Did The Reformers Think Their Doctrine Was New?

In the previous post, I offered a quick survey of historical church figures leading up to the Reformation. The purpose was to show that the doctrines emphasized by the Reformers were not completely new, but that the Reformation was, in fact, a recovery of gospel doctrine. What did the Reformers themselves think about their teaching? They did not think their teaching was novel. Below I will offer a few quick remarks from them displaying their thoughts on the subject.

Luther wrote:

People should stop using my name, and instead of calling themselves Lutheran, they should be willing to be called Christian. What is Luther? The doctrine is not mine. And I have not been crucified for anybody…How would I, a bag full of maggots, come to the point that people, the children of Christ, call themselves after my unwholesome name? (quoted in Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography, pg. 171, emphasis mine)

Luther’s main emphasis in this statement is his desire for people to cling to and honor Christ instead of himself. However, his statement “the doctrine is not mine” shows that he believes it is the Lord’s and comes from Scripture. Thus, it is certainly not new doctrine, but rather Biblical doctrine.

During the First Disputation in Zurich (1523), Zwingli was accused of preaching new doctrine. Zwingli responded:

“What is the gospel? Why, that is 1,522 years old.” (quoted in Rescuing the Gospel, pg. 145)

In his famous exchange with Cardinal Sadoleto, Calvin wrote:

…our (the Reformers) agreement with antiquity is far closer than yours (Roman Church)…all we have attempted has been to renew that ancient form of the Church. (quoted in Unquenchable Flame, pg. 105)

All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever. And this word is the good news that was preached to you. –1 Peter 1:24-25

About Pastor Matt

Matt Baker is the Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church.
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