Cross Points 2.27.22

To Be Ignorant of Scripture

We live in an age when there are many who want faith in Christ to be very subjective.  In other words, if they believe in a vague way in Jesus, and accept him into their heart (never prescribed in the Bible), then they are bound for heaven and can pretty much live the way they want.  Not the biblical prescription.

There was a time in history when Christians had to rely on the church leaders to teach them the
Christian way, because they just didn’t have copies of the Bible available.  The printing press wasn’t invented until the 1400’s, so a Bible had to be hand copied, making them few and unavailable to most of the population.  The church maintained most that existed, and as the Catholic Church formed, they did not want the Bible widely distributed.  They felt it would cause confusion and since they believed that it was a combination of biblical teaching and the decrees of the Pope, along with tradition, that provided guidance, Bible study was not encouraged.  Just rely on your priests.  When the church priests did their job adequately, that was fine.  Many people couldn’t read anyway. Unfortunately, far too many priests did not do their job adequately, and much of the Christian population was left in the dark regarding solid
teaching from Jesus and his apostles.    

Then came the reformers.  One of the earliest was John Wycliffe, who lived in England during the 1300’s. He was before the printing press.  If church leaders paid attention to the scriptures and taught them faithfully, he thought, proper guidance would be provided.  But it would
 help if English speaking people had the scriptures in English.  He contended that it was because the Bible was neglected that churchmen had little knowledge of God and Christ, substituting systems of penance, altars, icons, various sacrifices, confessing to a priest, etc.  Superstition played too big role.  He thought there was an artificial divide between the clergy and the laity and saw how the laity (common Christian) was even forbidden from taking the communion cup and were told they must go to a priest for forgiveness.  

In contrast, Wycliffe studied the Bible long and hard, praying for insight.  He declared that it taught salvation by faith and the direct access of all believers to God.  The Bible was the authority of God, and Christian teaching should agree with it.  He would say, “Even if there were a hundred popes and if every mendicant monk were a cardinal, they would be entitled to confidence only in so far as they agreed with the Bible.”  Of course, the powers of the church didn’t like what Wycliffe was saying and teaching.

Are we saved by the church, or are we saved by Jesus Christ?  Almost all will agree it is Christ, though the teaching and practice of the Catholic Church at that time would seem to say otherwise.  But if we are saved by Christ, can it be some vague belief in a person we don’t really know?  Wycliffe would write a book entitled On the Truth of the Holy Scriptures, and in it he says, “
To be ignorant of the Scriptures is the same things as to be ignorant of Christ.  In the Bible is the salvation of men contained.”    

He would go on to produce the Bible in English, although Catholic Church officials would confiscate and burn many of them.  Independent preachers called Lollards would carry these English Bibles throughout England, using them to teach God’s Word.  Wycliffe will be a great influence on Jan Hus in Prague, another early reformer who will face much opposition and eventually die for his faith.  Because of his influence, Wycliffe will be known as the Morning Star of the Reformation.  
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