Typically, Protestant churches utilize the Sunday nearest October 31st to consider the grace of God displayed in the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s. One of the great products of this momentous season in the church’s life was the translation of the Word of God into the languages of the people. This great work of translation was most clearly displayed in the life and work of John Wycliffe (AD 1328-1384) who translated the New Testament from Latin into English.
John Wycliffe has been considered the “Morningstar of the Reformation.” The Morningstar refers to the planet Venus, whose light shines brightest right before the coming of the rising sun. The Morningstar finds itself surrounded by darkness, and yet clues every observer to the fact that something stunning is about to unfold. Wycliffe was the trumpet rousing the world to the coming dawn of Reformation light.
Wycliffe wrote, “The Bible is the faith of the church.” Why does that matter? When we are dealing with eternal matters we do not want the opinions of men or women. What we need most of all are the very words of God Himself, because we will be held accountable to His words alone. Therefore, we desire His authoritative Word.
We have the same desires in our ordinary world. We rummage through websites and newspapers for authentic words. We ask questions like: “What did he really say?” “What will she really do?” and the like. The maxim of Aristotle stills resounds within us all, “By nature, all men long to know.” But what do we want to know?
The world screams out that it wants justice. This presumes the idea that that which is just, right, and good exists, and is knowable. But how do we recognize what is right and good? More importantly does our worldview even allow for some objective “good” out there or is it a wax nose in the hands of the masses?
As Christians, we recognize that we have precisely what the world is crying out for. We know the One who is Himself “unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. & A. 4) Here, the glory of God comes forward as He reveals Himself clearly to us through Scripture. That is what makes the Bible so amazing, it contains the timeless words of God which transcend peoples and cultures, and is always authoritative. But what good are these words if you cannot read them.
In days before the Reformation, the language of the Bible in the West was Latin. Sadly, the ordinary people did not understand that language. In fact, even many of the priests were then illiterate as well. The service of worship had become a dramatic affair and in need of much revision. Plain preaching based on the Scripture and understood by the people was nowhere to be found. Historian Hughes Oliphant Old noted, “preaching had lost its focus [in the Middle Ages and] had become too theatrical and too melodramatic,” in short, the preaching at work in the world before the Reformation “had lost contact with the Word of God and aimed at worldly success and popularity.”
The world isn’t that different today. You’ll likely hear many sermons preached, even locally, that speak about good and evil, morality, and justice, but there will be a lack of awareness of the Gospel. Even worse, although we have services in a language we understand, the substance of Christianity in many places has been exchanged for whatever relevant and popular issue has won the day. We stand in need of Reformation again. We stand in need of God’s Word to be our highest authority.
Every assumption we hold dear, every tradition we’ve ever cherished, every ounce of our spirituality must bend the knee to what God has said in His Word. Being spiritual is not necessarily useful. Satan is more spiritual than you are. We stand in need of God’s Word.
The Bible is immensely personal. It shows us what God is really like and what we are really like. The Bible models for us how we ought to approach God. Consider the words of the Psalmist, “Blessed are those who keep [God’s] testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart.” (Psalm 119:2 ESV) We learn from this text of our need to commit ourselves wholly unto Christ. And the Bible is chiefly about Christ. It is not a book on how to be successful in business. It is not a book designed to provide literary critics some form of job security. The Bible is a book that reveals Christ to us.
Returning to our subject we consider one last time the words of Wycliffe who wrote, “The truth shall prevail.” Truth is not a wax nose bending to knees of culture. Truth is not a socially agreed upon end that is ever shifting. Truth is not an opinion whereby you can say, “This is your truth” and “This is my truth.” Truth is a person whose name is Jesus Christ, and He is your Lord whether you like Him or not. He is unchanging and His Word is unfading.
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