by Jeff Hamilton
Text: II Corinthians 11:1-4
I. In the late 1300s lived a man named John Wycliffe in Oxford, England, where he taught in Balliol College.
A. He was a theologian and a lay preacher, strongly advocating evangelism.
B. This man found many things wrong with Roman Catholicism
1. The Bible was the supreme authority and not the church and he believed it could be understood by the masses - I Timothy 3:14-15
2. He called into question the idea of papal infallibility, and he even had the nerve to declare that a worldly pope ought to be removed from his position - I Corinthians 5:9-13
3. He stated that salvation did not depend on a connection to a visible church or a priesthood but was based on a person’s relationship with God - Romans 5:9-10
a. The church itself was “invisible” being made up of only the chosen of God. Officials in the “visible” church could not decide who was a member of the true church.
b. He opposed infant baptism and declared that children who died were safe. Thus, also reject the idea of original sin - Ezek 18:20
4. He also taught that officials should be respected for their character and not because of some position they held.
5. He also spoke out against the practice of selling indulgences (getting forgiveness prior to committing a sin) and holding mass for the dead – both money making operations of the Roman Catholic church.
C. He is best known for translating the Bible into English from the Latin Vulgate
D. He died December 31, 1384. He was so hated by the Roman Catholic Church that 30 years later he was condemned on 267 counts. 43 years after his death, his body was dug up and burned in the mistaken idea that this would prevent his resurrection.
II. Wycliffe had students from Bohemia and Moravia, which now are a part of Czech Republic. They brought Wycliffe’s teachings back to their country.
A. There a man name Jan Hus, dean of Philosophy at Prague University began reading and translating Wycliffe’s writings.
B. Jan Hus became a popular preacher and drew large crowds.
C. His reputation for unblemished purity stood in sharp contrast with the corruption and worldliness of the existing religious clergy.
1. Hus wrote, "The church shines in its walls, but starves in its poor saints; it clothes its stones with gold, but leaves its children naked."
2. Hus wanted a higher level of morality in the priesthood. As matters stood drunkenness, fornication, and financial abuses were common in the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church
D. He taught that popes and cardinals were not the church and wrote, "Not every priest is a saint, but every saint is a priest." - I Peter 2:9-10
1. Hus taught that the Bible was to be followed over church traditions. That included Wycliffe’s writings.
2. He called for preaching and readings to be done in the language of the people - I Corinthians 14:9
3. He also insisted that all Christians receive the full communion and not just the bread - I Corinthians 10:16-17
E. Like Wycliffe, Jan Hus opposed the sale of indulgences and the doctrine of papal infallibility.
F. In 1408 the Roman Catholic Church became aware that Wycliffe’s writings were circulating in the region of Prague. In 1410, the pope ordered the surrendering and burning of all of Wycliffe’s writings, but Jan Hus refused and as a result was excommunicated. Hus ignored it and continued preaching.
1. That same year he denounced the pope for selling indulgences to finance a campaign against the king of Naples.
G. By 1412, he lost all support from the church and the university, but he continued to preach in fields, forests, and marketplaces. About this time he wrote that for one, "to cease from preaching, in obedience to the mandate of the pope or archbishop, would be to disobey God and imperil his own salvation." - Acts 5:29
1. He remained a popular preacher
H. Tricked into going to Constance with a guarantee of safety, he was arrested. He fell ill in prison, but he refused all efforts to make him recant. On July 6, 1415 he was executed by burning while singing and praying. He wrote on the night before his death, "I shall die with joy today in the faith of the gospel which I have preached."
III. Martin Luther
A. When Luther was defending his 95 Thesis against the Roman Catholic Church in 1517, he was charged with being a Hussite. He initially rejected the claim
B. However, by 1520 after researching Jan Hus’ teachings, he changed his mind. “I have taught and held all the teachings of Jan Hus, but thus far did I not know it . . . In short, we are all Hussites and did not know it.”
C. Luther found Jan Hus’ example and teachings significant and often quoted him. He also wrote many prefaces to reprints of Hus’ works.
A. Moving another century ahead to the late 1600s, we find the Lutheran Church become more like the Roman Catholic Church that it broke away from
1. The earlier teachings of Hus, the willingness to go against the established churches, the living of an exemplary life and to tell people that they can learn directly became the foundation of this system of belief
2. What seems to have been lost is the strong love for truth and doing things the biblical way. Instead, personal experience took the lead.
B. Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705) is typically seen as the founder of Pietism
1. He began small group studies in Frankfurt, Germany. The focus was for lay people to learn the Scriptures without the need for clergy to be present
C. A student of Spener, August Hermann Francke, emphasized the necessity of having a “born again experience” to be an authentic Christian.
D. Pietism quickly fragmented, but some of its hallmark teachings were: [https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2010/11/reclaiming-pietism-part-3]
1. An emphasis on experience of God over a merely sacramental spirituality or orthodoxy,
a. This is a departure from Wycliffe, Hus, and Luther earlier
b. It is the teaching of the Scriptures, not an experience that gives a person faith - Romans 10:17
2. promotion of lay involvement in small groups for Scripture reading and spiritual formation,
3. an emphasis on personal piety and holiness alongside justification (so, regeneration and sanctification which they believed were neglected by the orthodox state churches of their time).
a. The idea of being holy is taught by the apostles - I Peter 1:13-16
b. While most earlier leaders believe in the necessity of baptism as adults, they believed that without an extra experience of piety that Christians would fall away
c. Falling away is a potential problem and worldliness can be cause - Matthew 13:22
d. However, it is not through a religious experience that a person becomes holy or sanctified
e. Holiness comes from abstaining from sin - I Thessalonians 4:3-7
E. Other features:
1. The Bible was to be read and understood by all Christians, which the state churches, such as Roman Catholic and Lutheran, forbade at that time.
2. Belief in emotional experiences of God what transforms a person’s life and thus holy living was evidence of the Spirit dwelling in them
a. It is actually the other way around. Because the Spirit is to dwell in us, we ought to be holy - I Corinthians 6:18-20
3. Talk of Jesus as a personal friend
4. Many Pietists were premillennialists
F. From this movement, the Brethren churches, Evangelical Free, and Covenant churches formed
1. There is also a group of German, Danish, and Swedish Baptist churches that hold Pietist beliefs, but they are fading into other Baptist groups.
2. But notice that many Pietist beliefs have worked their way into various Protestant denominations.