“To the Law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).
Compromise and chronic cowardice have led to such widespread apostasy that demands a new Reformation. Our churches are in danger of forgetting the great Reformation truths, for which previous generations of martyrs willingly laid down their lives. This was forcefully impressed upon me during a mission to Europe. I had the opportunity to visit Oxford and see the Martyrs Memorial. It drew my attention to an event that had occurred 450 years before.
The Oxford Martyrs
On 16 October 1555, just outside the walls of Balliol College, Oxford, a stout stake had been driven into the ground with faggots of firewood piled high at its base. Two men were led out and fastened to the stake by a single chain, bound around both their waists.
The older man was Hugh Latimer, the Bishop of Worcester, one of the most powerful preachers of his day and the other Nicolas Ridley, the Bishop of London, respected as one of the finest Theologians in England.
More wood was carried and piled up around their feet. Then it was set alight. As the wood kindled and the flames began to rise, Bishop Latimer encouraged his companion: “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”
Hundreds in the crowd watching the burning of these bishops wept openly.
The place of their execution is marked today by a small stone cross set in the ground in Broad Street, while nearby in St. Giles stands the imposing Martyrs Memorial, erected 300 years later in memory of these two men and of Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who 4 months after their execution suffered the same torturous death by burning, in the same place and for the same reason.
In his trial, Bishop Ridley was urged to reject the Protestant Faith. His reply: “As for the doctrine which I have taught, my conscience assureth me that it is sound and according to God’s Word…in confirmation thereof I seal the same with my blood.”
After much further pressure and torment, Bishop Ridley responded: “So long as the breath is in my body, I will never deny my Lord Christ and His known truth: God’s will be done in me!”
Bishop Latimer declared: “I thank God most heartily, that He hath prolonged my life to this end, that I may in this case glorify God by this kind of death.”
Faith and Freedom
On one day, in 1519, seven men and women in Coventry were burned alive for teaching their children the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Apostles Creed – in English!
The Illegal English Bible
It may surprise most English-speaking Christians that the first Bibles printed in English were illegal and that the Bible translator, William Tyndale, was burned alive for the crime of translating God’s Word into English.
Freedom of Speech is a Fruit of the Protestant Reformation
“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). However, anti-Christian forces and tyrants always seek to restrict freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of thought. This is well illustrated in George Orwell’s insightful book, 1984: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth can become a revolutionary act.” Free speech is hate speech to those who hate the truth. Truth is truth, even if no one believes it. A lie is a lie, even if everyone believes it! “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
A Tactic to Silence Dissent
In the past, in the Middle Ages, political leaders could silence dissent by accusing critics of: “treason!” Religious leaders, such as the popes, could silence critics and opposition by accusing: “heresy!” Today, the modern equivalents of these attempts to silence freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and freedom of speech, are: “racist!”; “homophobic bigot!”; “anti-Semite!”; “Islamaphobe!”; “Nazi!”; “legalist!”; “intolerant!”; “judgemental!” or “sexist!”
War Against Free Speech
“Hate speech” is what governments call free speech, which they do not like. This is a worldwide phenomenon and part of a comprehensive war against God. The war against free speech is a threat to freedom. It is a threat to Christian schools, missions, ministries, Christian community radio stations, families, and individuals.
Rise of Thought Police
Innocent comments such as: “marriage can only be between a man and a woman” have been construed as “hate speech” in Canada and has been enough for police investigations and criminal charges in parts of the United States, Great Britain, and Australia.
Quoting Scriptures, such as John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” has been condemned as “intolerant,” “bigoted,” “judgemental” and “offensive”, “hate speech!” Pro-life comments and scientific reality such as: “life begins at conception” and “abortion is murder” have been condemned as “hate speech!” by radical liberals in North America, Europe and Australia. In South Africa, Dr. Jacques De Vos has been prevented from practising medicine for over two years because he advised a patient “abortion is the killing of a human being”!
Where Will This End?
How far can this go? The answer to that is in George Orwell’s 1984, where Thought Police prosecute “thought crimes.” The bias, prejudice and malice being manufactured by secular humanists through Hollywood entertainment, mainstream news media, secular humanist school textbooks and increasingly intolerant political legislation are providing a sinister tool chest, an armoury for anti-Christian intimidation, harassment, prosecution, and persecution.
What About Pornography and Blasphemy?
We are told that pornography is legally protected as free speech! We are told that even blasphemy is considered free speech! But our sermons, publications and postings must now to be examined to see if anything can be construed as “offensive” by subjective secularists who have a track record of harassing and prosecuting Christians. Freedom of speech is essential for any free society. Freedom of speech is not negotiable. Our conscience is captive to the Word of God – not the dictates of men.
“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).
The Rise of the GayGB and the Pink Inquisition
The Rise of the GayGB and the Pink Inquisition documents how the radical LGBT homosexual lobby is jealous for the loyalty and approval of all. No longer satisfied with freedom, or tolerance, they now demand approval, funding and conformity. Many even demand prosecution of dissenting voices. If you think that the homosexual agenda will not affect you, your congregation, or your family, you are wrong. Homosexualists and the Gender Fluidity movement want to transform the very fabric of society. They want to homosexualise the schools, our churches and the next generation and they want government funding (that is your taxes) to force this on all. “And that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26)
War Against God’s Created Order
Satan’s plan is to invert reality, where blasphemy and perversion become the new normal, but free speech is criminalised as “blasphemy” and “treason” to the New World Order. Pornography becomes an essential aspect of “free speech.” Abortion becomes the blood sacrifice sacrament of the New World Order, replacing the Lord’s Supper. Questioning the multicultural interfaith agenda of the New World Order becomes “treason” and “heresy!” Questioning the secular humanist version of origins through “billions of years” of evolution is “intolerable”. Questioning the secular humanist New World Order version of “history” is considered “subversive.” Proclaiming and teaching the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and applying the Lordship of Christ to all areas of life is condemned as “hate speech”, “intolerance” and “thought crimes.”
How Should We as Christians Respond?
So, how are we, as Bible-believing Christians, to respond to this war against free speech, criminalising of Christian conscience, prosecution of “Thought Crimes” and pervasive pressure to normalise and accept pornography, perversion, and blasphemy?
Where the Battle Rages, There the Loyalty of the Soldier is Proved
Nearly 500 years ago, Professor Martin Luther declared: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God’s Word, except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, then I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”
Wide Gates to Hell
Professor Luther warned: “I am much afraid that schools will prove to be wide gates to hell, unless they diligently labour in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them on the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not constantly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.”
My Conscience is Captive to the Word of God
We, as Bible-believing Evangelical Christians, must respond as Dr. Martin Luther responded at Worms, before the assembled political and ecclesiastical might of Europe, on 18 April 1521: “Unless I am convinced by Scripture, or by clear reasoning, that I am in error – for popes and councils have often erred and contradicted themselves – I cannot recant, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. So help me God. Amen.”
The Price of Principle
Of course, making such bold and Biblical stands comes at a price. Professor John Wycliffe, “The Morning Star of the Reformation,” was kicked out of Oxford University because of his bold Bible-teaching and translation of the Scriptures into English.
Professor Jan Hus, of Prague University, was excommunicated by the pope and burned at the stake at Constance. However, as Jan Hus was pressed to recant, to save his life, he declared: “I would not for a chapel full of gold, recede from the Truth… the Truth stands and is mighty forever.” Hus declared that he would prefer to be burned in public than be silenced in private. “In order that all Christendom might know what I have said in the end.”
To Live is Christ – To Die is Gain
Hus declared that he would gladly seal with his blood the truths that he had taught in his life. “In the truth of the Gospel I have written, taught and preached; today I will gladly die.”
The Goose and the Swan
As he was about to die, Jan Hus made a prophecy. “My goose is cooked!” he said. (Hus is the Bohemian word for goose!) “But a hundred years from now a swan will arise whose voice you will not be able to silence.” Many recognised Professor Martin Luther as that voice, hence the prevalence of swans in Lutheran art and architecture.
“Over My Dead Body!”
Interestingly, a century later, as Martin Luther was being ordained into the priesthood, he was required to lie face down before the altar, in Erfurt Cathedral. Martin Luther was actually lying face down over the tomb of the bishop who had burned Hus at the stake. One could imagine that the bishop, hearing Professor Jan Hus predict that a hundred years later one would arise, “whose voice the pope will not be able to silence”, he may have muttered something along the lines of: “Over my dead body!” Indeed, Martin Luther entered the ministry over that bishop’s dead body.
We Must Fear God Alone
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Our Lord Jesus Christ told us not to fear man. The fear of man can prove to be a snare and a trap. We should fear God who can destroy both body and soul in hell forever. The fear of God is liberating. Better to fear the one true God than to be enslaved to the fear of the multitude of men.
Always Be Ready to Give a Defense
The Word of God commands us: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
Back to the Bible for Reformation and Revival
500 Years ago, in 1519, Swiss Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, dispensed with the Latin mass and began Expository Preaching – teaching from Matthew 1:1, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, through the whole of the New Testament. We need to go back to the Bible for Reformation and Revival.
Conviction and Courage
In the face of intimidation and threats from the world, we need to respond with the courage and conviction of the Protestant Reformers, Martin Luther, and Ulrich Zwingli. Our conscience must be captive to the Word of God. We must stand on the unchangeable Word of Almighty God. We must not be conformed to this world. We must be willing to be different. Stand up for Jesus. Step out in Faith. Speak up and proclaim the Word of God faithfully and accurately.
Stand Fast in the Liberty by Which Christ Has Set Us Free
Truth does not fear investigation. You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage. “For the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death”(Romans 8:2).
Ecclesia Reformata Reformanda Est
(The Church, having been Reformed, is still to be Reformed).
Scripture alone is our ultimate authority on all matters of faith and conduct.
Christ alone is the Head of the Church and He is the only mediator between God and man.
Salvation is by the Grace of God alone, received by Faith alone. Sola Fide!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Everything is to be done for the glory of God alone.
These great Reformation principles must challenge us to regular and rigorous self-criticism and constant re-evaluation of our personal lives, families, congregations, communities, missions, country, and continent.
The Truth on Fire
The motto of Reformer John Calvin was: “Promptly and sincerely in the service of my God.” His emblem was a heart aflame in the hand of God. We need doctrinal backbones of steel and we need Holy Spirit fire in our bellies. The Truth on fire was the goal of the Puritans. Head and heart, doctrine, and devotion, in balance, all for the glory of God alone.
The Curse of Complacency
The greatest enemies of Reformation are apathy and complacency. We dare not settle for less than God’s best. God gives the very best to those who leave the choice to Him.
As heirs of the Reformers, we need to build upon the firm foundations laid by faithful men and women of the past. But we are expected to build and progress further. The work of the Reformation is not yet complete. Much remains to be done. So much in our homes and hearts, communities, and congregations, needs to be transformed by the powerful Word of God.
We need to renew our minds by studying the Scriptures. We need to revitalize our devotional lives by praying through the Psalms. We need to restore the prayer meeting to the central place it belongs in the life of the local church. Our congregations need to become Houses of Prayer for all nations, making disciples, teaching obedience to all things that the Lord has commanded.
First Things First
We need to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, delighting ourselves in the Lord, humbling ourselves, praying, seeking His face, and turning from our wicked ways. We need to rekindle the fires of spiritual zeal by working for Biblical Reformation, applying the Lordship of Jesus Christ to all areas of life. Our Lord Jesus Christ declared: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word” (John 14:23).
Applying the Lordship of Christ to All Areas of Life
God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, His ways are higher that our ways. The Reformation set about to restore Biblical principles to all areas of life. This is God’s world and we need God’s Word to be obeyed in every area of life.
Is your conscience captive to the Word of God?
Is your desire to obey God promptly and sincerely with your whole heart aflame in the hand of God?
We need doctrinal steel in our backbones and Holy Spirit fire in our hearts and minds.
May the Lord fill us and empower us, with His Holy Spirit – to be faithful to His Word and effective in His service, as we work for Biblical Reformation and pray for Spiritual Revival.
The original article appeared on June 11, 2021 as a circular email and on the Reformation SA.org website.
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