Good morning everybody. Let me open us up in a word of prayer and we’ll get started. Father, we’re grateful for Your hand of protection upon us, protecting us through storms, literal storms and also the storms of life. So we’re grateful for Your providential care over Your children and I just ask that You’ll be with us during Sunday School as we try to understand church history a little better and with the main service that follows. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory, we ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said… Amen.
Why don’t we open our Bibles to Mark’s Gospel, chapter 7, and verse 13. And as you know we’re continuing our study on The Protestant Reformation, I think we’re on lesson 6. The reason we’re looking into this is 500 years this October, end of October, will mark the 500th year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation when Luther started it really, by nailing his 95 Thesis to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany so you’re going to hear when we get into the fall a lot of people talking about the Protestant Reformation so what was that whole thing about. And we’re doing a series on what it accomplished and what it did not accomplish.
Here’s the outline that we’re following; we’ve looked at the early church and what the early church, the apostles handed off to the first generation of Christians which I think is represented by the circle up north in Antioch where they applied a method of interpretation called the literal method of interpretation. They even applied it to the whole Bible, including prophecy. There’s another map there, you can see Antioch up north. And then we talked about what happened with the Alexandrian eclipse down south, that bottom circle. A rival school developed in Alexandria, Egypt, which began to dismiss the literal method of interpretation. There’s another circle there, it tells you where Alexandria, Egypt is, and they began to get into a method of interpretation called allegorization, or they began to take certain parts of the Bible and say well, those really aren’t literally true, they just represent symbolic ideas. So I’ve shown you how they did that with the Garden of Eden, the wall, the gates around the wall I should say, in Nehemiah 3.
And as you move into that method of interpretation what you discover is the biblical text is no longer in control but the carnal imaginations of man are now in control. And we talked about why the shift happened and how this mindset really took over the church, for lack of a better expression. So Alexandria, Egypt eclipsed Antioch.
That led us to a period of time that lasted about a thousand years, called the Dark Ages, that’s Roman numeral III there. And we talked about the Dark Ages and basically the Dark Ages, although there’s always exceptions but the Dark Ages is a time period where the Bible is removed from the common man. Bible translations aren’t available, illiteracy is rampant. And even if people had a Bible (which they didn’t) they were told they couldn’t understand it because they hadn’t been schooled in the Alexandrian method of allegorization.
So once you start to see all that background, which lasted a long time, that takes us all the way up to Roman numeral IV, the 16th century when God began to raise up certain men called the Protestant Reformers. They (when they started) didn’t know they were Protestant Reformers, they were just voicing disagreements with the one church at the time, the Roman Catholic Church. But they began basically to demand a return to the literal method of interpretation, to get back to Antioch in other words.
The last time we were together I talked to you about… and this takes us to Roman numeral IV in our outline, the contribution of the Protestant Reformers. And I’m sorry I’ve been taking so long to get to this point. Most studies on the Protestant Reformation start you right at this point but I felt the need to give you the background that we’ve covered in about five lessons because you can’t understand the significance of the Protestant Reformation until you understand what was lost and what needed to be restored. So we go to Roman numeral IV, the contribution of the Protestant Reformers and we talked last time about the preparation of the Reformers, didn’t we? There were some morning stars of the Reformation, some people that preceded Luther that were trying to argue basically the same thing Luther was trying to argue but they didn’t have a lot of influence. So we talked about a few names there, names like Huss, Wycliffe and others. And I talked to you a little bit about how God prepared Martin Luther through his consecration, monasticism, conversion, and ultimately leaving what we know today as the Protestant Reformation.
So with the background of some of these Reformers in mind what did the Protestant Reformation really bring to Christendom, or Christianity? I have several things listed here, but one of them is an emphasis on literal interpretation. When you study the Protestant Reformers you start to see they sound an awful lot alike the folks at Antioch in the first two centuries of the church. So let me give you a few quotes here.
Here is William Tyndale, who was a contemporary of Martin Luther. And Tyndale says, “The Scripture hath but one sense, which is the literal sense.” [William Tyndale, ‘Obedience of a Christian Man, in Doctrinal Treatises and Introductions to Different Portions of the Holy Scriptures, ed. Henry Walter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1848), 304.] Now that’s the exact opposite of what Roman Catholicism, coming from Alexandria, Egypt, had been teaching for over a thousand years.
So you start to get this idea that interpretation is one but application is many and there’s one interpretation and it can be borne out through taking the words in the ordinary sense. As you look at Luther’s writings and sermons and things like that this is a big issue with Luther. He says, [The Scriptures] “are to be retained in their simplest meaning,” in other words, when you look at the four rivers in Eden, the Pishan, the Gihon, the Tigris and the Euphrates, what does that mean? Well, it means there’s four rivers in Eden is what it means, you don’t have to read into it a bunch of stuff about the four parts of the soul and all of these kinds of things. So Luther said [The Scriptures] “are to be retained in their simplest meaning whenever possible, and to be understood in their grammatical and literal sense unless the context plainly forbids.” [Quoted by Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 1991), 45. So the method of interpretation that Luther is trying to bring back is what’s called the literal method; you take words and ideas in the Bible in their ordinary sense unless there’s something in the context that tells you that the Scriptural writers are using a figure of speech.
So for example, the Bible does use many different figures of speech; it uses hyperbole, it uses similes, it uses metaphors, it uses personification when it says the mountains clapped, we don’t look at that as the mountains having hands clapping. These are all figures of speech but when there’s a figure of speech in play it’s sort of obvious in the text itself. So unless there’s an obvious figure of speech in play you take the Bible for what it says. And this is the method that Luther used to restore the church to proper doctrine that had been lost for over a thousand years.
Martin Luther, in another quote puts it this way. He says, “‘I have observed this, that all heresies and errors have originated, not from the simple words of Scripture, as is so universally asserted, but from neglecting the simple words of Scripture, and from the affection of purely subjective…tropes and inferences.’ ‘In the schools of theologians it is a well-known rule that Scripture is to be understood in four ways” see, what is this “four ways” idea? That comes from Augustine and Alexandria, Egypt, and allegorization. ‘In the schools of theologians” what schools? The schools influenced by Augustine, Alexandria which influenced Augustine which influenced Roman Catholicism, “In the schools of the theologians it is a well-known rule that Scripture is to be understood in four ways,” so when you look at the rivers in Genesis 2 there’s actually four interpretations of that. You probably didn’t know that did you, because the way you read it it just says four rivers. But the theologians are coming along and saying let me give you the higher mean, which you can’t see.
“In the schools of the theologians it is a well-known rule that Scripture is to be understood in four ways, literal, literal, allegoric, moral, anagogic. But if we wish to handle Scripture aright, our one effort will be to obtain unum,” now I’m not much of a Latin speaker, I’m not a Latin speaker at all so forgive me for mangling some of these words, “our one effort will be to obtain unum, simplecum, germanum, et certum sensum literalem.’” How’s that for a dose on Sunday morning, which simply means, “‘Each passage has one clear, definite, and true sense of its own. All others are but doubtful and uncertain opinions.’” [quoted in Frederic W. Farrar, History of Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1961; reprint, 1886), 327.] So Luther is getting back to the objective truth of God’s Word that everyone can understand and all of these things that the allegorical method foist or thrust into the Scripture are just subjective; it can’t be tested and it’s just someone’s opinion.
And when Luther is making these kind of statements what you have to understand is he is unearthing a thousand years or more of church authority. In his Table Talk Luther says this: “Thus Luther [(Table Talk, ‘On God’s Word,’ 11) remarks: “‘I have grounded my preaching upon the literal word;” see how they keep using the word “literal.” If you look up the word “literal” in the Oxford Dictionary it basically means by the letters. “By the letters” means you’re interpreting what’s there rather than dragging in a bunch of stuff into the passage that’s not there. You know, using the gates around the wall of Jerusalem to say well this fish gate means it’s evangelism. Well, that’s not what the text says, it just says they took fish in and out of the gate. “I have grounded my preaching upon the literal word; he that pleases may follow me, he that will not may stay.’” [Quoted in George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom, 3 vols. (New York: Funk & Wagnall’s, 1884; reprint, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1952), 1:47]
So that’s a nice way of saying the exits are clearly marked. And Luther says this is the way I teach the Bible, I teach it literally.
Another great Reformer that’s very influential during this time is John Calvin, who I believe was born after Luther. And you get into Calvin’s material and he’s basically saying the same kind of thing. “Calvin wrote in the preface of his commentary on Romans “it is the first business of an interpreter to let the author say what he does say, instead of attributing to him what we think he ought to say.” [Quoted by Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 1991), 47. ]
Now we kind of take this for granted but a thousand years of allegorization and the people not having a Bible and the people being told they couldn’t understand the Bible because they weren’t schooled in allegorization—these are unearthing statements. And the Lord is using this to redirect the church away from Roman Catholicism, away from Augustinianism, away from Alexandrianism and all the way back to Antioch.
Calvin wrote in his commentary on Galatians, “Calvin wrote in his commentary on Galatians “Let us know then that the true meaning of Scripture is the natural and obvious meaning; and let us embrace and abide by it resolutely.” [John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, p. 136; Quoted by Gerrit H. Hospers, The Principle of Spiritualization in Hermeneutics (E. Williamson, NY: Author, 1935), p. 11] What he means there is you take words and phrases, like Bethlehem, Jesus, virgin, Jerusalem, whatever is being said in the Scripture, you don’t come into it and assign some meaning that the words don’t normally mean. You assign to those words and phrases the meanings that those words would have in ordinary speaking, writing and thinking. And if you’re not willing to do that then the authority in interpretation changes. That’s the problem. The authority moves away from the biblical text into the subjective mind of the interpreter. So this whole issue of consistent literal interpretation is just a battle of authority; who’s going to be in charge here? Is the written Word of God going to be in charge or is the mind of the allegorist going to be in charge.
Philip Schaff, a very well-known church historian, of John Calvin says this: “Calvin is the founder of grammatico–historical exegesis.” Now I would qualify his statement a little bit. I don’t think he’s the founder of it, I think he is the retriever of it; I think I’ve shown enough evidence that it, this method that Calvin is using and Luther is using is already well-established for 200 years in the church before it was lost. “Calvin is the founder of grammatico-historical exegesis.” What does that mean, “grammatical?” You understand that words are linked in a passage, there’s something called syntax and sentence structure and you have a subject, you have a verb, you have an object, you have different ways verbs are used, present tense, on and on we could go. So they’re into studying the laws of language because God has revealed Himself in language.
And by the way, who authored language? God did, so God authored language, God revealed Himself in 66 books linguistically; language has laws that govern it, right? Just like math does, just like engineering does; every discipline has laws. So if you’re into grammatical method of interpretation you’re studying the laws of language that bind anything linguistically, a legal contract, a lecture, a conversation, anything. So you study those laws and you apply them to Scripture.
“Calvin is the founder of grammatico–historical exegesis.” What does historical mean? Historical means it was written in a historical context. So when it says “the prince and power of the air” I don’t say well, the air is the radio so the devil is on the radio…I’ve heard people say stuff like that. Well, that’s not what “prince and power of the air” meant when Paul wrote that. If you study that in Greek it’s the prince and power of the atmosphere, so I’m interpreting “air” not based on some 21st century definition but how it was commonly used back in first century times. “Calvin is the founder of grammatico–historical exegesis.” You know what that term is, right, it comes from the Greek preposition, ek, drawing out from the text what is there; eisegesis comes from the Greek preposition eis, into, it’s the opposite, you’re reading into the text what is not there. Antioch and the reformers are trying to practice exegesis; Alexandria, Egypt, Augustine, Roman Catholicism is doing the opposite up to the time of Calvin and Luther; they’re practicing eisegesis. I know that a lot of this sounds academic but if I can just boil it down to its basics it’s the question of authority; it’s a question of who’s going to be in control of the interpretation process.
Now obviously if you believe God has spoken in this Book, who do we want to be in charge here? I think we want God to be in charge, right? So the best way to keep God in charge is to consistently practice the literal (by the letters), grammatical (studying syntax) historical (understanding words or phrases in their ordinary sense). The best way to understand God and to let God speak is to consistently practice the literal grammatical historical method of interpretation.
The Reformers restore that method in some areas of the Bible but as I’ll be showing you in the subsequent weeks they didn’t do it in other areas. But at least they gave us a start here. I mean, the Reformers, they knocked over a domino and once the first domino fell the Holy Spirit started raising up other people and other dominos started to fall as people were following the same method that the Protestant Reformers retrieved from Antioch. Am I ever going to get to this quote here: “Calvin is the founder of grammatico–historical exegesis. He affirmed and carried out the sound hermeneutical” now “hermeneutical” means interpretation, “hermeneutic principle the biblical writers, like all sensible writers, wished to convey to their reader’s – one definite thought in words which they could understand.”
I’ve studied under postmodern allegorists teachers and they will deconstruct things and assign their own meaning to writings, but the funny thing is when they pass out their syllabus and it says the exam is on this day and the paper in the class is due on this day you can’t raise your hand and say well, I don’t the syllabus the same way you interpret it. All of these allegorists demand that their own words be understood literally but they don’t use that same method when they approach writings of others.
Where did I leave off here; I’m just going to start in the middle or else I’ll never finish. “A passage may have a literal or figurative sense;” so yeah, we believe there’s figures of speech in the Bible when they’re conspicuous in the text, if they’re not conspicuous in the text you just take the text for what it says. “A passage may have a literal or figurative sense but cannot have two senses at once.” It can’t be literal and allegorical simultaneously; it’s got to be literal. “The Word of God is inexhaustible and applicable to all times,” here’s a key thing to understand, interpretation is one; application is many. The first goal of interpretation is to understand meaning, what is this passage actually saying. Once you figure out what meaning is then a second method of not interpretation but preaching or teaching is to apply that meaning to the needs of the audience. So once meaning is established you can apply the text very different ways but you’re not doing it outside the meaning that you have established.
So why does Pastor Andy preach so long? Why do we have to stay here till after 12:30? Why can’t we beat the Baptists to the cafeteria? Because I’m an advocate of this method of interpretation and I can’t do it in a soundbite. To stand up in the pulpit and establish meaning takes time. It would be much easier for me to just pick three points and a poem. Let me give you the three points of application today, 1, 2, 3, and everybody gets a liver quiver of the day and says oh, I feel better for five minutes, until I get in an argument with my wife on the way home, then it just dissolves like cotton candy, or the first trial that comes up. It would be much easier for me, and probably for Sugar Land Bible Church would be larger if I did it this way: just give me the three points of application, don’t talk so long, you can get it done in 20-25 minutes. There you go, there’s your mega church.
Well, the problem is what’s happening is people are leaving congregations with wonderful application but then you wonder well, where did he get that from? I’ve heard sermons that have a lot more in common with the Dale Carnegie course or Tony Robbins or positive thinking type things than the Bible. And what’s happening is people are just ripping the Bible out of context to support some kind of pre agenda that they have in terms of application. Don’t get me wrong, I am pro application but I’m also pro meaning. I don’t want people to leave here without understanding what is the meaning of this and application is an important step in the process but it is a secondary step. So to do meaning and application requires a certain time discipline; it’s not something that can be done in a sound bite. There I go again, where’d I leave off?
“ The Word of God is inexhaustible and applicable to all times, but there is a difference between explanation and application,” you see the difference there, “and application” watch this “must be consistent with” what? “explanation.” [Quoted by Gerrit H. Hospers, The Principle of Spiritualization in Hermeneutics (E. Williamson, NY: Author, 1935), p. 12.] Your application is only as good as the meaning it comes from because if I give you some application that has no basis in the text it’s not going to hold up in your life when the first trial hits your life Monday morning or Sunday afternoon for that matter. You have to have both. So what you find is the Reformers emphasizing literal interpretation. Now what are they denouncing in the process? Allegorization; they’re denouncing everything that was taught in Alexandria, Egypt. So notice how Luther not only promotes literal interpretation but he condemns allegorization.
One writer, Farrar, in his History of Interpretation says, “Luther denounced the allegorical approach to Scripture in strong words. He said:” quote, Luther now speaking, “‘An interpreter…must as much as possible avoid allegory, that he may not wander in idle dreams.’ ‘Allegories are empty speculations and as it were the scum of Holy Scripture.’” I mean, one of the things I like about these Reformers is you don’t really have to guess what they’re thinking, they just come out and… how do you really feel Martin Luther? But the aggressiveness that they’re advocating their ideas is necessary to unearth a thousand years of bad interpretation. He says, “Origen” now Origen is one of the early interpreters I introduced you to coming from the school of Alexandria, probably around the third century. “‘Origen’s allegories are not worth so much dirt.’” Wow! “‘To allegorize is to juggle with Scripture’” “‘Allegory is sort of a beautiful harlot,’” look at this, “a beautiful harlot who proves herself specially seductive to idle men.”’ “Allegorizing may degenerate into a mere monkey game.”’ Meaning the meaning is just whatever the allegorist wants it to mean. “Allegories are awkward, absurd, inventive, obsolete, loose rags…mere spangles and pretty ornaments but nothing more.’” [Quoted in Frederic W. Farrar, History of Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1961; reprint, 1886), 328]
You can see why he ticked off the Roman Catholic hierarchy by talking about things like this. You find the same type of aggressive denunciation of allegorization in the writings of John Calvin. Roy Zuck here is quoting John Calvin. “Calvin similarly rejected allegorical interpretations. He called them ‘frivolous games’ and accused Origen and other allegorists of ‘torturing scripture, in every possible sense, from the true sense.”’ [Quoted by Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 1991), 47.]
In other words what the allegorist is doing is they are ignoring the laws of language which govern all languages. And since God has revealed Himself in language if you want to understand God you have to understand the laws of language and he’s saying allegorists just set aside the normal laws of language. It’s like trying to set aside the law of gravity. Language is a law. When you get into actual syntax and grammar and things like that you understand that language functions according to laws and you can’t just rewrite the law when you see something in the Bible you may not like. That’s what Calvin is getting at here.
And in the process the Protestant Reformers begin to reject church tradition as a guide. This is huge and that’s why I had you open to Mark 7:13. You say we’re finally getting to the passage now? Yeah, that was my intro. Jesus faced this same battle, Mark 7:13, with the Pharisees who had buried the Scripture under layer after layer after layer after layer of manmade tradition. I had to read some of that manmade tradition when I was in seminary and it’s just exhausting all of the manmade requirements they put on the Scripture. And there was something called the Mishnah and something called the Talmud. There was actually two Talmud’s, one from the land of Israel, one later created in Babylon where many of the Jews remained, having not returned from the Babylonian captivity.
And so you look at all that stuff and it’s like reading the tax code; it’s just exhausting the amount of detail and information. And it started off well intentioned because they understood that violating the Sabbath, the Sabbath/land principle, you know, let the land rest a year, the seventh year, every year that they broke that was another year that God put them into captivity. That’s why they were in captivity for seventy years. I’ll explain that more in our Daniel series when we get to Daniel 9, the seventy weeks prophecy.
So they passed a bunch of regulations to stop what people could and could not do on the Sabbath and in the process the tail starts to wag the dog. The regulations start to take over the interpretive process where the text is not being interpreted; the text is being filtered through all these layers of regulation. So the tail starts to wag the dog do the point where the biblical text is no longer an authority and these Pharisaical regulations became so bad that they actually lost the meaning of the text.
And that’s why when Jesus healed somebody on the Sabbath what are the Pharisees doing? They’re freaking out, how can You do that? Why can’t I heal someone on the Sabbath? You’re not supposed to work on the Sabbath. Well, why aren’t you supposed to work on the Sabbath? Well, look at what the Mishnah says; look at what the Talmud says. And then Jesus comes back and says, Do you now know what the purpose of the Sabbath is, going back to its original intent. The purpose of the Sabbath is to be a blessing to man; God didn’t design us to work seven days a week all year long; He designed us for a day of rest. So God gave us the Sabbath, a day of rest, to be a blessing to us. And they had so lost the meaning that was given originally through Moses that by the time of Christ, with all these Pharisaical regulations they were all upset over Jesus blessing someone on the Sabbath when in fact that was the Sabbath’s purpose. So what Christ is doing is He’s coming along and He’s saying this is the authority based on the literal grammatical historical method of the Sabbath, this is an authority, not all of these regulations.
And what I want you to understand is that’s basically what the Reformers are doing; they’re saying this is the authority, not all of this allegorical interpretation and Roman Catholic hierarchy. So Luther makes all of these statements about rejecting church tradition as a guide. Luther says, quote, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils,” WOW, I mean that’s such a huge statement right there given the time period that he was living in, “for they have contradicted each other” he says that’s a funny thing about all this extra-biblical regulations, even those guys don’t agree with each other. “… my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me.” Some translations say “here I stand, I can do no other, God help me, Amen.” [Luther at the Imperial Diet of Worms (1521)]
So what is he saying here when he highlights Scripture and rejects the authority of the Popes and the councils? He is rejecting church tradition as a guide for understanding God. It doesn’t matter what Priest A said or Priest B said or Monk A said or Monk B said or Pope A said or Pope B said; what matters is what this Book says. And he’s basically saying I’ll agree with the Popes and the Monks when they agree with this Book but when they depart from this Book I depart from them. And that’s what Jesus is doing in the first century, in the time of Christ. He’s basically saying Pharisaical regulation is great as long as it is harmonizing with this Book but once it fails to harmonize with this Book I can’t follow it any more. And this is the philosophy of Sugar Land Bible Church also because there’s so much that goes on in local churches, people want to follow some tradition of the past; maybe the tradition is valid, maybe it’s not. Or a lot of people come in and they want to impose something on a Bible church; maybe what they want to impose is valid, maybe it’s not. But the issue is, is it in harmony with the Scripture. And how can you tell unless you’ve read the Scripture? And how can you understand the Scripture unless you take it literally, unless in those places that it’s telling you not to take it literally.
Another great…oh, I love this quote, this is one of my favorites from Luther; he’s having a debate here with a guy named Dr. Eck; Eck is the Roman Catholic Representative at that time. Luther in this debate says, “I ask for the Scripture, and Eck offers me the Fathers. I ask for the sun,” not s-o-n, s-u-n, and he shows me his lanterns. I ask, ‘where is your Scripture proof?’ and he adduces Ambrose and Cyril…With all due respect to the Fathers, I prefer the authority of Scripture.”
So in this debate, give me the sun, you’ve given me lanterns because they’re all dog-piling on Luther because he’s teaching justification by faith alone. Eck is coming along and saying where are you going to find that in the church councils and the church creeds and the church confessions and in the Monks and in the Popes and all this stuff. And Luther says I have a church father that outweighs every other church Father, the Apostle Paul. And that’s where he quotes the Book of Galatians, “the just shall live by” what? “shall live by faith.” That’s where the doctrine of justification by faith comes from. And part of this process of rejecting church tradition as a guide is the rejection of the papacy because what you have to understand in the Roman Catholic system the Popes speak Ex-cathedra. What does Ex-cathedra mean? Ex-cathedra means from the chair, in other words the Pope’s proclamations are on equal authority with the Word of God. And they believe that the papacy is traced back, lineage wise to Peter who they think is the first Pope. I think we’ve looked at this passage before, haven’t we? Very quickly look at Matthew 16:18 because when you dialogue or converse with your Roman Catholic friends what you have to understand is you, as a Protestant are operating on a different authority base than they are. That’s why we disagree on so many things. They’re operating on the basis of Scripture and…; you’re operating on the basis of Scripture period. And when you operate on the basis of Scripture and you’re going to come to different conclusions than the person that’s operating on Scripture by itself.
So Matthew 16:18 says, Jesus speaking to Peter, “I also say to you the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” So in Roman Catholic thinking what they believe is Jesus built the church on Peter, who was the first Pope. That’s a problem, isn’t it, because look at verse 23, “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me,” what? “Satan!” Why would Jesus build the church on a guy who the next second his mouth is about to be used as an instrument of Satan; it doesn’t make any sense, does it. So the whole problem is cleared up just by looking at this in Greek; in English it doesn’t come across this way but when you look at in Greek it’s very clear. And this is why you have to go back to the literal grammatical historical method of interpretation and interpret passages according to the laws of language.
What it says is: “I say that you are Peter,” now the word for “Peter” there is Petros, masculine noun which means little stone, “and upon this rock” now when he says “this rock” he’s not making another reference to Peter. Well, how do I know that, the English Bible says that. Well, it doesn’t read that… the Bible wasn’t written in English folks, we are all aware of that right, it’s written in Greek. When he says “upon this rock” it’s a different Greek word. If he wanted to say the church was built on Peter he would use Petros twice, wouldn’t he. But he doesn’t do that, he says “upon this rock,” he just switched the word, Petra, which is not masculine but feminine. It doesn’t mean little stone; it means what? large stone. So Jesus is building the church, not on Peter, the little stone but on the Big Rock. “I will build My church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
So what is the Big Rock? It’s not Peter; I believe the Big Rock is Peter’s confession; He’s not building the church on Peter; He’s building the church on an accurate statement that Peter just made. Where? In the prior verse. See how context helps us with this. Just look at the prior verse. Peter has declared that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, verse 16. Verse 17, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’” So Jesus is not building the church on “little stone” Peter, who is about to betray Him three times by the way. He’s building it on the big stone, the accurate confession of who Jesus is, that at that moment came out of the mouth of Peter.
So the Protestant Reformers are starting to look at this passage using the laws of language. And all of these, for over a thousand years the Roman Catholic Church has been telling people don’t pay attention to that verse folks, just move right along. The Protestant Reformers say no, let’s look at this and let’s look at this using the laws of language. And in the process they are rejecting church tradition as a guide; they’re rejecting the idea that Peter is the first Pope, and they’re getting back to what the text says. They’re interpreting the Bible through the lens of the Bible rather than through the lens of the papacy. So this is a massive contribution that the Protestant Reformers are making here. And in the process what starts to get restored to the church? The priesthood of all believers.
Take a look for just a minute at Revelation 1:6, because you see in the Roman Catholic system who do you confess your sins to? To a priest. So the priest is your intermediary back to God. And that’s why your average person was told they can’t understand the Bible because that is the responsibility of the priest. So the Bible is removed from the people; it’s interpreted to the people through the lens of the priesthood and as we have studied the priests were abusing their authority through the sale of indulgences; “when the coin in the coffer rings the soul from purgatory springs.” Luther didn’t like that at all because he didn’t like to see people manipulated any more than you like to see that.
But as he gets back into the actual biblical text he says that these Roman Catholic priests have absolutely no authority biblically for what they’re doing. Why? Because of passages like Revelation 1:6, “and He has made us” now who would “us” be? The church. “He has made us to be a kingdom, priests” plural, “to His God and Father– to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” So who are the priests according to that passage? The church, us, plural. And so the Protestant Reformers start to advance this idea of the priesthood of all believers. See, in Israel not everyone was a priest.
Did you know that? The priests came from the tribe of Levi and they had to be a descendant of who’s lineage? Aaron’s. Well, you get into the church age, which started in Acts 2 and you have a different teaching for the body of Christ in the present dispensation or age of time that we are in and you discover that all of us are priests. Did you know that you’re a priest? I mean, that’s a startling thing to discover, isn’t? When your whole life you’ve been groveling to this manmade priest and then you’re reading in the Bible that you’re a priest. Whoa! If I’m a priest and you’re a priest maybe we can all understand the Bible on our own, without it being filtered to us through the lens of the priesthood. This starts the process of the priesthood of all believers.
And you know, so many people are sort of Roman Catholic still, even to some extent at Sugar Land Bible Church because, like when I’m out with people and we pray before the meal everybody is looking at me like I should be the one to pray for everybody. I mean, aren’t we all priests? I mean, why can’t you pray for the meal. I need a little rest anyway every once in a while. Or people call the church and they say I want Andy to pray for this. Well, I don’t mind praying for anything, I love to pray for people but the reality is my prayers don’t have any more authority than your prayers have. I’m a priest, you’re a priest, we have different roles because God has given me the gift of pastor-teacher, I’m a teacher, that may be an office that you don’t have but that doesn’t mean I have some kind of special pipeline to God that you don’t have, right?
But people have been sold this idea for over a thousand years that the priest is the one that’s the intermediary to God and Luther has figured out here, based on the return to the authority of the Scripture, that all of us are priests. And so what starts to get restored is the priesthood of all believers. So everyone has access to God; everyone can understand the Bible for themselves. And this leads to other dominoes that begin to fall, such as Bible translations. Oh my goodness, if all of us are priests and the Bible is literally true, and God gave us a book to understand… do we all agree with that, that God gave us a book so we could understand it? I understand that some parts of it are harder than others but generally speaking God didn’t write a book to confuse everybody. So if all of that is true and there’s a priesthood of all believers, my goodness, I think what we need to do is we need to translate the Bible into the language of the common man.
Now we say well so what? That’s no big deal. Well, not in the year 2017 it’s no big deal when you have Bibles in every size or shape or color that you like with all kinds of notes and maps and table of contents, where the Bible is totally accessible, but think if you’re living in a time period where the Bible is not accessible to the people for a thousand years. Think about a time period when the Mass is in Latin and you go to Mass and you can’t understand what they’re saying.
So the Protestant Reformers are now moving in the direction of Bible translations. And when I was in Germany there’s the desk; I mean, I don’t know if he did every little part of it here but there’s the desk where it’s believed Martin Luther did a lot of his translation work, in Wittenberg, Germany, they took us to the actual house of Martin Luther. And Luther translated the New Testament, which was only available in Latin, (watch this very carefully) NOT from Latin into German, and I was very specific in my questioning of our guide because she started to get annoyed with me because I kept asking so many questions. I said this is very important, when Luther did the translation (she’s looking at me like where’d this guy come from) when Luther did the translation did he translate it from the Latin to the German or did he do it from the Greek to the German. See the difference? Because there was a Latin Vulgate available in the fourth century going back to Jerome. And she was very clear with me that when he did the translation he translated it, not from the Latin to the German which was common language of the people in Luther’s area, but from the Greek to the German. Why I asked. Because he did not trust the Roman Catholic version.
So here’s this guy who spends 11 months; he obviously was brilliant if you’ve ever studied languages, to be flexible like that, but he went from Greek to German in eleven months, New Testament. Why would a guy waste his time doing that? Because of Revelation 1:6, the priesthood of what? All believers. [Revelation 1:6, “and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father– to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”]
And then when he does the Old Testament it didn’t take him 11 months, it took him 11 years. Did you know that? So I raised my hand again and I asked the guy, why did it take him 11 years to do the Old Testament when he did the New Testament in 11 months. And the answer basically that she gave is his life became filled with crises, turmoil, people wanting to kill him, and these kinds of things. And people were looking to him for leadership, and you can imagine the disruption at a personal level that’s going on in his life and so it took him much longer to do the Old Testament from Hebrew into German. But he got the thing done. And the whole emphasis of doing this translation work is this priesthood of all believers.
So they wanted to translate the Bible into the language of the common man. That is what Tyndale was doing also, translating the Bible into the language of the people that he was ministering to. Now if you want to translate the Bible into the language of the common man what kind of standard to you have to raise? A literacy standard because as I’ve tried to explain throughout the Middle Ages there is a rampant illiteracy so what you start to find in the Protestant Reformers is an emphasis on people becoming literate. Why is that? So they can read the Wall Street Journal and pick the better stocks? See, our whole goal in getting people literate is so that they can get a better job. Right? And achieve the American dream. That’s not at all the thinking of the Protestant Reformers. The whole goal of getting people literate is to get them to a point where they can read the Bible for themselves because of the theological rubric called the priesthood of some believers? NO, priesthood of all believers. So Bible translations logically lead to a need for literacy and that’s why you see statements in the Protestant Reformers about the need for literacy.
This is one of my favorite Luther quotes. He said, “I am afraid that the schools” well why in the world do we need schools? Because of the priesthood of all believers. They need school to learn to read and they need to learn how to read because they need to learn how to read the Bible on their own because we’re reversing a thousand years of church tradition which basically never taught the priesthood of all believers. “I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell,” WOW, that’s prophetic, isn’t it? “… unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth….” Now look at this, “I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not unceasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.”
So can you say hello home schooling? Hello Christian schools? I think the Protestant Reformers, if you could resurrect them from the dead would be the most enthusiastic cheerleaders you could get on the whole issue of home schooling and getting children out of environments where the Word of God is not reigning paramount. And I’m surprised that more home schooling advocates don’t use quotes like this. I had to really hunt for this one. This to me is very powerful. Now from Europe, after the Protestant Reformation happened, and I’ll end with this slide here, the subsequent generations came from Europe to where? The United States of America. So this country was founded by the children or the spiritual descendants of the Protestant Reformation. So they came to the United States of America with the same mindset that one of the first things we’ve got to do is we’ve got to get a public school system set up to teach people to read, not to pick the best stocks and retire early but to read so they can have access to the Word of God because of the doctrine called the priesthood of the what? All believers.
So this is what’s called the Old Satan Deluder Law, 1642, Massachusetts. Now this is not too long, too many generations after the Protestant Reformation, so this is the heritage of the Reformers. This is what the Law said; this is the beginning of public schools in the United States. “It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the” Wall Street Journal, it doesn’t say that, “to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures,” now look at this next statement, “as in former time…”
What former time could they be talking about: Any guesses? The Dark Ages, that’s the “former time” they’re talking about. What they’re saying when they set up the school system in America is we don’t want to go back to a thousand years of Dark Ages. We want to keep the priesthood of all believers doctrine. So to do that we have to get people literate to understand the Bible in their own language. So since that’s the motivation, “It is therefore ordered …”, not suggested, “ordered that … after the Lord hath increased the settlement…they shall…appoint one within their town, to teach all such” who? “children to read…they shall set up a” what kind of school? “grammar school” what is a grammar school? It’s a school that studies the laws of grammar, subject, verb, object, adjective, nominative, accusative, present tense, all that kind of stuff, “grammar to instruct youths…” [Church of the Holy Trinity v. U.S., 143 U.S. 457, 467 (1892]
Well why did the children of the Protestant Reformers, when they came to America, want to set up a school that taught people the laws of language? So they wouldn’t be deceived by the devil and go back to the sale of indulgences and the manipulation of the masses by the priesthood as had been done in former time.
That’s the origin of education in the United States. And now, (I’d better be careful, I feel a sermon coming on here) [laughter] and now people are telling me we’ve got to get the Bible and prayer out of the public schools because of the separation of church and state, whatever that means. And if you put your ear to the ground you can hear Martin Luther rolling over in his grave every time people say that. It’s just so ridiculous and we have so lost sight of history that we can’t even see lies when they’re in front of our faces. You’re telling me to get the Bible out of the public schools you never read the Old Satan Deluder Law and the purpose of public education in America?
Well, I was going to open it up for questions but the Spirit took over. I promise, we’ll get to questions next time.
Let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for the Reformation and the heritage that we have and learning about these truths. Make us good stewards of these things as we do this historical study together. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said…. Amen.