February /March 2017 - Vol. 90
The Vitality of Reformation Spirituality
                                                          reading bible
...Rooted and Nourished in the Living Word of God

“We wish to be men and women who are formed in all things by the word of God”
prepared by Don Schwager

Passages for reflection / meditation:
  • Colossians 3: 16 Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly John 1:14,16: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full and grace and truth.. And from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. 
  • Romans 15:4: For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
  • Luke 24:32: They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?" 
  • Luke 24:44-45: 44 Then he said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled."45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
Reading Scripture with the Reformers,
by Timothy George

The reformers of the sixteenth century shared with ancient Christian writers and the medieval scholastics who came before them a high regard for the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Already in the New Testament the writings of the Hebrew Bible, which Christians would later come to know as the Old Testament, are regarded as divinely inspired, God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16). On more than one occasion, Paul identified the Scripture with God's own speaking (see Gal 3:8; Rom 9:17; 10:11). It is God who speaks in the Scripture, and for this reason it has an unassailable validity for the people of God. What J. N. D. Kelly wrote about the early church is equally true for biblical exegetes in the medieval and Reformation eras: "It goes without saying that the fathers envisaged the whole of the Bible as inspired."'

There were many debates about the Bible in the sixteenth century: Should it be translated and, if so, by whom and into which languages? What is the extent of the canon? How can one gauge the true sense and right interpretation of Scripture? How was the Bible to be used in the preaching and worship of the church? What is the relative authority of Scripture and church tradition? These and other questions about the Bible were debated not only between Catholics and Protestants but also among scholars and theologians within these two traditions. Such disputes should not be minimized, for some of them proved to be church-dividing. But it is also important to recognize that the exegetical debates of the sixteenth century were carried out within a common recognition of the Scriptures as divinely given. Referring to the books of the Old and New Testaments as "sacred and canonical," the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), looking perhaps backward more than forward, summarized the Catholic view of the Bible in words that would have been warmly embraced by both Protestant and Catholic reformers in the sixteenth century:
These books are held by the Church as sacred and canonical, not as having been composed by merely human labour and afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely because they contain revelation without error, but because, written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author.'
“It was a core conviction of the Reformation that the careful study and meditative listening to the Scriptures, what the monks called lectio divina, could yield a life-changing result. For the reformers the Bible was a treasure trove of divine wisdom to be heard, read, marked, learned and inwardly digested, as the Book of Common Prayer's collect for the second Sunday in Advent puts it, to the end that "we may embrace, and ever holdfast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou has given us in our Savior Jesus Christ."

In his commentary on Hebrews 4:12, "The Word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword," Calvin declared, "Whenever the Lord accosts us by his Word, he is dealing seriously with us to affect all our inner senses. There is, therefore, no part of our soul which should not be influenced."' The study of the Bible was meant to be transformative at the most basic level of the human person, coram deo. It was meant to lead to communion with God.”

Quotes from Martin Luther on The Word of God

“In the end, only the Holy Spirit from heaven above can create listeners and pupils who accept this doctrine and believe that the Word is God, that God’s Son is the Word, and that the Word became flesh” (22.8). The Word of God that forms the content of faith comes to the individual from outside, proclaimed by another or read in Scripture; but conviction of the truth of this “external Word” comes from the inward working of the Holy Spirit” (23.94; 38.87; 40.146).¹⁸ 

“What means does [the Holy Spirit] use and what skill does he employ thus to change the heart and make it new? He employs the proclamation and preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. . . . But in addition to what is thus preached, something else is needed; for even though I hear the preaching, I do not at once believe. Therefore, God adds the Holy Spirit, who impresses this preaching upon the heart, so that it abides there and lives.” (CS 2.1.278- 79) 

“The Word comes first, and with the Word the Spirit breathes upon my heart so that I believe. Then I feel that I have become a different person and I recognize that the Holy Spirit is there.” (54.63) 

“The Word I receive through the intellect, but to assent to that Word is the work of the Holy Spirit.” (17.230)

 “I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith.”

John Wesley’s Guidelines for Reading Scripture

Our gracious and loving God, we thank you that you have been touching our lives: illuminating us; opening us at deep levels of our being; stretching us at points of our narrowness; confronting us where we are distorted; challenging us to become the word you speak us forth to be; but in every way working in it all for your good purposes in our lives. As we begin to consider ways of coming to scripture that will enable it to become your living Word in our lives, help us, God, to remain open to the guidance of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

This is the way to understand the things of God: “Meditate thereon day and night;” so shall you attain the best knowledge, even to “know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent”. And this knowledge will lead you “to love Him, because He hath first loved us;” yea, “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”... .And in consequence of this, while you joyfully experience all the holy tempers described in this book [being] , you will likewise be outwardly “holy as He that hath called you is holy, in all manner of conversation” [doing that flows from being].28

Some questions for reflection / meditation:
  • Am I faithful and disciplined in the daily practice of Scripture meditation and the regular study of Scripture? Review how it has worked for you and where you might need to improve or find help and encouragement.
  • Do I ask the Lord to “open the Scriptures” for me so that I might hear and understand what the Lord wishes to show me through his word?
  • Do I listen / read attentively and free myself of idle thoughts and distractions?
  • Do I stir up the gift of the Spirit so that I might grow in my love for God’s word and find time to return to his word throughout the day and evening?
Links to Articles on Reformation Spirituality and 500th Anniversary

From the February / March 2017 Issue of Living Bulwark:
An Introduction to the Age of the Reformation, by Timothy George
Roots that Refresh: The Vitality of Reformation Spirituality, by Alister McGrath
Reading Scripture with the Early Reformers
Your Word is Truth: Statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together

From the April / May 2017 Issue of Living Bulwark:
A Spiritual Orientation to 500th Reformation Anniversary, by Raniero Cantalemessa
Justification: A Summary of Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue and Joint Agreement
Faith is not Opposed to Love: A Clarification on “By Faith Alone” by Benedict XVI
 Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Joint Statement on the Gift of Salvation

Return to Table of Contents or Archives  (c) copyright 2017  The Sword of the Spirit