Throughout 2017, we will remember the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It was during the dark days of the sixteenth century that the light of God’s Word came bursting forth from the dungeons of the Roman Catholic Church. Each year at the end of December, many people choose a reading plan for the upcoming year only to find themselves failing to keep pace as the weeks pass. It may surprise you to know how many people in your church have not read the entire Bible. This year would be a wonderful time to read the whole Bible. Consider these three important reasons why you should read the whole Bible in 2017.
The Reformers’ Sacrifice
Although the Reformers had no idea that we would turn on our Bibles in smart phone applications 500 years later, they embraced a new technology in their day called movable type and the advanced printing press. As Johannes Gutenberg learned how to create books, the Protestant Reformers harnessed this breakthrough technology to get their Bibles out to the general public.
It was William Tyndale who worked tirelessly to translate and print the New Testament into English. The Roman Catholics hunted him down, arrested him, and then burned him at the stake. His friend, John Rogers, would take up his Old Testament manuscripts and work to complete what Tyndale had started. Eventually, Rogers was caught too and he would become the first of the martyrs under the reign of Queen Mary I, known as Bloody Mary.
When we consider the labor, sacrifice, and commitment of the Reformers to get us our Bible—why would we deprive ourselves of opening the book or turning on our Bible and enjoying the precious Word of God in our language?
The Reformation Principle — Tota Scriptura
One of the five latin slogans known as the Solas of the Reformation is, sola Scriptura. This phrase means – Scripture alone. The Reformers were committed to reading, preaching, and submitting to the unadulterated Word of God. They were opposed to the additives of the Church of Rome. They stood courageously upon the Scriptures as their authoritative guide for life and worship.
Another slogan that was often repeated by the Reformers was the principle of tota Scriptura. Although the slogan was never as popular as its cousin—sola Scriptura, it was at the very core of the Protestant Reformation. Tota Scriptura means—all of Scripture, or the totality of Scripture. The Reformers were men of the Book, and they believed in preaching the full counsel of God’s Word.
Consider how many congregations have not heard a single sermon from the book of Deuteronomy in years. Those same congregations would likely go back for decades before finding a time when a preacher expounded the entire book. It may be discovered that the church has no record of going verse-by-verse through Deuteronomy. That’s why men like John Calvin were systematic and faithful in their preaching. Calvin’s preaching was straight exposition year after year.
- Nearly five years in the book of Acts.
- 46 sermons through 1-2 Thessalonians.
- 186 sermons through 1-2 Corinthians.
- 86 sermons through the pastoral epistles.
- 43 sermons through Galatians.
- 48 sermons through Ephesians.
It was on Easter of 1538 that Calvin was banished from his pulpit at St. Peter’s. He would not be allowed to return by the City Council until September 13th, 1541. When he entered the pulpit on the Lord’s Day, he literally picked up in the next verse where he left off over three years before. He was firmly committed to not skipping lines, phrases, vocabulary, and difficult doctrines. It was believed that the totality of God’s Word should be proclaimed.
Rather than skipping and hopping through the Bible on a devotional journey, why not read the whole Bible this year?
Paul Preceded Luther and Jesus Preceded Paul
Before there was a Luther and a Calvin, there was a Paul and Jesus. When Paul was preparing to leave Ephesus, he gathered the elders of the church together to bid them farewell. He warned them and he charged them. In doing so, Paul said the following:
You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:18-21).
Paul understood the importance of not leaving doctrine behind. He proclaimed the full counsel of God’s Word to the people in Ephesus. It was Luther, Calvin, and Tyndale who would eventually stand upon the shoulders of Paul. However, before Paul ministered in Ephesus, Jesus made a very important statement in Matthew 4:4. Jesus, when being tempted in the wilderness by Satan, said—“It is written: ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Jesus was quoting from Moses in Deuteronomy.
It doesn’t matter if you focus on Jesus, the apostle Paul, or the Reformers of church history—they were all committed to the totality of Scripture. If Paul ministered today, you wouldn’t find him skipping over doctrinal depth in order to put together a little series for seekers in his community. As we consider the love Jesus and the Reformers had for the Bible, why would we not possess that same love too?
It was 500 years ago that the Reformers were giving their lives and working diligently to get the Bible to the people in their language. When we consider the sacrifices, the advanced technology, the privileges we enjoy, and the fact that many people still don’t have the Bible in their own language, it makes sense that 2017 would be a wonderful year to make the commitment to read the entire Bible in twelve months.
So it doesn’t matter if you prefer to open a book or turn on your Bible app, there is a plan for you. Make this the year. If you’re up to it, there are some excellent plans available for you over at ESVBible.org.