Lesson 80

Reformers

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly [accurately] handles the word of truth."
2 Timothy 2:15 (New International Version)

Here and there were men who were not satisfied with the plans of emperors or the words of priests and bishops. They wanted to study the Bible for themselves and learn to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Two early reformers were John Wycliffe, born in England in 1320, and John Huss, a Bohemian. They did not believe that God spoke only through the pope, nor that he had a right to take tax money from the people. They admired men who lived simply and served the church faithfully. Huss was burned to death for his beliefs. Many people, like Huss, loved liberty and hated wickedness and were willing to fight for their beliefs. The various wars caused by this philosophy killed a great many people.

Another English reformer was William Tyndale who wanted to help others study God’s word. He translated the Bible into the English of his day. He, too, was killed for his efforts to serve God and his people.

Martin Luther, perhaps the most well-known of the reformers, was the head of a Catholic college which trained young men to become priests. He studied the writings of other priests and the beliefs of the church. He did not study the Bible because he thought the Catholic books explained it very well.

One day Luther read a copy of the New Testament and was surprised that it was so easy to understand. Certain scriptures showed many errors in Catholic teachings.

Because the majority of people were uneducated and could not read, they were often taken advantage of by unscrupulous preachers who taught false doctrines. One of the most notorious was Johann Tetzel, a German monk. He convinced many to pay for sins not yet committed—these were called Indulgences. Schemes like this brought wealth and prosperity to the church and eventually gave rise to the Reformation.

Luther wrote ninety-five theses (items for discussion) against the selling of Indulgences and nailed them to the church door. Printing had recently been invented, so they were printed and distributed to people in many countries.

Eventually Luther was taken captive and ordered to recant [give up] his beliefs. He refused, and went on to bring about even more reforms. He translated the Bible into the German language and established the Lutheran church.

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