In thinking about this Tuesday series on the Protestant Reformation, I realize that simply recounting the history probably wastes time. The Internet contains a plethora of articles and videos by people much more knowledgeable about church history than I, which means you can easily click or tap your way to understanding the key players and highlights.
I’m not convinced you would. As I’ve remarked on several occasions, most 21st Century Americans tend to avoid history, claiming that it’s boring and irrelevant. Okay, sometimes it certainly feels that way. But if you take the time to study church history, you’ll find that it’s fascinating as well as helpful in discerning problems confronting the present-day Church.
My job isn’t to spoon feed you history. Rather, it’s to get you so excited about the Reformation that you’ll investigate it for yourselves. When I mention, for instance, Peter Waldo, I want you to see his Biblical challenges to Roman Catholic teachings as inspirational. How can this 12th Century Frenchman encourage us to stand for sound doctrine amid the aberrational teachings of our own day?
We know that, as a result of studying the Bible, Peter Waldo came to believe in justification by faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Consequently, he rejected the doctrines of Purgatory and Transubstantiation. As you can imagine, the church hierarchy wasn’t exactly pleased.
Waldo suffered excommunication in 1184 for his views. At that point in time, excommunication presupposed a person’s damnation as well as virtually cutting him off from the rest of society. Clearly, he paid an enormously high price for his commitment to Scripture.
Why didn’t Waldo keep his dissenting views to himself? Here, we can only speculate, I guess. But let me suggest the obvious possibility that Waldo genuinely believed that the Roman Catholic Church had deviated from the truth of God’s Word. As he saw it, fidelity to Scripture. was more important than placating the church, but he was willing to take personal risks in order to honor Christ.
Ladies, are we as willing to stand against popular teachings that go against Scripture, even if we forfeit the approval of our friends and churches? That’s a serious question, and one that I hope the study of the Reformers will help us work through. I believe that the example of people like Peter Waldo can encourage us to stand on the Word of God, even as our own churches pressure us to compromise.