Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone Don’t be content to be ignorant!
Posted: Thursday, September 10, 2009 2:34 pm
The Messenger, September 10, 2009
By CAMILLE KENDALL
Special to The Messenger
“The doctrine of God is never formed more clearly than when it is done by God Himself and in the words of God.” — Ulrich Zwingli
One modern theologian asserts the greatest problem facing the Evangelical church today is our relative ignorance of scripture — we know “pet” verses, religious clichés and song lyrics, but we do not know the Bible. Perhaps a similar sense of frustration prompted a pastor to exhort me several years ago to “Read your Bible, Camille! This isn’t rocket science … just read it!”
Five hundred years ago, Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli likewise believed that a broad, solid knowledge of scripture would be the impetus for radically changed lives and churches.
Ulrich Zwingli was born just outside Zurich in 1484 to a family of independent, hard-working peasants. A keen passion for music prompted him to enter the priesthood, where he could pursue advanced training and use his talents in the service of the church.
Early in his ministry, Zwingli served as a military chaplain to a unit of Swiss mercenaries employed by the papacy, thereby gaining the favor and respect of the Pope. Military service abroad allowed Zwingli to observe church life and activity in Italy and to study ancient mass books. What he saw and learned in Italy led him to question contemporary forms of worship and church authority in general.
Once back home in Switzerland, Zwingli accepted the post of people’s priest at the Great Minster in Zurich. Zwingli departed from the preaching style typical of his day by speaking in the vernacular instead of Latin and by preaching straight through successive books of the Bible instead of from prescribed “topical” passages.
When the plague devastated Zurich in 1519, Zwingli refused to leave the city. He stayed to minister to the sick and nearly died when he contracted the disease himself. This personal sacrifice on behalf of his parishioners won Zwingli the city’s unwavering loyalty and affection.
Zwingli began pressing for religious reform in the early 1520s. Favored by Rome for his military service and revered by the political leaders of Zurich, he enjoyed much more liberty than did the bellicose Martin Luther. However, with the support of local authorities, Zwingli eventually broke with Rome and resigned his papal pension.
Zwingli believed that a right understanding of scripture by God’s people would effect needed change, and he worked tirelessly at educating his congregants — they must be taught the Bible, cover to cover. He led classes in his own home and at the Minster school and eventually began a Reformed theological seminary for the development of evangelical ministers. He rebuked those who pulled scripture out of context and twisted it to serve their purposes, as well as those who were content with an anemic understanding of the Bible.
Building upon the two great doctrines of the supremacy of the divine revelation in scripture and the sovereignty of God in His election and grace, Zwingli enacted tremendous reforms with a minimum of opposition. Zwingli died before reform in Switzerland was complete, but he laid a solid foundation that withstood not only his own death, but the religious upheaval which soon consumed the rest of Europe.
Zwingli’s message for Christians today? Study the whole counsel of scripture, and avoid a steady diet of topical sermons. Don’t be content to be ignorant!
Editor’s note: Born and raised in Obion County, Camille Kendall is a wife, mother and homemaker.
Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone