The Time of Change

In our time we enjoy the freedoms of religion, assembly, press, and speech. There was a time that this was not the case. David Teems, in his book, Tyndale, said: “You could do very little without the blessing of the Church. The Catholic Church governed birth, marriage, death, sex, and eating, made the rules for law and medicine, gave philosophy and scholarship their subject matter. It taught the faithful how to spend their money, how to sweat their tithe, what to believe, what to think. Culture grew within and around the Church. She was the watchful parent. And membership was not optional, it was not a matter of choice: it was compulsory and without alternative, not easy to dislodge.”

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Change came about, however, and one of the ‘Changers’, William Tyndale, boldly and fearlessly stormed onto the scene with questions and answers that tremendously upset those in authority. He is called ‘The man who gave God an English voice’. What was his sin? What was his crime? He dared translate the Bible into English! This was the first time a common man, in his tongue, heard about God, his creation, the Son of God’s death on the cross, and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost.

The Church made it an outlawed book, a text so dangerous it could only be countered by the most vicious burnings, of books and men and women. Courageously, Tyndale worked in secret, in exile, in peril, always on the move translating God’s word into English. Later, Martin Luther and Thomas More would emerge and continue making change.

Teems wrote that, “Tyndale worked five days a week-writing, translating. The remaining two days, Saturdays and Mondays, Tyndale called his ‘days of past time’. On those days he exercised the priesthood inside him. Mondays he visited English men and women who had fled to Antwerp, and those who were sick and diseased, whom he ‘did liberally comfort and relieve’. (Ibid) When Saturday arrived he went about town, searching for old people and for struggling families, looking into every corner and hole for those he could help. Tyndale lived in poverty and gave the most part of what he had to the poor. The English merchants in Antwerp gave him a stipend. It wasn’t much but helpful.

Another bold and fearless ‘Changer’, John Wycliffe (1328-1384), marched into the fight arguing “that temporal matters belonged to the civil powers alone, that the monarch was superior to the priesthood. And while his ‘angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin’ contemporaries were asking questions like ‘does the glorified body of Christ stand or sit in heaven?’ or, ‘Is the body of Christ, eaten in the sacrament, dressed or undressed’? Wycliffe started asking better questions.” (Ibid)

His statements were stirring as he exclaimed there was no justification in Scripture for the organization of the church as a feudal hierarchy, or for the rich endowments the Church enjoyed. He felt that the Church should be stripped of its coin and it should distribute its wealth among the poor. “God gave his sheep to be pastured, not to be shaven and shorn.” (Ibid)

Additional facts reveal that corruption in the Church and government needed complete eradication. A better day dawned and we now have peace and relief along with victorious living that comes through the new birth. Thank God and ‘the Changers’!

Rev. Raymond Parnell is Pastor Emeritus of Christ Memorial Temple in Lafayette, Indiana.

photo credit: monkeyc.net via photopin cc

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