POSITIVE BIBLICAL PROTESTANTISM
Peter J. Gadsden, England
"Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:8).
This verse of Scripture, often associated with Pentecost, is never thought of as having anything to do with Protestantism. For many Christians the title Protestant is offensive and negative, it is a word that has a confrontational quality. This attitude is reflected in the following declaration "Any man who kicks the Pope over Derry's wall, is welcome in my pulpit." So stated a minister of an English church to me sometime ago. Although this was said in jest, it highlights the negative characteristic which blights the Protestant cause. This is confrontation for confrontation's sake and is the attitude that has so weakened the cause of Protestantism.
When the Christian faith is lived and practised according to God's Word, it is confrontational without the added problems such as this brings. If we preach Christ in all His fullness, if we preach the Gospel in the, power of the Holy Spirit, then we will be brought into a confrontational situation with all error, with those who
practice idolatry, who take the name of God in vain, who steal or commit adultery. We do not have to go out of our way to find confrontation.
Many who claim to be Protestants, fail for one reason or another to live a Christian life, and seek to satisfy the emptiness of soul by engaging in things that are viewed, and rightly so, as negative. These souls hope, that, by their actions they will not only find satisfaction but also salvation. The great problem is, that this very attitude gives the Protestant Church a bad name, a negative and unattractive image. Now, whilst I may agree with the principle verbalised by the minister quoted above, the practise should be very different. because it is this attitude that is reported by the Media, and reaches the hearts and minds of the very people we are seeking to win for the truth. Let us be under no misconception, that it is the minds and hearts of the people that we are after. To allow them to be fed with a diet of negativism, is not only harmful, but will eventually produce two groups of people.
With many people today, to be called a Protestant does nothing more than distinguish, often in a negative way, those who do not belong to the church of Rome. In fact the Dictionary defines a Protestant as "One who protests against the doctrine of Rome". Now whilst this is true, and a fact that we are exceedingly thankful for, it does not go far enough, it is a very limiting and indeed inaccurate definition.
FIRSTLY: there are the negative supporters of the Protestant cause, of which there are already far too many. These are people who for one reason or another have an axe to grind and seek a platform on which to do so. Many of these people are seen by the Christian public as being little more than religious cranks, the
oddball, the religious fanatic, people, who, because they are unbalanced in some way, bring the name of Protestantism into disrepute.
SECONDLY: there are the Christians who because of the negative and often unchristian image presented by the first group, desire to have nothing to do with
anything that has even the slightest suggestion of Protestantism about it. They do not want to be associated with these things, and it must be said, who can blame them, when there has been so much ungodly behaviour enacted under the guise of Protestantism? These people are quite happy to be called Christians, but because "Protestant" has the negative connotations it has, they do not wish to be known as Protestants.
Yet the truth is that true Protestantism is positive and progressive and is the very essence of the Christian faith, Yet this positive aspect has been for too long a
neglected principle and needs to be firmly re-established. I have no objection to disparaging the Pope from time to time, but that is not the beginning and end of Protestantism. This negative idea of being against everything, seems to have arisen from a misunderstanding of the statement made at the Second Diet of Spires in 1529 when the following declaration was made:
"We protest and herewith openly declare before God as well as before men, that we, for us and our people, neither consent nor adhere in any manner whatsoever to the proposed decree in anything that is contrary to God, to His Holy Word, to our right conscience, to the salvation of our souls, and to the last decree of Spires."
This was the origin of the celebrated Protest; it was made to express the resolution to maintain the liberty of worship and doctrinal opinion. The Diet was, in effect, being asked to vote in favour of the gradual strangulation of these principles.
These saints, many of them Princes of Germany, were protesting because they had something better than the religious authorities of the day were offering them. They had come to the realisation that the religion of the day was short changing them, and they sought to safeguard what they had and rectify the situation. These saints were making a solemn declaration, they were affirming their faith. It was a protest of a group of people declaring their love for the truth, in much the same way as a young man protests his love for his sweetheart. Such a declaration is very positive. Furthermore a young man who so protests his love, is warning any who would hurt his sweetheart to stay away, he will not allow any to cause her hurt or harm.
The saints at the Diet of Spires had come to love the Word of God, which showed them the way of salvation, and they protested their love for it and in so doing also stood opposed to the church that had withheld these truths. The followers of Luther were called Protestants, because of this protest or witness for truth, and the name was associated with all who separated from the Church of Rome.
These Christians did not used the term Protestant in a negative way their protestation was not a string of negatives, but the simple yet powerful declaration of their faith, which was a combination of both positive and negatives. Let it be said and said very clearly, that the negative, the "against" principle, which is so very dominant in most Protestant circles today is only a small part of the true Protestant ethos and philosophy, and should be seen in correct proportion.
The word Protestant comes from two Latin words, "Pro" means "in favour of", whilst "Testari" means "to bear witness to, to make a declaration of belief opinion or resolution". Protestantism is not about the denial of something, it is rather the stating of something with a strong emphasis. Protestantism is not about safeguarding certain principles, practices, or power. Had this been the case then the cause would have been lost long ago. The heart of Protestantism is not a
principle, not a power or even a doctrine; the heart of Protestantism is a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ in its purest understanding. As twenty-first century Christians, we are in favour of Christ, are we not? We are desirous of bearing witness for Him, we declare Him to be the only Saviour of sinners, for there is no other way to God the Father but by Him.
Protestantism, that is true biblical Protestantism, is a witness for Christ. We are witnesses for Christ, for the power of Christ, for the love of Christ, for the sole claim of Christ upon our obedience, our allegiance and our love. The true Protestant is in favour of Christ and will bear testimony to that fact. No one, nothing shall
stand between us and Him, no person however venerated, no system, however splendid, no organisation however ancient or imposing. "Christ is all".
The Protestant principle has its roots in the Old Testament, for example in 2 Chronicles 24:19, where these words are to be found,
"Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the LORD; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear."
God's people had turned to idolatry, so God raised up prophets to go and warn them of the danger in which they were in, to encourage them to turn away from
their sin, and return to God, but the people would not listen. These prophets may well be described in today's terms as Protestant Preachers, because they testified
of God, showing the people the positive steps back to God. In fact, from Moses through to John the Baptist and then from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the
greatest example of all, through to Paul, we have exemplified the spirit of positive, biblical Protestantism. All stood for the true revelation of God, and were not
afraid to make God's will, purpose and Word known. If we want a perfect example of how a Protestant should act and behave, then we only have to look at the life and witness of Christ His witness was for God the Father; He came to do His Father's will and nothing was allowed to stand in His way. Sin was called sin,
hypocrites were called hypocrites and false teachers called such.
The Lord Jesus in Acts 1:8 tells the disciples that they were to be Protestants in so far as they were to be "Witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." The Greek word used here is Martus (Martoos) from which is derived the English word Martyr, which means one who, "records or bears witness". The first disciples were to bear witness to Christ, they were to testify of Him, they were in favour of Him. The Lord, had He used Latin instead of the common tongue of the people of Judea, could have said that these men were to be His Protestants.
In Acts 3:14-15, we see Peter the true Protestant, in action. Preaching to the multitude, he declares to the people that they were responsible for the death of Christ:
"But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses."
True biblical Protestantism although confrontational in a spiritual manner, is not confrontational in a physical way. It is the calling of the Lord's people to follow in
the footsteps of Christ. He says very plainly that His kingdom is not of this world, John 18:36,and declares that if it had been then His servants would have fought.
However by implication there is to be conflict: "not by might nor by power but by my spirit, saith the Lord". Christ was not a man of the sword or the gun, but a man of peace, of love and compassion, and we as twenty-first century Christians, are in the words of Paul "Ambassadors for Christ." As Christians, we are His living representatives on earth. If Christ is the centre of Protestantism, then the Life of Christ, His teachings, and His example are the things upon which we are to model ourselves
Probably the best definition of true biblical Protestantism is found in Matthew 5:13-14 where the Lord describes the disciples as "the light of the world" and the "salt of the earth." Light is positive, it is revealing, it enables us to see, to walk without stumbling, to enjoy the things of nature; without light we are in darkness. Yet, just as light is a blessing to us, it is nevertheless negative to darkness. Because darkness cannot withstand light, it has to vanish away. It is the same with salt. Salt is good, in that it savours that with which it is used, it preserves that into which it is rubbed. Yet,just as it is beneficial to us, so it is negative to that which would destroy meat. On the one hand it preserves yet, on the other, it destroys and corrupts.
Protestantism has been an essential part of the British Church since the day Christianity arrived on these shores. Protestantism is, in truth, Biblical Christianity. Prior to the arrival on the shores of the papal envoy, Augustine, biblical religion, despite its many ups and downs, thrived. Thus it was that when Augustine sought to impose the Roman religion on the British people, they protested, that is they bore witness to the truth and would have no fellowship with error. It was the effort made by Luther and the other reformers to recapture the message of the pure Gospel that gave rise to the term, the Protestant Church. Protestantism is a protest for the truth of the Bible, which the Church of Rome had buried under a mountain of superstitious beliefs. True Protestantism is a Protest for Christ, for the Bible, the inspired Word of God. The Lord Jesus said "I am the way, the truth and the Life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me."
Because Protestantism is for Christ and all that He is, it is the force that breaks the bondage of lies. Thus it comes into direct conflict with the Church of Rome. We can and should help those caught up in this false religion, enabling them to seek the freedom that alone is in Christ. However, whilst the Church of Rome continues to claim that she is the only true Church and possesses the only way to God, we stand opposed and in conflict with her. Truth and error can never be compatible with each other.
Courtesy of:- Our Inheritance 2007
Back To Contents