God’s redemptive plan through him. As we examine the bible Old or New Testament, we should always be looking the revelation of Jesus.
Later, Jesus explained to his frightened disciples. “Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (vs. 44). Jesus referred to the three major divisions of the Old Testament, signifying that all of the Scriptures were fulfilled in him. In fact, the Old Testament contains over 300 direct references to the Messiah all fulfilled in Jesus! He opened the minds of the disciples, so they understood the significance of what the Scriptures had promised and how he had fulfilled them. We live in a time when we can read Jesus’ words and actions written in the New Testament and grasp the big scope of history even better. But for everyone, a saving understanding of Scriptures that leads to faith and how all of redemptive history fits together is something the Holy Spirit alone can give us.
In John 5:31-48, we find an example of a situation completely different from the Emmaus road experience. The Pharisees were upset with Jesus because he healed on the Sabbath and claimed that he was equal to God. Jesus presented three testimonials to substantiate his claims (vss. 31-37). He then pointed out that although the Pharisees had not heard the voice of God nor seen a manifestation of him such as the Israelites had witnessed, they did have the testimony of the written Word of God in the Old Testament. They had read, studied, and understood that God had promised the Messiah, but why could they not accept that Jesus was the Promised One? They refused to hear Jesus and recognize him as God’s Son. Jesus told them that the purpose of the Scriptures is to bear witness to him and yet, because of their unbelief, they missed the whole point. Those who were schooled in the writings of Moses could not understand that Christ was the fulfillment of those words. All interpretation of Scripture should be done with the undeniable truth that Christ fulfilled the Scriptures at the forefront of our minds and hearts.