Zwingli: When Baptism Means DrowningDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | March 4, 2007
Selected highlights from this sermon
Ulrich Zwingli led the church of Zurich and preached directly from the Bible—the people loved it.
Though his position on infant baptism was poor, he did seek to recover a biblical understanding of communion: that the bread and the wine are symbols of Christ’s body and blood, not literally Christ’s body and blood.
Now, some of us don’t like history, and I’ll tell you why. It’s because it’s just facts and we don’t see its relevance. When I was in high school, we used to have social studies which was...now this is Canada. You know it’s a whole different ball of wax there, and we had social studies, and that was basically our history. And I remember writing in the flyleaf of my history book,
If this world should flood,
And waters rise so high,
I’d stand upon this book,
Because it is so dry.
(laughter) And that was in the flyleaf of my history book, but the older I get, and I’m a little older than you...maybe not as old as Andy, but I’m a little older than you...The older I get, the more I begin to see that history has great importance because of its relevance.
Now tonight you are going to hear a lecture that you are going to say, “This one I would take with me in Noah’s flood,” (Am I going too fast for some of you?) because we’re going to talk about things such as the Lord’s Supper, and the nature of the church, and the whole thing. But trust me, you’re going to see its relevance. And the more relevance you see, the more brilliant I know you are.
Now, we’re going to talk about the Reformation. The Reformation was a time in the sixteenth century (that means the 1500s), when the monopoly that the Roman Catholic church had on Europe was broken, and that monopoly was broken by the power of God. But first of all, Martin Luther, whom we all talk about, and a man by the name of John Calvin that I’ve lectured about, and today we’re coming to Zwingli, who lived in Zurich, Switzerland. Zwingli. And we’re going to deal with issues such as the role of the church, yes indeed, the Lord’s Supper, and all of these things, which to us may seem a little bit irrelevant, but after all, they are part of the faith, and their relationship to the church is absolutely critical.
And here’s a line that you can remember. “The farther you look back, the farther you can see into the future.” Hey, you know, I kind of like that idea, and that’s what we’re going on tonight. Zurich, Switzerland, and the man’s name is Zwingli.
Two years after Luther put his “Ninety-five Theses” on the castle door of the church in Wittenberg, it is then that Zwingli began preaching the Reformation in Zurich, Switzerland. And he was converted out of a difficult background—immorality and all the rest—but he began to preach, and instead of going with the lectionary, you know the way in which it was mapped out, the church calendar, he began to preach through the book of Matthew. The people loved it. They had never heard exposition before. Thus the Reformation in Zurich began independently of what was happening in Germany with Luther.
Now, Luther, of course, was known to Zwingli as time went on, and Zwingli held him in high regard. And he tried to learn all that he could from Luther. Zwingli agreed with Luther in the rejection of papal authority with reliance solely upon the Scriptures. Like Luther, he preached justification by faith alone, denying the merit of the saints and indulgences. He also believed that the seven sacraments should be brought to two, just as Luther had done.
And as Zwingli preached through the Scriptures, three Catholic customs were seen to have no merit in Scripture: the veneration of images, fasting during Lent, and the celibacy of the clergy. Today Lent is still practiced by some people. It’s a matter of giving something up in anticipation of needing to fast, and so forth, or giving something up that you like to kind of prepare your heart for the resurrection of Jesus Christ for Easter.
By the way, as I go through this, if you have a question, you can use your song sheet and write it at the bottom of the song sheet, and at the end, we’ll see if we have some time to answer your questions.
So there were three disputations that took place in Zurich. At the first, Zwingli simply laid his Bible on the table in Latin and Greek and Hebrew, and the meeting was called to order, and Zwingli says, “The Bible is the book that decides everything. Whatever your argument is, I’m going to turn to the Scriptures.” And the people began to criticize him for what he was preaching. And he said, “If you criticize me for preaching the Gospel, you are criticizing me for something that was found in the Scriptures and has been around for fifteen hundred years.”
By the way, he was greatly influenced by the New Testament, the Greek New Testament, that Erasmus helped published. And he was so excited about it that Zwingli memorized all of Paul’s epistles in Greek. Do you think that you could do that? That would take more than a weekend, wouldn’t it, Andy, memorizing all of Paul’s epistles in Greek, especially in a day and age when we are biblically illiterate, where some people think that the epistles are the wives of the apostles? (laughter)
Now, the outcome of these disputations was the abolition of the Mass in Zurich, the disposition of the relics and the saints, and the smashing of the organ in the cathedral. You say, “Why was it? Zwingli was an organist.” And yet the organ in the cathedral was done away with. No organ music in the church. You say, “Why?” I’m going to tell you in a few minutes so just hang in. The dots are going to connect.
The service lost its liturgical character and the center of the meeting was the preaching of the Word. People who did not attend church were conscripted, something like under Calvin where everybody’s supposed to be in church. If you’re not in church, we’re going to write you up. Could you imagine what would happen in the city of Chicago if we began to do that?
Luther and Zwingli had much in common but also had many differences. Now, we’re going to discuss some issues regarding the role of the church and the state. Zwingli evidenced an intense patriotism. For God and country, he wanted to fight, just like some Americans. Intense patriotism. But the problem is that sometimes we confuse the message of Jesus with the state and our patriotism. This is explosive, so hang on to this, too, because we’re going to be commenting on it in just a moment. How much of cultural Christianity should we accept here in America? That’s a question.
Well, Zwingli had been a chaplain for the Swiss troops when they fought as mercenaries for the pope. What popes would do is they would recruit Swiss soldiers, and they would use those soldiers to fight in their wars. And those were brutal days when they didn’t have hospitals for the wounded. And Zwingli, as a chaplain, often had the responsibility of telling wives that their husbands has been killed, or mothers that their sons had been killed, and he hated it very, very much. You see, the Swiss troops were known for their bravery and for being willing to die in battle.
Today you go to the Vatican in Rome, and you see Swiss troops. The Vatican is still guarded by Swiss troops today. So Zwingli was opposed to that because of its unutterable cruelty, but he did believe that the sword should be used to defend the Christian faith. Do you believe that the sword should ever be used to defend the Christian faith? Hang on to that because we’ll have to comment on that in a moment.
Well, before we get into those issues, let me talk about baptism. You see in those days, there was a contradictory view of the church that the reformers held, and they would not give it up for love nor money. Because of historical reasons that we can’t go into tonight, there was a regional church which was known as Christendom, and the proof that that church existed was infant baptism, because everyone who was born within the bounds of what was called the Holy Roman Empire had to be baptized.
Come with me to the city of Rome. It’s Christmas Day, 800. Charlemagne, Charles the Great, is being crowned by the pope. Charlemagne issues a decree: “Whoever does not have his child baptized as an infant will be put to death.” Why? It’s because in order to hold Christendom together, you needed a visible sign of commitment, and parents had to be committed to this Christendom. It didn’t mean that they were real Christians, but they were under this umbrella of civil religion, and everybody had to stick to it.
Now, hang on to that also. Zwingli believed in election, just like Paul and Jesus, that God, from all of eternity, predestines some people to belong to what we call the elect. The elect could only be known through their faith in Christ, but it faced a dilemma. Think this through. If you had Christendom as the church, and you know that within that group not all are saved, but only some are members of this elect company, how do you handle it? How do you handle the number of people who are baptized, but they are not saved people? They are not regenerated.
So faced with this tension, he had to think of the church in broader terms, and because of his intense nationalism he was brought to think of the whole town of Zurich, except for the Catholics, as the elect company of the Lord... You see, Zwingli says, “The church is so broad. Everybody who is born into Switzerland is part of the church, and therefore the elect must be all of these people.” And you see, that was tied into his nationalism, his belief that Swiss should be first. Switzerland should be first, you see, and “We are the people of God.” Do you see how election can be misused to become a member of the (quote) “elite” and the doctrine can be misused?
Well, Zwingli believed for a time that infant baptism should not be practiced. He said, “If we are thoroughly scriptural, we don’t find it in the Bible,” and so forth, but because of pressure from the town council, he began to accept it once again, and to use infant baptism in the church.
Now, Zwingli was a very bright man. I mean anybody who can memorize Paul’s epistles in Greek has to be, and he knew Hebrew too. So he got a couple of guys together, Felix Manz and another one called Conrad Blaurock, and they began to study with Zwingli and he mentored them [Editor’s note: Pastor Lutzer misspoke. He was referring to Conrad Grebel, who with Manz, studied with Zwingli. George Blaurock is mentioned below]. And these young men came to the conclusion that infant baptism should not be practiced, but that rather you should be baptized upon the profession of faith. And Zwingli, and Luther also, and Calvin feared that if that were to happen, the church would be a group within society rather than this expansive thing called Christendom. And so they opposed it.
Felix Manz and [George] Blaurock were jailed because of their belief.
Now I’m going to tell you something which I’m going to expand on in the next lecture, but it wouldn’t hurt if you heard this twice. Felix Manz, who by the way, was the product of an illegitimate relationship between a priest and the woman who bore him, his mother, had deep faith in God, in Christ. He was an outstanding Christian, one of my heroes in the Christian church. He was put in prison, and the town council of Zurich said this. “Everyone who is baptized as an adult must be put to death by drowning, fire or the sword.” And here’s the shocker. Zwingli went along with it, and agreed.
You can come with me someday if you are willing to come to the sites of the Reformation, and we can stand at the Limmat River in Zurich at “da rathaus,” which in German means essentially city hall, and you can stand there and that’s the place where the drowning took place. They put him in a little boat. They shoved him out into the middle of the water, and then at a certain time they capsized the boat, and he went under. And the voice of his mother could be heard across the waves, urging her son to remain true to the faith. And Felix Manz was drowned in the Limmat River.
You say, “Well, that’s enough for tonight. We’re surprised at this.” Hey, we’ve got more surprises. Zwingli is on the shore watching it, and saying sarcastically of his friend, “Why indeed, if he wishes to go under the water, then let him go under.” In other words, “If he wants to be baptized, let’s baptize him good and proper, and let him drown.”
Now that began a persecution of the Anabaptists, and I’m telling you more than I should because you might not come next time. You might say, “You already told us everything.” But you’re going to hear it twice I’m sure.
More Christians were massacred to death and died after that. They were called “Re-baptizers”...The revolt against the Re-baptizers—more died than died in the early persecutions in Rome. Thousands were massacred. Whole villages were killed with the sword. Why? They believed that one should be baptized upon profession of faith. And in those days it was believed that if you have that the whole medieval system of Christendom is going to be broken up, and so it was actually, after the Reformation got going, and Anabaptism had its day.
Now, I’m going to be speaking about Anabaptism the next time and give you more details of these dear Re-baptizers, Anabaptists, who died so mercilessly.
Well, that’s one controversy that Zwingli was involved in, and I’m sure that he’s in heaven now with Felix Manz, and they’ve had a lot of time to talk about what happened on Earth and to patch things up. I’m not sure exactly how heaven works, but it’s got to take care of all of these things, don’t you think, or else it wouldn’t be heaven?
Let me talk about the nature of the Lord’s Supper. You see, all the reformers agreed that transubstantiation as taught by the Catholic church was false, the idea that this was literally the body and the blood of Christ and therefore could be worshiped.
They didn’t believe that that was the case, but then when they began to hone their own differences, they had disagreements. Zwingli believed that the Lord’s Supper was simply a sign or a memorial, not as a channel of grace. Just as the Passover in the Old Testament was a feast of remembrance, just so the Lord’s Supper was for believers. The church was therefore best described as the New Israel of God, as seen most clearly in Zurich. That’s the nationalism. The test of predestination was faith, but faith was very diluted because Zwingli wanted to broaden the concept of the church.
Now, here’s what happened. Conflict began to happen between the Catholics and the Protestants. With his belief that Zurich was, in effect, the capital of a theocracy, it was inevitable that the conflict would arise. The Catholics caught and burned an image breaker. The reformed people caught and captured and executed a Catholic persecutor. The Catholics turned to the Hapsburgs who were in Vienna, ruling there, and the Protestants turned to the German Lutherans.
Now there was another difference between Zwingli and Luther, and that was whether or not the sword should be used to defend the Christian faith. As I mentioned, hang on to that. Here’s what happened. There was a diet, and this has nothing to do with Jenny Craig or anything. When we talk about a diet, it’s actually a reference to a meeting, a very high class meeting by a number of religious leaders. And this happened at the Diet of Speyer. The Catholic majority...this is in Germany now...the Catholic majority voted to accept the demand of Charles V to proceed against the Lutherans, and to make war with the Lutherans. The Lutheran princes drafted a response and protested it, and that’s where the word “Protestant” comes from. The word “Protestant” comes from the Diet of Speyer.
But anyway, there was fear on the part of the Lutherans, and there was fear on the part of the Swiss. “What are we going to do if we have to fight the Catholics?” So there was a young man by the name of Philip of Hesse. Philip of Hesse was a landgrave. He owned a lot of land and he had a castle in a place call Marburg. Marburg is about a hundred miles north of Frankfurt. If you ever catch a plane to Frankfurt, you can rent a car and drive to Marburg and go to that wonderful castle that I had the privilege of being in a few years ago. You can actually go into this castle. And it was there in the main hall that this debate took place.
Here’s what happened. Philip of Hesse, very interesting guy. You know, the Catholic church says that “You shall not eat meat on Friday.” He decided to kill a number of oxen and invited a great number of people to a huge barbecue on Friday. Another parenthesis. Philip of Hesse was unhappily married. It wasn’t his idea to marry this particular woman. It was arranged for him and they were unhappy. He goes to Luther for advice. And do you know what Luther says? Hesse says, “You know I’ve got this woman that I really want to marry.” Do you know what Luther tells him? Luther says, “Well, why don’t you go ahead and marry her secretly and don’t tell anybody about it?” Well, folks, the secret got out, and everything came loose. Luther, in effect, later said, “If you’ve got marriage troubles, whatever you do, don’t come to me.” (laughter) He would not have made a good marriage counselor.
So, what he said was...Philip said, “Come to my castle and we’re going to debate the Lord’s Supper because if we can unite on a number of different points, we could have unity between the Swiss and the Germans, and we could get on the same page, and we’d be stronger against the coming Catholic onslaught.” That was the plan. Luther didn’t want to attend, and Zwingli didn’t want to attend, but they felt forced into it, and so they did.
Now if you have a map of Germany and Switzerland in your mind, you know then that the folks from Zurich came along the Rhine River and they floated up the river on a boat and then they just had a way to walk to Marburg. Luther, of course, came across land from Wittenberg, Germany. And they met together in the castle, and they met for days debating the Lord’s Supper. But what was the debate? Luther said that “these elements are literal.” They are not transformed. He rejected transubstantiation, but he said, “This is literally Christ’s body.” Zwingli wanted to say it was a memorial, that Christ was perhaps spiritually present, but it was only symbolic. Now can you believe that they debated this? And I have the entire debate, not because I was there but because many others were and they took notes, and I counted today, and it covers 32 pages of debate on this issue.
Now tonight I thought rather than give you 32 pages, could you take three-quarters of a page? I just went and lifted out some of the things that were said just to let you know how the debate went. Okay?
Luther: He asks for a verse that says that the Lord’s Supper is simply a sign of Christ’s body and nothing more.
Zwingli: Although we have no scriptural passage that says this is a sign of the body, we have proof that Christ dismissed the idea of a physical meal. Christ, when He instituted the Lord’s Supper, did not give Himself to us in a physical sense. Even in John 6 where it says, you know, that he that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life...Even there it says in verse 63 that the Spirit gives life. The flesh is to no avail. God does not lead us into darkness. He does not want us to interpret flesh in a literal sense
Luther: We are often asked to believe the incomprehensible. We must take God at His Word. If He says, “This is my body,” we should believe it even if we don’t understand.
Zwingli: Luther refuses to accept figures of speech when, indeed, many passages are not intended to be literal. Isaiah 9:14 says that the elder is the head and the prophet is the tail. Obviously the word “is” here means “signifies.” (So Zwingli is saying, “This signifies my body.”) We think it’s impossible that God should command us to eat His flesh in a physical sense. And that’s not what God intended,” Zwingli says.
Luther: “I refuse to debate the meaning of the word “is” for I am satisfied that the Lord said it. The devil himself cannot make it otherwise. I do not require adherence to the words on my own authority, but the authority, the command, of Christ. The physical body is there in the Word. If you interpret the Lord’s Supper figuratively, why not do the same with these words, “He was taken up to heaven?”
Zwingli: And we call upon you, Luther, to give glory to God and to quit begging the question. The issue at stake is this: Where is proof of your position? I am willing to consider your words carefully, no harm meant. You are trying to outwit me. I stand by this passage in the sixth chapter of John, verse 63, and I will not be shaken from it. You will have to sing another tune.
Luther: You are being obnoxious.
Zwingli: I insist that the words are figurative. This is required as an article of faith. Look at this. He is taken into heaven, seated at the right hand of God the Father. Obviously that is literal. Otherwise it would be absurd and certainly it is absurd, if we believe that Christ ascended into heaven. Zwingli is saying, “It is absurd to look for Him in the Lord’s Supper. One and the same body cannot possibly be in different places. How can Jesus be in heaven, and His body up there, and at the same time in the bread and the wine?” said Zwingli.
Luther: I ask you (This is really good here.) why not accept a figure of speech in the words “He ascended into heaven, and let the text of the Lord’s Supper remain literal? A figure of speech certainly would be much easier to find in the word ‘heaven,’ since heaven, as you know, is used with different meanings in Holy Scripture.”
Zwingli: That word does not require a figure of speech.
Now this goes on day after day. They break for meals and they come back and they go at it again. Finally, Luther writes with a piece of chalk on the table: ”Das ist mein blut,” (This is my blood.) He covers it with a velvet cloth. The upshot of it is this. They agreed on many points but they couldn’t agree on this point, and Luther becomes quite conciliatory and actually says, “Well, I hope that we can resolve all of these things, and Christ will resolve them.” But Melanchthon, because each of them had a number of different assistants there... Melanchthon, Luther’s assistance says, “If we agree with the Swiss who are really radical, then it’s going to cut off any possibility that we can be reconciled with the Catholics.”
Remember at that point it was still believed that reconciliation might be possible. So there is no accord that is reached. Well, in fact, Luther doesn’t even shake Zwingli’s hand. You know, in those days, truth was important. Love? You could take it or leave it. Today everybody’s loving and people don’t care about truth. Truth and love have to go hand in hand.
You say, “Well, you know, to argue for days over that?” These guys actually believed that the Bible was important and what it taught about such things as the Lord’s Supper was important. I mean, weren’t they weird? I’m speaking sarcastically, of course, because they understood that these issues are important.
Well anyway, Zwingli went home and tensions between Catholics and Protestants began to escalate, and he went into battle and died as a chaplain. Eight-thousand Catholic troops came against Zurich. The Protestants had only fifteen hundred, and Zwingli died and his body was quartered in a very, very grotesque way.
Now, here’s the point. Luther believed that one should never fight in order to defend the faith. You never fight in the name of Jesus. You allow Jesus to defend His church. That’s what Luther believed. He did believe that the standing armies of Europe could be used. This is why he believed the Crusades were so wrong. In principle, there was nothing wrong with the Crusades. The whole idea was to liberate the Holy Land because pilgrims were being killed there. Christians were being massacred and therefore the Crusade was legitimate. But when the pope called together all kinds of people and opened up the prisons and allowed all of these prisoners to go on these Crusades, and then to fight in the name of Jesus, that was terrible for Luther. Zwingli might have agreed, but Luther did not. So after Zwingli died in the battle in the south of Zurich, Luther in effect said, “You got what you deserved. You should have never fought in the name of Jesus to defend Protestantism. Let Jesus defend His own church.”
Now, let me talk to you briefly about how the reformers differed and then its relevance, and then we shall be finished.
For Luther, the starting point of theology is justification by faith. For Calvin, it was God’s sovereignty. As for forms of worship, Luther believed that the church should be free to worship as long as it does not do anything that is expressly forbidden by Scripture.
Now I told you I’d talk to you about the organ. See, what Luther said is, “We can worship God in any way as long as it’s not forbidden.” So that’s why he retained many Catholic elements in worship. Zwingli and Calvin said, “We will accept only that which is expressly stated in Scripture, and because the Bible does not say there were musical instruments in the early church—you can’t find that anywhere on the pages of Scripture—we will do away with all musical instruments.” So that’s why the organs, both in Calvin’s church and in Zwingli’s church were incapacitated, shall we say, as they were destroyed. Today you can go there and there are organs there and they even have concerts there, but in those days, there was no music. There was music. There was singing of Psalms, but there were no instruments.
And there are other differences, but let me just bring this plane down very, very quickly. What is the relevance of all of this? Well, the whole issue of “what is the church today” is important in America. The whole issue of civil religion is important in America.
What should we as Christians be about? Isn’t it amazing that they had their own disputes, but see the relevance for today. For example, the Ten Commandments. Should we go to the wall to say that the Ten Commandments should be on the walls of every schoolhouse in America? Should we want that kind of civil religion? You say, “Well, we want to have prayer in schools.” Well, that’s fine, but you know that if we have prayer in schools today, it will not be in the name of Jesus. It’ll just be a general prayer. It will say something like, “Whoever you are, whatever your name is, help us. Thank you.” Is that really what we are after?
See, the problem with the Christian Coalition in America, which I don’t think has much power anymore... But the Christian Coalition was not Christian. If it’s Christian, it has to be Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It has to be Jesus Christ and the resurrection. It has to be Gospel-centered. If it’s going to be Christian, it has to be that. The moral majority should have never been begun by a Christian minister under the banner of Jesus. I agree with Luther on that point. Confuse the issue so that people begin to think that you have to be a Republican in order to be a Christian.
You say, “Well, shouldn’t we be involved in those battles?” Absolutely. Form all the coalitions you like, but don’t call them Christian. Get other people who think like you, whether they are specifically Christian or not, and form coalitions in your schools and condemn some of the things that are taking place and so forth, but let’s keep the cross of Jesus and the Gospel distinct in such a way that we won’t be known for all of the things that we have attached to the cross.
Could I say... I’m speaking here extemporaneously based on my own convictions, and if I’m wrong, no problem. In a hundred years, we will know that truth was spoken here today.
The cross of Jesus today looks like a dilapidated bulletin board on which everyone has nailed an agenda, so in the name of Jesus we’ve done many things that are not per se Gospel. They may have been good things, but they should be done in the name of a conservative coalition, in the name of morality, in the name of this, and in the name of that. We’ve dragged Jesus into too many things in the United States of America.
I’m a little troubled that I don’t hear an “amen” at this point. Are there any “amens” out there? Because I want to be able to leave here today without any trouble.
The whole business of freedom of religion...Calvin and Luther... Calvin and Zwingli I should say...they weren’t really into freedom of religion. You don’t attend church in Zurich, you get written up. Same thing in Geneva. When the Puritans came here with the very same idea—they were Calvinists—they didn’t believe in freedom of religion. That’s why they ran Roger Williams out of town. They came for their kind of religion because remember the Puritans were still operating on a Reformation basis and understanding of the church.
The Baptists, bless them, they come and they begin to say, “Church and state have to be separate” and we’d agree that they have to be. Now, mind you, they are being separated in a way today that is very, very unprofitable and wrong, but the point is that church and state need to be separate to some degree. So these are the kinds of battles. What is the Gospel? How is the Gospel received? Is it received through the Mass? What are the relationships of the sacraments to the Gospel? All of these questions were debated and weighed, and there were disagreements during the time of the Reformation.
Now I have a few concluding words, but if you happen to have a question would you pass them to the aisles, and pastors, would you pick them up ASAP? And we’ll spend five minutes in answering questions if there are any. Now, it’s possible that I answered all the questions, and if I did that, why indeed, that would be a wonderful thing. But the real question that we still have to ask is, “What should the church be about?”
The church is known today for boycotts. You know, people say you shouldn’t drive a Ford car because Ford advances the homosexual agenda. Well, what if every company did it? Where are we going to end in all of these things? So these are the kinds of issues that we need to talk about when we speak about church/state relations.
Now, Luther, of course, he wanted to keep the Gospel clear of too many entanglements, and we have to commend him for that.
Pastor Hutz, do you have a question for me that has been lovingly written out, typed so clearly that even I would be able to read it?
Question: What kind of baptism is right, baptism by the Holy Spirit or baptism by water?
Thank you very much for making this a true or a false. The answer is baptism by the Holy Spirit and baptism by water.
Next question please. (laughter)
Question: In the whole scheme of biblical prophecy were the issues surrounding the Reformation foreseen or spoken of anywhere in the Scriptures? What about today and all of these issues we face? Is this period addressed in the Scriptures?
No, not specifically. Jesus just simply said that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, so in every era there have been those who have belonged to the true church by faith in Jesus Christ. After the time of Augustine, fourth century and so forth, you have the Donatists. They didn’t believe in infant baptism. They believed in baptism by immersion. They believed basically in justification by faith but they were rubbed out because of various reasons, and there were some heretics among them.
Then you have various groups carrying on the faith. Sometimes it’s referred to as the Trail of Blood. So Jesus has always has had His people on lanet Earth, but sometimes the church has gone through periods of unclarity. If you go to the Reformation monument in Geneva, you see a big sign. And it says in Latin, “After darkness, light.” And today we can stand and look at that sign, and if you know anything about the religion in Geneva or throughout Europe, you can continue it in saying, “And after light, darkness,” because Europe has rejected the faith by and large. But God has His people. God has His people. And the church is growing in other parts of the world greater than it is in America.
Question: Which Reformer was the best interpreter of Scripture?
Well, you know, I think, despite his mistakes, on the whole, when it comes to the doctrine of salvation, we’d have to hand the award to John Calvin. Now, he and Luther and Zwingli agreed basically, but Calvin saw things with a great deal of clarity. Now we don’t accept his view of the church because he also believed in infant baptism, and his theocracy there in Geneva that we talked about, I think was a great mistake. But Calvin understood the sovereignty of God in evangelism.
And whether you agree with everything that he wrote or not, you have to look at it and you have to say it’s breathtaking, the fact that God not only foresaw, but God was actively involved in saving you. If you are here today as a Christian, it’s because God overcame the blindness of your heart, He showed you your sin, you understood the beauty of Jesus, and He granted you the ability to receive Christ as Savior. So in the end, it really is all of God, isn’t it? Oh you say, “We’re involved.” Of course we’re involved, but we’re involved because God prompts our hearts to be involved.
Oh you say, “But what about my unsaved relatives? Should I pray for them?” Yes, your prayers and means may be the way in which God eventually saves them. The invitation is to everybody. “Whosoever will may come.” But, like Jesus said, “All that the Father gives to me shall come to me. And when they come I will not cast them out.” So the invitation is to everybody, but think it through.
Our Father, we thank you today for the life of Zwingli and Calvin and Luther, and though we do not agree, and though there are things that we do not understand, we thank you that they understood that salvation was through Jesus alone. And on that they agreed. And we pray today that in our quest for loving everyone, and certainly we should, that we might not neglect some of these issues which your Word would obviously teach are very important. Lead us in the everlasting way we ask, and thank you for all who are here.
And if there is someone here tonight who has never received Christ as Savior, would you convict him or her of sin, and bring them to saving faith? May they read your Word and be saved. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen. Amen!
Have a good week!