January 21, 2014

A Reformation Quiz

by Nathan Busenitz

Last week, I gave a version of the following “quiz” to the students in my church history classes. It wasn’t actually for credit, but it proved to be a helpful discussion starter for the new section we are starting on the Reformation.

Today, I thought it might be fun to give our readers (that’s you) an opportunity to take this quiz. It’s pretty simple. (Just don’t peek at the answers until after you’ve completed the entire quiz.)

For each of the following 10 quotes, identify whether the statement was written by someone during the Reformation or prior to the Reformation:

1. When was this written?

It is well known that You [O Lord] give to all freely and ungrudgingly. As for Your justice, so great is the fragrance it diffuses that You are called not only just but even justice itself, the justice that makes men just. Your power to make men just is measured by Your generosity in forgiving. Therefore the man who through sorrow for sin hungers and thirsts for justice, he will let him trust in the One who changes the sinner into a just man, and, judged righteous in terms of faith alone, have peace with God.

2. When was this written?

And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

3. When was this written?

He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!

4. When was this written?

Trust wholly in Christ, rely altogether on His sufferings, beware of seeking to be justified in any other way than by His righteousness. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient for salvation, and that without faith it is impossible to please God; that the merit of Christ is able, by itself, to redeem all mankind from hell, and that this sufficiency is to be understood without any other cause concurring.

5. When was this written?

A person is saved by grace, not by works but by faith. There should be no doubt but that faith saves and then lives by doing its own works, so that the works which are added to salvation by faith are not those of the law but a different kind of thing altogether.

6. When was this written?

But what is the “law of faith?” It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only.

7. When was this written?

To have brought humanity, more senseless than stones, to the dignity of angels simply through bare words, and faith alone, without any hard work, is indeed a rich and glorious mystery. It is just as if one were to take a dog, quite consumed with hunger and the mange, foul and loathsome to see, and not so much as able to move but lying passed out, and make him all at once into a human being and to display him upon the royal throne.

8. When was this written?

Now, having duly considered and weighed all these circumstances and testimonies, we conclude that a man is not justified by the precepts of a holy life, but by faith in Jesus Christ,—in a word, not by the law of works, but by the law of faith; not by the letter, but by the spirit; not by the merits of deeds, but by free grace.

9. When was this written?

It is determined by God that whoever believes in Christ shall be saved and have forgiveness of sins, not through works but through faith alone, without merit.

10. When was this written?

All we bring to grace is our faith. But even in this faith, divine grace itself has become our enabler. For [Paul] adds, “And this is not of yourselves but it is a gift of God; not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). It is not of our own accord that we have believed, but we have come to belief after having been called; and even when we had come to believe, He did not require of us purity of life, but approving mere faith, God bestowed on us forgiveness of sins.

Congratulations. You made it to the end of the quiz.

Now the moment of truth . . .

The Answers

The reality is the all 10 of the above statements were written prior to the Reformation. None of them come from the Reformers, even though the Reformers would have wholeheartedly agreed with everything that is stated above.

That is because the Reformers weren’t trying to invent new doctrine. Rather, they were committed to the recovery of gospel themes that had been championed by prior generations of believers.

For those of you looking for more specific citations, here is where each of the above ten quotes can be found:

1. Bernard of Clairvaux (12th century), On the Song of Songs, II, Sermon 22, 8.

2. Clement of Rome. (Late 1st century), First Epistle to the Corinthians, 32.4.

3. Anonymous (2nd century), Epistle to Digonetus 9, 2–5; ANF 1:28; cited from Thomas Oden, The Justification Reader, 65.

4. John Wycliffe (14th century), The Writings of the Reverend and Learned John Wycliff (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1847), 41.

5. Didymus the Blind (4th century), Commentary on James, 2:26b.

6. John Chrysostom (4th/5th century), Homilies on Romans, Homily 7 on Romans 3:27.

7. John Chrysostom (4th/5th century), Homilies on Colossians 1:26–28; Cited from Joel C. Elowsky, We Believe in the Holy Spirit, 98.

8. Augustine (4th/5th century), On the Spirit and the Letter, 22.

9. Amrosiaster (4th century), Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1.4; cited from Joel C. Elowsky, We Believe in the Holy Spirit, 97.

10. Theodoret,of Cyrus (5th century), Interpretation of the Fourteen Epistles of Paul; FEF 3:248–49, sec. 2163; cited from Thomas Oden, The Justification Reader, 44.

 So how’d you do? Were you surprised?

Nathan Busenitz

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Nathan serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Church and teaches theology at The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles.
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  • http://www.melissacollins.biz/ Melissa Collins

    I went right to the “answers”………but then did read the questions! Thanks for this, which I found interesting and wonderful! No, I wasn’t a cheater in school ;-) but knew that I didn’t know enough to be able to answer the questions.

  • Heather

    I really loved this. Thank you. Such a powerful demonstration of the work of the Holy Spirit. I especially appreciated that what you brought to the light is that those men and women weren’t trying to create NEW doctrines, it’s just that the Holy Spirit was moving in them to return to the TRUTH of God’s Word. May we all seek to always return to the truth of God’s Word and never seek to create new doctrines!

    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

  • Scott C

    Would not Bernard of Clairvaux be considered a classic Roman Catholic? Is it safe to say that he embraced doctrines in line with what the Reformers recovered? I am simply asking because I don;t know a whole lot about him.