Four Schmitts were students this year. We took an online church history course the past ten weeks with sixty other Cru staff. Besides reading a 500-page text, we’ve participated in research, discussion, and memory work. (About the other students in the picture: Jenn has one month to go for her senior year; Josh is halfway through his masters program.)
During our study, we’ve come to deeply appreciate the great sacrifices that so many have made over the centuries for the cause of the Christian faith. Their sacrifices made it possible for the Gospel to be carried to our shores during the early formation of our country and also laid the foundation for the religious freedoms we enjoy today.
Particularly during the Protestant Reformation, men and women put their lives and fortunes on the line for what they believed. Men like John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, and Martin Luther believed that the common person should have the Scriptures in their own language so believers could understand and apply the plain meaning God intended in His Word.
For translating the Scriptures into English, Wycliffe was driven from his country and Tyndale was burned at the stake. Luther translated the Bible into German in hiding, as there was a price on his head. Together with others, they helped shape our current understanding that Scripture holds the highest authority even above church rulers and councils.
Johannes Gutenburg’s invention of the printing press in 1456 opened the door for affordable Bibles for any and all believers in their language. Inspired by Luther, Tyndale published an English New Testament translated directly from Greek in 1526. (Wycliffe is credited with the first English Bible in 1384.)
The Geneva Bible was the most influential English Bible of the 1500s and 1600s. A study Bible, it was an excellent translation and the first to use chapters and verses. The Bible also had extensive marginal notes (written by John Calvin and others). The Pilgrims brought the Geneva Bible to the New World.
The leaders of the Reformation also championed the doctrine that salvation is by faith alone in the completed work of Christ. Many were exiled or martyred for this belief.
Particularly in the nineteenth century, Christians paved the way for modern missionary efforts by innovating new methods and penetrating vast portions of Africa and Asia with the Gospel. We admire great Christian missionaries such as William Carey, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, and David Livingstone who were willing to suffer hardships in order to share the love of Christ.
The torch of the Christian faith, and of the missionary movement, was carried bravely by past generations and has passed to this current generation. May God help us all to work together to both protect the precious truths of the Christian faith as well as carry out the Great Commission given by our Lord in Matthew 28:18-20 to take the Gospel to all the world.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV