2017 is a significant marker in church history. It is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther nailed his “Ninety-five Theses” to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany on 31 October 1517. Within months, copies spread throughout Europe.
Doctrinal affirmations of “sola scriptura” (Scripture alone), “sola fide” (faith alone), “sola Christus ” (Christ alone), “sola gratia” (grace alone), “sola Deo gloria” (the glory of God alone) sparked a return to the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
The first of these, “sola Scriptura”, was the defining catalyst of the Reformation…the Word of God was being boldly proclaimed as the only source of divine knowledge and the only authority on earth to which the conscience of man was subject to.
As the Reformation spread into French-speaking Switzerland, Guillaume (William) Farel brought his fiery preaching into Geneva, eventually making his way north to Neuchatel.
On 23 October 1530, Farel stormed into the Collegial Church of Neuchatel. Accompanied by a crowd, he destroyed the idols which dishonored the worship of God. He became the pastor of the church and remained there for the next 27 years until his death.
Farel was a man of intense courage, boldness, fearlessness and missionary zeal. This “Elijah of the Alps” roused John Calvin out of academic solitude. Farel sought out Calvin as he was passing through Geneva in July 1536 on his way to Strasbourg to continue his writing.
Placing his hand on Calvin’s head, he said, “May God curse you and your studies if you do not join me here in the work He has called you to do!” Calvin complied declaring, “I give myself up to the Lord’s good pleasure”.
The two remained life-long friends. Upon receiving a letter from Calvin, indicating his impending passing, Farel, then 75 years old, walked the 70 miles from Neuchatel to Geneva to be with his friend. Farel had taken a backseat upon the emergence of Calvin, but Calvin wrote to him, “Farewell, my best and most worthy brother. Since God has determined that you should survive me in this world, live mindful of our union, which has been so useful to the Church of God, and the fruits of which await us in heaven.”
Outside of his church in Neuchatel, a statue of Farel stands…crushing idols under his feet…and lifting high…the Scriptures (sola Scriptura). The Bible and the Bible only.
Schaeffer writes that the Reformers had a “serious view of the Bible”…”the Reformation centered in the infinite-personal God who had spoken in the Bible.”
As I travel in various parts of the world, I pray that God would raise up an army of fiery “Farels”…men and women of intense courage, boldness, fearlessness, and missionary zeal…who are not ashamed to lift high the Scriptures…proclaiming the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Written by Rick Pierson, Executive Director of CompassGlobal