Later this month, on Halloween as a matter of fact, the world will observe the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on what is generally agreed upon as its starting date of Oct. 31, 1517, the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg.
While the Reformation Luther ignited rightly repositioned God’s Word at the center of the Christian faith rather than man’s traditions, institutions, it fell short. It had a dark side.
There was ugly sectarian strife and violence that continued through the 30 Years War that began 101 years later, taking the lives of 8 million Europeans caught up in religious conflict.
While anti-Semitism had injected its ugly spirit into the church before the first century had ended, Luther and John Calvin actually made things worse. One could even argue that the Holocaust more than 400 years later was made possible by that spirit.
Here’s a little bit of what Luther wrote about the Jews: “What then 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 cannot 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 fires 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 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.”
Calvin, too, showed contempt for Jews in his writings: “I have had much conversation with many Jews: I have never seen either a drop of piety or a grain of truth or ingenuousness – nay, I have never found common sense in any Jew.” He characterized them as “profane dogs” who “under the pretext of prophecy, stupidly devour all the riches of the earth with their unrestrained cupidity.” He also stated that “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.”
In 2017, we’re still feeling the effects of the anti-Semitism and “replacement theology” that was spread by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant movement. Even the “reformers” forgot to take seriously their solo scriptura slogans when it came to the Israel-centric nature of the Bible – past, present and future.
Perhaps, after 500 years, it’s time for a New Reformation focused on the literal Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, from the Hebrew Scriptures through the Greek.
God’s people were chosen with the mission of bringing the light to the gentiles – all the other nations. They were chosen to carry “the lively oracles of the faith,” God’s Word, to the four corners of the world. And they did, despite their falling short of the mark like all humankind does.
God spoke in Deuteronomy 32:21, saying: “They (His people) have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.”
And who are those who were not yet a people? The Apostle Paul explains in Romans 10: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Who was it that turned the world upside-down with the gospel in the first century? Jews who followed their Messiah faithfully and spread the good news to the non-Jews as well.
Paul adds: “Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.” And still, Paul says, “to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” Is there any excuse for gentile believers to do any less?”
Over the last 1,900 years, Christians have seldom provoked God’s chosen people to jealousy with our love.
Jealousy is not prompted by threats and terror. It’s prompted by love and obedience to God.
And that’s where this New Reformation should begin, in my opinion, with one big, heartfelt apology to the Jewish people and God for the grievous sins of Christians over the last two millennia. It should be followed by an outpouring of love for the children of Israel who gave us His Word, His gospel.
God is not through with Israel. In fact, He warns in His word that He will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse it. True Christians have been adopted into His covenant with Israel through their faith in Israel’s Messiah. And, if you read all the prophets from Genesis through Revelation, you will see that the kind of perfect world we will inherit as a result of that adoption, that grafting into Israel’s olive tree.
As I write in my new book, “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age,” it’s simply inconceivable that one can think God is through with Israel and still believe in the literal fulfillment of Scripture. Because not only is every historical aspect of the Bible Jewish, but so is the future tense – the as-yet-unfulfilled prophecies of Jesus’ return and what those prophecies say about the coming Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. In fact, if you missed it, you missed an important part of the gospel itself.
Want to see a New Reformation? It will come when Christians put aside the traditions and customs they inherited from their “church fathers” and get back to “sola scriptura,” as the Reformation tried to do but fell short.
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