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MESSAGE FOR THE FORTNIGHT
 









Of Motion, Reformation and Celebration-Part 1



“Stagnation is self-abdication” said a wise Philosopher. Humans were made for “going places” literally and figuratively speaking in both physical and spiritual realms rather than “rotting” at one place (Gen 1:27-28/ Gen 9:7, Gen 18-19).

In this 2 part Series, Yours Truly would firstly endeavour to cast the spotlight on the significance of progression (and the principal cause behind it) in the spiritual realm even while tracing the history of the Church till the Reformation movement of the 16th century. Secondly, he would focus on the principles that undergirded the Reformation movement and their relevance thereof in the contemporary Christendom.

Motion...



But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”- Acts 1:8

The Fundamental Law of motion designed by the all-wise God (discovered and revealed to us by Sir Issac Newton) says that we move forward whilst walking or running not just by exerting the force on earth with our feet by ourselves but by the propulsive force which the earth exerts in return when we first exert force on it. How true in the spiritual realm also!!! Simply put, the act of Gospel advancement by the spiritually vibrant Christians’ of the First century AD was always countered by the resisting forces of Evil, actually resulting in furtherance of God-honoring work. Simply put Gospel advancement has essentially been through ages “a fight between the liberating truth on one side and the lies of the Devil on the other”. How often in Christian history, we have witnessed the persecutions breaking out. But it may not have registered on many that these persecutions prima-facie exerting pressure in the opposite direction to the Gospel advancement had actually induced further beneficial growth of the
      a) Church at large (scattered Christians coming out of the their “comfort zone” of Jerusalem thanks to persecution, went about preaching the Gospel everywhere- Acts 8:4) besides

      b) Building up the character of the persecuted ones’ (Romans 5:3-4/ James 1:2-4), making them “move forward”, as it were spiritually. Truth be told, minus the persecutions (the scope of it is also controlled by the infinitely Wise God- 1 Cor 10:13) Apostle Paul or the genuine Christians’ of different stages of Church history would not have grown spiritually (in Christ-like qualities like meekness, gentleness and exemplary patience) to an extent desired by the Master.
While on Church History, let it be told at this stage that till Reformation, it can broadly be divided into the following ages... so here goes...let’s hit the rewind button...

Recollection....



    1. Apostolic Church Age: AD 30 AD to AD 100- A period ranging from the Birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) to 100 AD when the last of the Apostles namely John the Beloved (John 21:20) died. Yes, persecution was rampant during this age too especially during the rule of Roman Emperors’ like Nero and Domitian, however this age is not clubbed with the Persecution age mainly in deference to the Apostles (who are rightly called the Foundation of the Church- Eph 2:20) who lived during that time. I reiterate that since Apostles’ had to be given “Pride of place” (rightly so) in Church History that this age was thus called and not clubbed with the following “Persecutions age”.
    2. The Persecuted Church Age: AD 100 to AD 313 AD- From the death of Apostle John to the “conversion” of Roman Emperor Constantine to Christianity. In the interim period, when persecution was severe during the reigns of other Roman Emperors’ like Marcus Aurelius, Trajan Decius, Publius Valerian...Law of Spiritual progression (I began my essay with the same) was very much in operation what with the Church flourishing spiritually. Persecution, we should remember also always separates “Wheat from the chaff” with only the genuine Children of God hanging unto the Lord, irrespective of the consequences, whereas others would be “swept away”. From our Heavenly Father’s perspective a Church faithfully enduring persecutions would appear to be “pure gold”. Nothing more, nothing less and nothing else!!!
    3. Imperial Church Age: AD 313 to AD 476- With Roman Empire itself turning into a Patron Saint from being a Persecutor courtesy the conversion of Emperor Constantine , the Church had “unwelcome visitors”...those souls who wanted to embrace Christianity just because they wanted to identify themselves with the “faith of the Emperor” and not because of any new found love for the Saviour. These folks inside the Church without a genuine born-again experience (Acts 2:37-41) were bound to be more of a liability than an asset. What harm the Devil couldn’t inflict upon the “Body of Christ” from “far outside”, he could now do from much “closer quarters”.
    4. Medieval Church Age: 476 AD to 1517 AD- The age of “Bye, Bye persecutions... Hello Complacency”. With refining persecutions out of the way, complacency was bound to creep in, Soon the Church lapsed into what is now known as the “detestable Dark Age”. Talk of King David at the peak time of Israeli military might drifting into “idiocy of indolence” (wouldn’t go to war with his soldiers-2 Sam 12-which paved the way for his hideous sins soon after). Oh how spiritually vibrant was he, when he had to be on his toes both physically and spiritually, as it were, whilst encountering persecutions wrought by his enemy King Saul!!!


Reformation.....



We can fully appreciate the significance of Reformation, only if we fully grasp to what depraved depths the Church had plummeted into, in the “Dark age”. Power corrupts and it was bound to corrupt the Church leaders like the Popes, Bishops etc. Somehow just as our Lord had prophesied, “in the good field, the Devil would plant tares one day” (Matt 13:24-25), the Enemy number 1 got his men into key positions and spiritual malaise infected and then spread in the once “pure” Body of Christ (refined by persecutions) like never before.

Detestable practices’ (I say this with utmost love and concern for my Catholic friends who have been misguided. Oh how I wish they would realize the folly of their ways and repent!!!) began such as
    a) Worship of Mary in the 4th Century (seen as the Divine Mediator in blatant violation of the Scriptures such as John 14:6, 2 Tim 2:5 -some Catholic myopic “apologists” even today try to present Luther himself as Mary Worshipper, without a proper, analytical study of his works which clearly point to the contrary),
    b) Climbing 28 steps of what is known as the St. Helena’s or Scala Sancta staircase on knees in the fifth century to “win over” God’s favour (St. Helena the Mother of Emperor Constantine had shipped this structure from Jerusalem to Rome.) It is believed that this staircase bears the marks of blood which had oozed out of the Saviour’s head as he wearing a crown of thorns had climbed these steps to stand in his trial before Pontius Pilate- John 19:1-5). The assumption that this one-time act of scaling the steps on one’s knees would “win-over” God’s favour by way of temporary withdrawal of the Divine punishment for the sins committed (plenary indulgence and all that) in stark contrast of the Scriptural mandate that “life-long walk of faith” (Hab 2:4 /Romans 1:17/ Heb 10:37-38) alone would please God is at once Devilish.
    c) Selling of Indulgences from the 11th Century onwards. Firstly it was about remission of sins of a sinner by “continual prayer recital ” or “doing of good deeds” by the person concerned, later on it degenerated further into a financial transaction whereby a person who had committed a sin can go and “buy” his forgiveness from the Pope by shelling out some money in gross violation of Scriptures which state that the Blood of Christ alone atones for the sins 1 John 1:7)
    d) The unbiblical Doctrine of Purgatory came into being in the 11th Century. Though the Bible explicitly states that after Death comes the Judgment (Heb 9:27)... for a Christian who has been steadfast in his faith till the end would accrue the Heavenly Riches and to those who have not been true to their faith-destruction (Heb 10:38-39), the Catholics came up with the Doctrine of Purgatory. This Purgatory doctrine is all about an intermediate “place” between Heaven and Hell where the “faithless” Christians would be cleansed by “torture” and then allowed access into the Heavenly portals.
    e) Scripture reading and its interpretation thereof became the exclusive privilege of the Clergy (courtesy a ruling in the Council of Toulose in the 13th Century) though Scripture itself authorized the Laity too to not only read but memorize and meditate upon it (Psalm 119:11/ Psa 1:2)


It is said that only when Martin Luther himself was performing the abominable ritual of scaling St. Helena’s steps that he received a Divine Revelation that these practices’ do not lead a man to right relationship with God but rather that “the just shall live by faith alone” (Rom 1:17). It was this revelation which triggered the Reformation movement, of which all of us are beneficiaries. It has to be noted here that while due credit needs to be accorded to Martin Luther for initiating the Reformation, there were other fully committed, sincere Christian leaders at that time like William Tyndale, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer Menno Simmons et al who also, so to speak, put their “shoulders to the wheel” in their own inimitable ways to take the Reformation movement forward. How these inspired souls weathered the consequent persecution that followed from the powerful Papacy constitutes yet another shining chapter of the Reformation history. More about it...some other time... even while we remain riveted to the subject (events leading to Reformation) in hand.

Celebration...



Yes, since all of us who constitute the “Body of Christ” are beneficiaries of this monumental Reformation movement which led the then “Body of Christ” from “darkness to light”, we need to celebrate with much thanksgiving that Landmark day... 31st October, 1517 when that great German Reformer nailed his 95 theses on the door of the All Saints Church, Wittenberg, Germany.

To put it in a nutshell, his 95 Theses contained a sound Biblical argument as to why the abominable practices such as the ones’, I had outlined elsewhere in this essay are “far off the mark” scripturally when it comes to pleasing the Lord. Just imagine you and me still being under the yoke of those despicable rituals. Boy, it’s scary (and to think Roman Catholics are still doing it in 2017 is stomach-churning to say the least)!!! We all need to be profusely thankful for the Reformation which removed all the “spiritually debilitating unnecessary, paralysing weight” off our shoulders.

The Protestant Church itself after enduring “rough weather” of Papal persecution would in due course become “complacent and sickly” when persecutions ceased!!! Enter the likes of Jonanthan Edwards, Wesley Brothers to set right the matters....well...that’s a different story altogether. Meanwhile, let’s celebrate with much thanksgiving the 500th year of the birth of Reformation movement on 31st October 2017. Hallelujah!!!




Suresh Manoharan
An Unworthy Servant



Ps...In part 2 of this Series, I would be sharing with the Readership the 5 “Solas” (essentially principles) which undergirded the Reformation Movement and their relevance thereof in contemporary Christendom.

Click here to access the second part of this message...