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Protestant Failure - Part 3

Scripture: Proverbs 4:18, 1 Corinthians 3:3, Isaiah 58:1-12
Since the time of the apostles the church has wandered away into superstition and man made traditions. Paganism was mingled with Christianity. True Christians were persecuted for studying the word of God on their own. They do not seek to follow a man, but God.
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Yesterday we followed the path of apostasy from the truth that had been delivered to the apostles. Our broadcast ended with Constantine, the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire. Under his program to popularize Christianity some terrible compromises were made and paganism stepped right into that early church. This is the way it is described for us by Dr. J. C. Woodhouse in his book, Annotations on the Apocalypse. He says, "As the stream of Christianity flowed further from the pure fountain, it became more and more corrupt. As centuries advanced, ignorance and superstition increased and unauthorized mortifications and penances, rigorous fasting, vows of celibacy, the jargon and repetition of prayers not understood, tales of purgatory, worship of saints, relics and images took the place of the pure simple Christianity until at length the Book of God, being laid aside for legendary tales and the traditions of men, all these corruptions were collected into a regular system of superstitious oppression."

Thus, according to the words of history, we find during this period that error came rushing in like a flood on the church. One after another of the pure teachings of Jesus were laid aside for the doctrines of men. The church, having laid aside the Word of God, became the official decider of right and wrong, of truth and error. All that the church branded as error now became known as heresy and those who held onto it were known as heretics. Some fifty million people lost their lives during this period known as the Dark Ages. But as long as the Word of God was available, there were those who determined to study it and follow it. Finally, in the year 1220 A.D. the church made the decree that no one could study the Word of God under penalty of death. The Bible was chained to the library in the Monastery and only a selected few were permitted by the church to have access to the Word of God. But, thank God, there were those who continued to follow the clear Bible truth. Those were the days of the Albigenses and the Huguenots and the Waldenses and other groups. Those were days of great persecution when men and women were hiding out in the caves and the rocks and the mountains. There, laboriously copying the Word of God in longhand and then hiding it in the seams of their garments, they would go down to the communities in the valleys. They would go from door to door posing as salesmen. They cared not whether they sold their wares or not, but they were looking for individuals who were interested in the study of God's Word. When they found them, they would slit the linings of their garments and pull out those sacred pages and give them away. And when the Bible was gone, back home they went to copy more pages by longhand. If you go up in the mountains of France, you can see those stone caves and those stone tables. You see the indentations in the rock where their hands, hour after hour, wore away the stone as they copied the Word of God in longhand.

From this darkness, from this buried depth of superstition and ignorance as far as God's Word is concerned, God set His hand to lead back a people to the full understanding of Bible truth. We call it the Protestant Reformation. It was on one October afternoon over four hundred years ago that a young monk named Martin Luther, a single lonely friar, nailed a document to the door of the old Wittenburg Church that ignited one of the greatest religious explosions in history, the Protestant Reformation, Protestant, because it was protesting against everything contrary to the Word of God. Actually, a man by the name of John Wycliffe was the morning star of the reformation, and what did he do? Wycliffe translated the Bible into the language of common men. He translated the Word of God and placed it in their hands. As he did, reforms began to take place. Wherever God's Word is to be found, reformation will always follow.

The second step was that by a man named Huss. John Huss, in Switzerland, was the founder of the United Brethren Church, or the Church of the Brethren. He said that the Bible is infallible. God's Word is infallible. It is true. Martin Luther said, "We must have faith in God's Word, believing whatever God said." Martin Luther was climbing on his knees up the holy stair or the Scala Sancta (I was there and visited that place. I walked up those same stairs and saw where Martin Luther had been climbing and doing penance for his sins). As he was going up those stairs on his hands and knees, suddenly the Word of God came across the screen of his mind, "The just shall live by faith." "Well," he said, "if it's by faith, then I don't need to do these works to gain forgiveness." He got up from his knees and walked down those stairs and began to preach the Word of God. Step by step God was leading back to the full Bible truth.

The next step was taken by a man named John Calvin. He brought the step of free grace, the power of God which is given by grace to enable man to be obedient to the Word of God. And the next step was John Knox, founder of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. Obedience to the Word of God is what he added to this chain of recovery. The tragedy of it all is this: men contented themselves to follow the teachings of these men and to follow the teachings brought by the great reformers. God could not allow the full light of Bible truth to shine on them all at one time, and it would have completely discouraged the people had it taken place like that. But these people gathered around the reformers and said, "We want to do it like this. We want to follow the doctrines that these men have brought to light." And they drew their lines, my friends, which kept them from going on further in the unfolding light of revelation.

Have you ever been in a dark room where it is absolutely pitch black? You are in there for a couple of hours and suddenly somebody comes and snaps on the light. How much can you see? Nothing, of course. The light blinds you, it is so bright. But if a little light comes on and then a little more and a little more and then it gets brighter and brighter, you are able to see all the way through. The Bible says that is the way it should be. In Proverbs 4:18, God says, "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." The path of the just is like a shining light that gets brighter and brighter until the perfect day comes when Jesus returns.

This matter of following great men is nothing new, of course. Did you know that one of the problems of the church was this very same problem? In 1 Corinthians 3:3 Paul says, "Ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" Somebody asks a group of people over here, "Who are you?" and they say, "Oh, we're Paulites; we follow Paul." Somebody asks another group over there, "Who are you?" and they say, "Oh, we're Apollosites; we follow Apollos." Another group over here says, "We're Peterites; we follow Peter." But Paul says, "Listen, wait a minute, Who is this Paul? Who is this Apollos? Who is Peter? Are they not ministers by whom ye believed?" And friends, isn't that the very thing that's happening? Somebody asks a group over here, "Who are you?" They say, "We're Hussites; we follow Huss." Another group is asked, "Who are you?" They reply, "We're Lutherans; we follow Luther." But God says, "No, follow Jesus Christ; follow the Word of God; follow His teachings. I'm going to lead you back to the full Bible truth."

It was John Robinson, pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, a man with terrific insight into God's Word, who made this statement , I don't have it all right here but I want to give just a little bit of it, because this man left Holland to come over here to this country, and as he addressed those early inhabitants of our country, he said, "Follow me no further than I've followed the Lord Jesus, for I believe that there is yet added light to break forth from His holy Word. Be as ready to receive anything from any other instrument of His as ever you were to receive it from my ministry." Wasn't that a wonderful statement to make? And of course, it is true. We ought to be looking for the truth. It doesn't matter what the instument is, but we want to know that it is founded on the plain "Thus saith the Lord."

We come now to the next step. John Wesley, the founder of the great Methodist church, brought in the teaching of the New Birth. Man must be born again. Then Roger Williams appeared on the scene with his concepts of religious freedom and Bible baptism, a baptism, by the way, that had been dropped out. Somewhere along in the eleventh century it had been lost and now it is restored, the true Bible way of baptizing. Sprinkling never was scriptural; it never has been and it certainly wasn't practiced by the early church until about the eleventh century. But now it was restored as Bible truth.

Now we still have one step to take in talking about the recovery of the truth and the restoring of the Word of God. This is the last step in the Protestant Reformation, that which started out in the very depths of darkness, leading men and women back up to the full Bible truth. Here is the last step, found in Isaiah 58:1. God says, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins." This is a message that is to go with power; it is to go with authority; and it is to show the people their sins. Notice what this last step is, friends. We are reading from verse 12: "They that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places." You see, they are going to build up that which has been torn down. "They that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach." (A breach is a separation, a break in the wall or a break in the path, and that's what we have here. This is a path leading up, ever upward, and then there is a break.) "And thou shalt be called The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. If..." (Whatever follows that little two-letter word, wherever you find it in the Bible, is vitally important.) God says if we will confess our sins, He's faithful and just to forgive us, but here He says, "Thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach... . If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord."

My friends, the Protestant Reformation which had its beginnings down there in the days of Wycliffe and Huss and the others, that Reformation continues right up to our day; and the final step in the great Reformation is the recovery and restoration of God's holy Sabbath day in the thinking of His people. Now will you notice one thing? The steps overlap; the path is connected; but to remain on one level is to lapse ultimately back into darkness, for the Bible says, "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another." 1 John 1:7. God doesn't want us to stand still. He wants us to move upward and go forward in laying hold of all the truth and light that comes to our attention. And friends, we are trying to bring back again all of the Bible doctrines. The Sabbath is one that has been greatly neglected for a long time. That is why I've mentioned it here as one of the final steps in the Reformation, the Protestant Reformation.

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