Reformation 500—Your Seven-Day Countdown
On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther tacked his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Cathedral ushering in the Protestant Reformation and reshaping Christianity. Today, Protestants number over 560 million world-wide—more than one out of every three followers. This revolutionary moment inspired five great doctrines that undergirded the entire Reformation:
Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
Sola Gloria (God’s Glory Alone)
Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
Sola Gratis (Grace Alone)
Sola Christos (Christ Alone)
And Luther was not the only key figure in the Reformation. Other men figured prominently in the development of the Protestant churches as well:
- Martin Luther– (1483 –1546) was a German professor of theology, composer, priest, monk, and the seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation.
- Huldrych Zwingli- (1484 – 1531) was a leader of the Reformation in Switzerland during a time of emerging Swiss patriotism and increasing criticism of the Swiss mercenary system. In 1519, Zwingli became the pastor of the Cathedral in Zurich where he began to preach ideas on reform of the Catholic Church. In his publications, he noted corruption in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, promoted clerical marriage, and attacked the use of images in places of worship.
- John Calvin- (1509-1564) was an influential French theologian, minister and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism, aspects of which include the doctrines of predestination and of the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation of the human soul from death.
Zwingli’s ideas came to the attention of Martin Luther and other reformers. They met at the Marburg Colloquy (1529) and although they agreed on many points of doctrine, they also began to realize with great clarity that their reformation would not bring uniformity of thought on all matters. Luther, Zwingli and Calvin could not (and would not) reach an accord on the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper and what occurred with the elements in the midst of the communion sacrament. Please notice that each man started from “Sola Scriptura” but focused upon a different phrase from Scripture to arrive at differing positions:
Luther: Focused upon the words of Jesus at institution, “This IS my body” and believed quite similarly to what the Catholic Church did that the bread actually becomes (changes into) the actual body/flesh of Jesus. The Catholic church taught “transubstantiation”: Trans means “change” and substantiation means “substance.” Luther’s teaching saw the change occurring “with-in” the elements and is generally called “consubstantiation.”
Zwingli: Focused upon the words of Jesus that stated, “Do this in REMEMBRANCE of Me.” He viewed the Lord’s Supper as a memorial, a regular reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus—but nothing metaphysical was taking place. The one time sacrifice of Jesus has been fully offered and grace reckoned to us as salvation.
Calvin: Focused more upon the meaning of what was taking place in the communion meal. Narratives like Jesus on the road to Emmaus carried great weight as scripture records, “Jesus was REVEALED to them in the breaking of bread. “ He viewed communion as a place of grace where Jesus Christ is spiritually present and meets us to bestow grace. For Calvin, it was not about the elements being changed but rather human hearts changing.
Notice that Luther, Calvin and Zwingli all agreed upon many aspects of the Lord’s Supper… Who? (Jesus?), What? (bread and wine) When? (they all partook each Sunday) Why? (instituted by Christ before his crucifction). But the reformers could not agree upon “How?” God went about presenting the elements to us. What would they do?
When“protesting” Reformers did not see eye-to-eye they met to discuss, tried to reach consensus and then found unity apart from uniformity. It was a follower of Luther who later first said:
“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty,
In All Things Charity”
QUESTION: What do you think happens at the Lord’s Supper? Are you closer to Luther, Zwingli or Calvin? Let us know your thinking….