"The words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” (Matthew 15:18-20)
It may well be that from a Jewish perspective this was the most startling thing Jesus ever said. For in this saying he does not only condemn Scribal and Pharisaic ritual and ceremonial religion: Jesus actually wipes out large sections of the book of Leviticus. This saying of Jesus cancels all the food laws of the Old Testament.
Once and for all Jesus lays it down that what matters is not the state of a person's ritual observance, but the state of a person's heart.
No wonder the Scribes and Pharisees were shocked. The very ground of their religion was cut from beneath their feet. This statement was not simply alarming; it was revolutionary! If Jesus was right, their whole concept of religion was wrong.
They identified religion and pleasing God with the observing of rules and regulations which had to do with cleanness and with uncleanness, with what a person ate and with how they washed their hands before eating; Jesus identified religion with the state of a person's heart, and said bluntly that these Pharisaic and Scribal regulations had nothing to do with religion.
What matters to God is not so much how we act, but why we act; not so much what we ritually do, but what is in our heart of hearts. It is Jesus' teaching (and it is a teaching which confronts every one of us) that no person can call themselves good because they observe external rituals; only when a person's heart is pure can they entertain such a thought. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8).
The Protestant Reformation was a widespread theological revolt in Europe against the abuses and control of the Roman Catholic Church. Reformers such as Martin Luther in Germany, Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland, and John Calvin in France protested various practices of the Catholic Church and promoted a return to biblical doctrine. The inauguration of the Protestant Reformation is generally considered to be Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church on October 31, 1517.
As a background to the history of Protestantism and the Reformation, it is important to understand the Catholic claim of apostolic succession. This doctrine says that the line of Roman Catholic popes extends through the centuries all the way from the apostle Peter to the current pope. Because of their belief in apostolic succession, Catholics place church teaching and tradition on a level equal to Scripture itself. This is one of the major differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants and was one of the foundational issues leading to the Protestant Reformation.
Opposition to this Roman Catholic teaching came to a head in the sixteenth century when Luther, a Roman Catholic monk, challenged the authority of the pope and, in particular, the selling of indulgences. Rather than heed the call to reform, the Roman Catholic Church dug in its heels and sought to silence the Reformers.
Eventually, new churches emerged from the Reformation, forming four major divisions of Protestantism: Luther’s followers started the Lutheran Church, Calvin’s followers started the Reformed Church, John Knox’s followers started the Presbyterian Church in Scotland (using Calvinistic doctrine), and, later, Reformers in England started the Anglican Church.
At the heart of the Protestant Reformation lay four basic questions: How is a person saved? Where does religious authority lie? What is the church? What is the essence of Christian living? In answering these questions, Reformers developed what would be known as the “Five Solas” (sola being the Latin word for “alone”). These five slogans separate Protestantism from Roman Catholicism; they summarize the Reformers’ theological convictions about the essentials of Christianity.
The Five Solas:
1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”):
The Bible alone is our highest authority.
2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”):
We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”):
We are saved by the grace of God alone.
4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”):
Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”):
We live for the glory of God alone.
There are many aspects of this complex movement. I would encourage everyone to read more about it.
Looking at his disciples, Jesus said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God... (Luke 6:20)
To feel good about yourself in Jesus' time, you needed to be wise, rich, and pure in your detailed observance of the law. These were the paramount values of his society. To be such meant to enjoy the proper status deserved by a full Israelite. It demonstrated that you had been blessed by God and were pleasing to him.
Jesus, however, turned all these values upside down. Jesus took a little child and had him stand beside him to show that the greatest was the least (Luke 9:47-48). He rejoiced that God had hidden his truths from the wise and revealed them to little children (10:21). The first will be last and the last first (13:30). He who exalts himself will be humbled and the humble will be exalted (14:11). Purity of heart which was in the reach of everyone's wallet replaced ritual purity which only the rich could afford.
These are the values of the kingdom. They are not the values of the world. They are shown in Jesus—who welcomed children—who ate with sinners—who entered Jerusalem on a colt—who renounced class, power, and domination. And among these great reversals Jesus included the reversal 'Blessed are you who are poor'.
The New Testament scholar Donald Guthrie points out that this is the first statement in all literature that calls the poor blessed. Jesus contradicts the view that riches were a sign that one was blessed by God. He sees rather that riches were a very likely sign that one had ignored the needs of the poor (Luke 12:20-21; 16:19-26).
The poor are blessed not because poverty is a charmed state, but because the kingdom of God is for them too (of course the kingdom is for everyone). But Jesus means that the changes that the kingdom of God brings will be of such special relevance and blessing to the poor that what it means for them will define its meaning for everyone. To truly feel good about yourself, we must die a death to the false teachings of the world, and instead devote ourselves to the teachings of the Lord.
Jason E. Royle
Welcome to my blog. I'm an open-minded theologian committed to Christ-like compassion & understanding.
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