Introduction to 90 Days in Genesis, Exodus, Psalms and Galatians with Calvin, Luther, Bullinger and Cranmer
Balloons and Streamers
This year marks the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation! If this were an iPhone text and not a blog post you’d read that sentence while confetti rained down around it. On 31 October 1517 Martin Luther, greatly distressed by the corruption in the medieval church, nailed his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg. This sparked a debate about repentance and where forgiveness is truly found and so the Reformation began.
Now you might be thinking, that’s nice for historians and academics, but what has something that happened five hundred years ago got to do with me? Well, as it happens, plenty! Our protestant tradition of reading the Bible in our own language and hearing clear teaching from it as well as the simple Bible truths of Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Bible Alone and Christ Alone all come from this time period.
It’s for this reason that EQUIP bookclub thought it would be great to read the words of some of these reformation thinkers during this special anniversary year.
The Roman Catholic Church was at the height of its powers during the middle ages. You may be surprised to know that for England and much of Western Europe it was the only church - and it touched everyone’s lives. But it had become corrupt and had moved away from many of the fundamental teachings of the Bible. For example they required everyone to work off their debt to God via indulgences and confession and doing good works. This is very different to what the Bible says to us in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, “For it is by grace you’ve been saved through faith and this is not from yourselves it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) The Bible scholars and translators of the Reformation - people like Luther, Calvin, Bullinger and Cranmer - were key players in recovering the gospel we know and cherish today.
How do I use this book?
This book doesn’t read like an old-fashioned commentary, though the writers are speaking to us from long ago. It reads with plain common-sense plus plenty of passion and fire - thanks to a modern translation that still has room for the odd unusual word like fantastical.
At a Busy Park
The first comment I received when I brought along this book to the park was, “That looks weighty and academic.” Indeed it does! There’s mountain peaks and clouds on the cover, it’s thick and hardback. However, inside each devotional is super short and geared toward getting you into a habit of daily Bible reading and prayer. And if you don’t like a book bossing you into reading it every day I can attest to the satisfaction of reading several days and weeks in one go. They’re full of food for thought, no matter how you choose to read them.
With an Open Bible
You do need to have your Bible open to read this book. I would’ve liked to see the editor include the Bible text for each day - particularly as they were often only ten verses long. Other Christian publishers, like Crossway for example, have begun including the Bible reading in their commentaries to make it less tempting to skimp on Bible passages. Of course if you’re reading this book on the go you can always look up scripture on your phone, which I did - but a book, a pencil and a phone is a lot to juggle!
A Return To Simple Truths
Come back with me to the park: ‘Today we look at a verse that Luther said was “a singular comfort to those who are terrified by the greatness of their sins”’. What an opening! One of my kids calls me so I leave my book on the picnic rug and race off to find them. Standing at the flying fox readying myself to whizz my son as fast as I possibly can, I glance back at the rug and see my mother-in-law with the book in her hands, reading away. It’s short enough to read a little section in five minutes. The time consuming bit is chewing on it and praying about it and reflecting on your answers to the questions. She’s reading Galations 1:1-5 - How Christ gave himself for our sins. Luther in his comments on this passage is absolutely determined that we see the singular gift that pays it all:
“[O]ur sins are taken away by no other means than by the Son of God delivered unto death. With such guns and such artillery must the system of our opponents be destroyed, and all the religions of the heathen, all works, all merits and all superstitious ceremonies.”
Jesus’ death is the only payment we can cling to.
When I return my mother-in-law says, “It’s so comforting, isn’t it?”
At the end of the day this is a very comforting and easy to read book. The medieval church of the day was greatly lacking in comfort because it had lost touch with some fundamental truths. A return - via a very dangerous and difficult Reformation to solid, basic, plain Bible truths brought a return to comfort. There is a comfort so deep and so real when one comes face to face with the reality of scripture that people were prepared to forfeit their lives to preserve it. And there is comfort there still.
In a changing and distracted world truth still matters very much. It is still arresting, it is still beautiful and powerful. It has the power to reclaim lost souls for holy purposes - to live with Jesus as their King. And it had the power to break apart the church as Godly people from 500 years ago created new streams for God’s living water to flow down through the ages.
I look forward to sharing more of my reflections on this wonderful book with you in the coming weeks.
Writer | Katie Stringer is a lover of books, baking and beaches. She leads a Bible Study at her local Anglican church, All Souls Leichhardt and loves being part of the Leichhardt community. She is married to Andrew and they have two daughters and a son.