The first of the five solas of the Protestant Reformation is Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). Although, when we study the history of the Reformation, we rightly pay tribute to the men who were particularly used by God in bringing about that monumental shift in the church that has cascaded down the last 500 years changing the world we must never lose sight of the fact that the actual cause of the Reformation was the Bible.
It was through the study of the Scriptures, particularly Romans 1:17, that Martin Luther came to understand the doctrine of justification by faith. He wrestled and wrestled with that text until at last the breakthrough came and, through the work of the Holy Spirit, he understood that righteousness was God’s gift received by faith. This became known as Luther’s ‘tower experience’ where he encountered God through the text of Scripture and was changed from the inside out. He later wrote, “Here I felt I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates . . . That place in Paul (Romans 1:17) was for me the very gate to paradise.”
Later, while hidden away in the castle in Wartburg, Luther translated the New Testament into German in just eleven weeks. It took a further twelve years (with the help of others) to complete the Old Testament. Having the Scriptures in the language of the people transformed the church in Germany. People who lived in darkness and superstition were brought into the light of salvation as the Word of God was read and preached in their own language.
The same thing happened in England through the life and ministry of William Tyndale. The Catholic Church in England would not allow the production of the English Bible, so Tyndale worked in secret in Germany. In 1526, he completed translating the first English New Testament. Despite strenuous efforts by Catholic bishops and other church officials (including the burning of Bibles and people), thousands of copies of Tyndale’s New Testament were printed and smuggled into England.
In 1535, while working on translating the Old Testament from Hebrew into English, Tyndale was arrested and imprisoned. After over a year in jail, he was sentenced to death by strangulation and burning. As he died, his final cry encapsulated his unwavering mission to bring the Word of God to the people: “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes!” Several years after his death, God answered that prayer. The political tide turned in England and Tyndale’s Bible was published.
The work and sacrifice of both Martin Luther and William Tyndale to provide the Word of God in the language of the people was driven by their belief that the Bible is the means God uses to save people from sin and grow them in holiness.
Thank God for his precious Word! But how do we say ‘thank-you’? Firstly, we do so by regularly reading and studying the Bible. How tragic it is to neglect the Book the Reformers paid such a high price to give us. How are you doing in this area? Do you regularly read the Bible?
A second way to say ‘thank-you’ for God’s Word is to give sacrificially so that people who do not yet have the Bible in their own language can get it. Our November Thank-offering at RUC provides you with the opportunity to do this. Most of this offering will go to provide Bible’s for people in the least reached areas of the world. I urge you, as a sign of your thankfulness for the Bible, to give generously. You may do so electronically or by placing your money in an envelope marked ‘Thank-offering’ and placing it in the collection bag on Sunday.