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Reformation

Jesus Christ, the center of creation, the message of the Bible

Scripture Readings:

  • Daniel 2:24-45
  • Revelation 5:1-14

Introduction

There was a time in history when the official church burned on the stake those who dared translate the Bible from Latin into English.  There was a time when only a few priests had the privilege of having a copy of the Bible; it was however in a language that neither he nor his congregation understood.  Scores of priests did not have a Bible to preach from, and many other had no scholastic training whatsoever.  In some cases some became priests because their parents were rich and could buy a parish for them; they then had to make ends meet by asking exuberant amounts of money to baptize children, perform marriages, funerals and take confessions.

Little wonder then that many of the lay people were ignorant to even protest against abhorrent practices like indulgences and the teaching of purgatory.  They were defenseless against any false teaching and had to just believe what was preached and taught from pulpits; papal bills contained many unscriptural demands and teachings against which no ordinary Christian could stand up.

Those times are described as the dark ages.

Let’s jump some 500 years ahead.  The Bible is translated into hundreds of languages.  About every Christian in the West can read, and many others are anticipating the publication of a portion of the Bible in their mother tongue.  It is not uncommon for the average Christian family to have at least two Bibles in their homes.  There is a study Bible for dads, for mothers, for girls, for boys, for singles, for teens, for soldiers and for students.

Yet, over us sweeps a tidal wave of illiterate Christians who cannot defend their faith.  For many churchgoers Moses and David are books in the Bible, while Genesis 1-11 is nothing more than a myth.  The Creator God is not worshiped any more, because the so-called science of Evolution make them feel unaccepted in this world where science has now the benchmark for faith.  Many Christians cannot defend the Biblical teaching of marriage in an increasing secular world where cohabitation has replaced marriage.

Only bout 4% of our population attend church on a regular basis, while the figure is lower for most of Europe.

As we celebrate the Reformation which started in 1517, many others right across what was formerly known as Christian countries choose to celebrate the renaissance of the occult in halloween, a celebration of divination, necromancy, human sacrifice and cruelty to animals.

What has happened?  Have we forgotten the original impact of the Reformers as they discovered and practised the teachings of the Bible?

  • Most of the languages of the world were first codified and put into writing by Christian missionaries.
  • More schools and universities have been started by Christians than any other religion, nation or group.
  • Christian Reformers and missionaries have succeeded in bringing about the abolition of slavery, cannibalism, child sacrifice and widow burning.
  • Those countries which enjoy the most civil liberties, are those lands where the Gospel of Christ has penetrated the most.
  • The Gospel of Jesus Christ is life-changing, history making and nation transforming. If it doesn’t change your life and the lives of those around you, then it’s not the Biblical Gospel.

The Reformers emphasized God’s Sovereignty, that Scripture alone is our final authority, that Christ alone is the Head of the Church, and that justification is by God’s Grace alone, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, received by Faith alone. The Reformers’ teaching on the depravity of man, the Covenant and church government have influenced positive political and social developments in liberty throughout the Western world and beyond, establishing checks and balances, the separation of powers and constitutional authority.

It might be that by ignorance, or just plain inactivity, we might lose what they fought for.

Why is the Bible so important?

I want to the time of Daniel and learn some lessons from the chapter we read this morning.

Daniel and his friends were in Babylonia at the time.  There were in a group of people who were taken into captivity to Babylon in 605 B.C.  After Jerusalem finally fell in 586 B.C. most other Jews were also deported to Babylon.

A concentrated world

We need to understand that Babylon was at the time the cultural pivot point, learning pinnacle and government seat of the world.  Babylon, and what it represented, was in more than one way a mini world.  Daniel acknowledges this fact when he speaks to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:

Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold. (Daniel 2:37–38, NIV)

It was almost as if the world revolved around Babylon, while it was shaping the rest of the world.  The world did as Nebuchadnezzar wanted.  There was a world culture, a science of the world dominated by Babylon, and also a world religion.  Daniel 3 tells us more about that.

A troubled world

God had a plan with Nebuchadnezzar: He wanted the king to know that not he, but God is sovereign. So God gave him dream one night.

The king’s dream about the statue out of gold, silver, bronze and iron/clay really troubled him (Daniel 2).  He had to know what it means.  So he called in his wise men: magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers – more or less the scientists and religious thinkers of his day.

He expected what was humanly impossible from them: not only did they have to interpret the dream, they also had to to tell him what the dream was.  Yet knowing was terribly important, because, although he didn’t know it at the time, it would disclose God’s plan in history.

The credibility of the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers was at stake.   They stared being cut in pieces in the eye.

They admitted, “There is not a man on earth  who can do what the king asks.”  Exactly! They were right, only the God of heaven knows.

Further, “No one can reveal it to the king except the gods.”  Halfway correct this time, gods know nothing (Isaiah 44:17-18), only God does.  “They do not live among men.”  Correct, or maybe not: gods don’t, God does.

Their credibility was in tatters.  He called in his head butcher, Arioch, a man you do not really want to meat.   “Chop them up!”

A world in need for the Word

He needed to know the meaning of the dream and his wise men could not help.  What did not know was that God was troubling him all along.

Daniel appears on the scene. God’s perfect timing and planning.  Your wise men have got it right in one aspect. They said:

The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.” (Daniel 2:10–11, NIV)

Those who reject the Bible, reject God.  Those who reject the Bible God Himself calls fools.  Those who don’t listen to the Bible cannot say anything about the meaning of history and the purpose of life.  Man is then his own measuring stick, and to get him out of his predicament of meaningless, he tries to lift himself up with his shoe laces. They who deny God and his Word keep running into themselves and their so-called scientism delivers no-one from nothing, because it worships the created rather that the Creator.

So, Daniel has the answer:  it is the Creator God in heaven and his Word who unlocks what seems impossible to the wise of this world.

but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. (Daniel 2:28, NIV)

Daniel went home and called his friends together and they had a prayer meeting, pleading for mercy from the only God, “the God of Heaven” concerning the dream of the king.  During that night God revealed Himself and the mystery was solved.  The next morning they had another prayer meeting, now to worship God for his wisdom and power, for the fact that He is sovereign in the way He unfolds history;  they thanked God for giving them his Word!

Daniel returns to Nebuchadnezzar and proclaims the greatness of God: There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.  Daniel explains and interprets the dream of the king.  He explains what is going to happen through the Neo-Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman Empires.  But he does not stop there.

While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. (Daniel 2:34, NIV)

All of these empires would only be an lead-up to the Messianic Empire of Jesus Christ, the Son of God “that will never be destroyed.”  He is the Rock cut out from the mountain, but not by human hands.

In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. (Daniel 2:44, NIV)

The Bible, the story of the plan of salvation

Why is the Bible so important?  Because it is about God’s Self-revelation in Jesus Christ.  History belongs to God, because He made time.

When man turned against God and rebelled against Him in paradise, God puts into action his eternal council to rescue sinful man. What was planned in eternity now plays itself out in earthly history.  The eternal Son of God would fill the pages of the Bible to show in history how God will see to it that his banquet hall will have the full number of the elect sitting at the table of the Son.  History and the future without the knowledge of Christ as the focal point has no meaning.

For many eastern religions time is nothing but a meaningless repetition of events.  But for the so-called learned West life is meaningless, death is meaningless, and everything in between is meaningless.  Man is his own god who sets his own rules – and he lives a futile life, and he dies like a dog.

The Word of God is about Jesus Christ

Paul sings a song about Christ:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15–17, NIV)

When John saw the vision we read about in Revelation 5, he wept because there was no one to open the scroll.  God sat on his throne with that scroll which was the key to the unlocking of God’s plan of salvation on earth.

There was no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth to break the seals of the scroll.  If it depended on man, history would remain a closed book, meaningless and without purpose.  That’s why John wept.  An elder pointed him to someone:

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5, NIV)

John looked and he saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain.  He was at the center of the throne:  everyone looked at Him.  The horns he had tells of power, and the eyes tells of the Holy Spirit.  He is all-powerful, almighty and full of all knowledge. He took the scroll from the hand of God – and now those around the throne of God fell down to worship Him. They brought to Him the offering of the prayers of the saints – those whom God called to Himself through the blood of the Lamb.  He is worthy to be worshiped as God!

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God people from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9–10, NIV)

Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, and yet it play itself out in history.  The promise to send one who would crush the head of the serpent given in paradise is the promise who would be fulfilled when Jesus Christ died on the cross and raised victoriously on that bright Sunday morning.

So, all the kings and kingdoms mentioned in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar were set there by God’s purposes to lead up to the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  His is the King of kings and his Kingdom is over all kingdoms.
God reveals Himself by his Word, his Son, our Saviour.  The Word, the Bible is about Him.  It is true and infallible.  He is Immanuel (Matthew 1:23), God-with-us, the One who came to make his dwelling with us (John 1:14)

Many wise men are rejecting this word, and they will continue to do so.  Their credibility is at stake – that is lest they fall before the the Son and kiss Him.  If not, He will destroy them (Psalm 2:12).

Jesus Christ, our only Gospel

Paul writes to the Corinthians:

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:2–5, NIV)

It was this message, only found in the Bible – the true Word of God – that was rediscovered by the Reformers 500 years ago.  Their motto then became:

  • Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”)
  • Sola fide (“by faith alone”)
  • Sola gratia “(by grace alone”)
  • Solus Christus “through Christ alone”
  • Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone”)

Their message was clear because it was to based on human or ecclesiastic tradition – they got it from the Bible only.

They set the world on fire, and no martyrdom or stake could stop them.  Their message spread around the world and millions found a new reason for living as they were taken to the Christ of the Bible.  Governments were changed; schools and hospitals became commonplace; universities popped up all over the place; slaves were set free; women were restored into society as image-bearers of God; books were printed by the million; the world were discovered, and most important of all, souls were saved by the faithful preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To them, and ultimately God, we owe the gratitude to have the Bible in our own tongue to read and understand, and hear God speak to us like He did in words of encouragement to his church whenever they found it difficult to move on.

Conclusion

My dear friend, where is your Bible?  Does it have fresh fingerprint from your hand on it as you studied it?  Can you defend your faith in this world hostile towards anything Biblical?

May God give us once again the vision for his Word and his Son as He did in the days of Luther, Calvin Knox and others.  We are in desperate need for it now that we are engulfed by this tidal wave of humanism and secularism.  Sola Scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, sola gratia, soli Deo Gloria.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 28th October 2012

 

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