October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed a document on the door of the church in Wittenberg to protest the excesses of the church. His immediate concern at that time was the selling of indulgences to finance St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Michelangelo’s genius didn’t come cheap.
He simply wanted a theological discussion; what he got was the rocking of the political and ecclesiastical structures of Europe, the splitting of the church, and history’s epic moving forward from medieval times to modern times.
The story of the Reformation shows us the power of God’s providence in the history of the world. While we go about our everyday lives doing business as usual, making decisions for the day, God could be swinging the hinges of history forward. Who would have thought that posting church-related concerns on a church door would go on to shake the seats of power in Europe? Who would have thought that the agenda intended for discussion among priests would propel the world out of the Dark Ages?
Our ordinary days matter. In the hands of the Almighty God, our seemingly boring jobs could be world-changing.
Bryan M. Liftin, Early Christian Martyr Stories:
The persecution of the early church made absolute legal sense– not because the Christians were proven to have committed specific crimes, but because the church’s intrinsic worldview aimed a sharper dagger at the throbbing religious heart of the Roman Empire.
Over at Canon Fodder, Michael J. Kruger reminds us of church history to help us navigate the sexual culture of this generation:
[One of the traits] that separated Christians from the pagan culture [was] their sexual ethic. While it was not unusual for Roman citizens to have multiple sexual partners, homosexual encounters, and engagement with temple prostitutes, Christians stood out precisely because of their refusal to engage in these practices…
Needless to say, this has tremendous implications for Christians in the modern day. We are reminded again that what we are experiencing in the present is not new–Christians battled an over-sexed culture as early as the first and second century!
But, it is also a reminder why Christians must not go along with the ever-changing sexual norms of our world. To do so would not only be a violation of the clear teachings of Scripture, but it would rob us of one of our greatest witnessing opportunities.
Cassius Dio on the hypocrisy of Seneca, the tutor of Nero:
[This was not] the only instance in which his conduct was seen to be diametrically opposed to the teachings of his philosophy. For while denouncing tyranny, he was making himself the teacher of a tyrant; while inveighing against the associates of the powerful, he did not hold aloof from the palace itself; and though he had nothing good to say of flatterers, he himself had constantly fawned upon Messalina and the freedmen of Claudius, to such an extent, in fact, as actually to send them from the island of his exile a book containing their praises — a book that he afterwards suppressed out of shame. Though finding fault with the rich, he himself acquired a fortune of 300,000,000 sesterces; and though he censured the extravagances of others, he had five hundred tables of citrus wood with legs of ivory, all identically alike, and he served banquets on them. In stating thus much I have also made clear what naturally went with it — the licentiousness in which he indulged at the very time that he contracted a most brilliant marriage, and the delight that he took in boys past their prime, a practice which he also taught Nero to follow.
To remind the modern church that God also moved in previous generations. The church today is so addicted with everything new that it could not even remember the songs and the theological landmarks a decade ago. In its quest for relevance and fresh approach, the church seems to have forgotten that it has a long history behind it and it doesn’t exist on its own.
Many Christians today suffer a myopic view of Christianity. They confess that Jesus reigns over all but when they say that, they really just mean that God reigns over their present circumstances in terms of finance, relationships, jobs and families. History doesn’t come to mind. Sovereignty and providence are distant ideas.
Mark Rogers, Tim Challies and Chris Armstrong wrote compelling reasons why reading church history is important.