Did you know that 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation?
That’s right. On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, launching a powerful movement that transformed the entire world.
While much good resulted from the Reformation that followed, there were some really destructive aspects of the Protestant revolution.
On the positive side, Luther reminded the Christian world that “the just shall live by faith,” a phrase first recorded in Habakkuk 2:4 and repeated in Hebrews 10:38.
Prior to the Reformation, much of the established church had focused on works, tithes, the buying and selling of indulgences for sin, rather than repentance and faith.
In Luther’s own words: “At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.”
But did the Reformation go far enough?
By 1517, the church had also fallen into some ugliness that was not swept away by the Reformation. I deal extensively with this topic in my new book, “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age.”
The ugliness that began before the Reformation and survived it intact was “replacement theology,” the notion that the church replaced Israel in terms of the inheritances promised by God. In my book, for instance, there’s biblical evidence to suggest this notion was taking root while at least one of the Apostles was still alive.
In 3 John 9-11, we read about something astonishing – the Apostle John and other Jewish believers in the Messiah Jesus were kicked out of the church!
“I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.”
We don’t know a lot about Diotrephes. This is the only reference to him in the Bible. But all we need to know is revealed in this short book. His name means “nourished by Jupiter” or “nourished by Zeus.” That sounds like a strange name for a believer in Jesus in the first century, given that all of his early followers were Jews. He was obviously not a Jew because he was bearing a pagan name. It was common for early gentile believers with pagan names to change them. Diotrephes did not. He kept his pagan name that glorified a pagan Greek god.
We also know that Diotrephes spoke maliciously against the inspired Jewish apostolic leadership and refused to allow messianic Jewish believers into his assembly.
Think about that! The Apostle John was not welcome in a “Christian church.”
That’s how early replacement theology began.
It continued over the centuries with Luther and John Calvin and their Reformation.
Here’s a quote from Luther: “What shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of Jews. Since they live among us and we know about their lying and Blasphemy and cursing, we can not tolerate them if we do not wish to share in their lies, curses, and blasphemy. In this way we cannot quench the inextinguishable fire of divine rage nor convert the Jews. We must prayerfully and reverentially practice a merciful severity. Perhaps we may save a few from the fire and flames [of hell]. We must not seek vengeance. They are surely being punished a thousand times more than we might wish them. Let me give you my honest advice. … their synagogues should be set on fire, and whatever does not burn up should be covered or spread over with dirt so that no one will may ever be able to see a cinder or stone of it And this ought to be done for the honor of God and of Christianity in order that God may see that we are Christians, and that we have not wittingly tolerated or approved of such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of His son and His Christians.”
John Calvin wrote of the Jews: “Their rotten and unbending stiffneckedness deserves that they be oppressed unendingly and without measure or end and that they die in their misery without the pity of anyone.”
But that’s not biblical.
And that was not reform.
Paul has the answer in the clearest of terms in Romans 11:1: “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.”
Paul continues to explain that while some branches of the olive tree have been broken off and wild branches (gentiles) grafted in among them, he cautioned his gentile audience not to boast against the branches. For salvation came to the gentiles to provoke jealousy among His chosen people.
Further, Paul states in Romans 11:25-26: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”
Justification and salvation come through faith and the repentance of sins – for the Jew and the gentile.
And repentance of sins begins with humility and a thorough understanding of the nature of God and His promises.
So maybe it’s time for a new Reformation. I share some of my ideas about what that might look like in “The Restitution of All Things.”
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