The Reformation is Born

The Failure to Follow Sola Scripture

The Defeat of Sola Scripture

Will Sola Scripture or Tradition Win?


For hundreds of years the Church of Rome had kept the nations of Europe in bondage to her doctrines and superstitions. The Little Horn, which Daniel describes as being more stout than the others, which spoke great swelling words and made war with God's saints and prevailed against them; the little horn that attempted to reach into heaven itself and cast down Christ's daily sanctuary ministry to the ground; that little horn had enshrouded Christianity with darkness.

Like a glorious sunrise after a dismal night, the sixteenth century Reformation ushered in the penetrating light of the gospel! God was at work to break the shackles of ignorance and superstition. Men were rising up in different lands to present to the people forgiveness and justification with a personal Savior. With their very lives they resisted the controlling tyranny of the Roman Religion.

This Protestant movement received it's greatest momentum from the fearless leadership of Martin Luther. Rome was sorely shaken. Whole Protestant nations came into being. Through Luther, God accomplished a great work for the reformation of Christianity and the enlightenment of the world.

The Reformation sprang forth from a three fold discovery:
1. The Rediscovery of Christ and His salvation
2. The acknowledgment of the Holy Scriptures as the only foundation for religious faith
3. The discovery of the identity of Antichrist and his subversions from the prophesies

Yet the enemy of all souls was also actively at work to cast his blanket of darkness and hide the light once more. Not only was the counter reformation initiated by the Roman Church, but the Protestants themselves caused the reformation to flounder and come to a halt through theological and political compromises.

Let's trace the floundering of the Reformation. The column on the left traces the failures of Reformers to move forward in scriptural understanding and slide back into Papal traditions. The right side traces the Reformers who stood for the Biblical truths and continued to seek for a true restitution of the "faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3)




The reformation, pushing aside the traditions and ultimate authority over scripture which the Roman Church insisted upon, held up the Bible as the only foundation for religious faith. If they had adhered to this principle, the papacy would have been completely overthrown.

But they stumbled on this issue in a great and suicidal way and as we will see, it gave the papacy the footholds to make a grand, and in the end times, almost complete comeback.

The first mistake was in being selective in scriptural interpretation. Luther chose to be selective in his Biblical beliefs. His bold depreciation of James is one example. He also declared that "Moses is no concern of ours." And in the preference to his first edition of the New Testament he wrote of Revelation, "There is too much lacking in this book to call it apostolic or prophetic." This position showed up in the complete confusion on end time events among Protestants and opened them up to the deceptions of the Jesuit counter reformation.


The selective interpretation of scripture also led to Luther's tendency to separate justification from sanctification. Luther tended to see the law as merely a tool by which people see their inability to do the will of God and therefore, the sinner throws himself on the mercy of God after which the law, not even the ten commandments, is no longer needed. The Christian does good works out of spontaneous love in obedience to God.

Luther's gospel focused primarily on justification.


Catholics believe the bread and wine in the Eucharistic service actually turn into the body and blood of Christ and the priest created and reenacted the sacrifice of Christ. The emblems then became filled with mystical power to infuse grace for meritorious works into the receiver.

At first Luther spoke quite strongly against this unbiblical doctrine.
Yet he continued the service of mass, simply modifying it somewhat.
Then, in his zeal to stop the mob action of the fanatics, he swung right back into Catholism by turning back the reform in this area; restoring the Latin mass with its elevation of the host, condemned giving the emblems into the hands of the participants, and reinforced the rules of fasting before Communion!


The spiritual significance of baptism seems to have totally escaped many of the reformers. The concept of the carnal nature dying with Christ and the person being raised to newness of life in Christ was not seen. Luther continued to baptize babies on the basis of their "sleeping faith".

This is one of the reformers blackest marks! On April 23, 1529 the Catholic and Protestant Princes gathered at the second Diet of Speyer and one of their decrees was: "every Anabaptist and rebapitized man and woman of the age of reason shall be condemned and brought from natural life into death by fire, sword, and the like, according to the person, without proceeding by the inquisition of the spiritual judges."

Speaking for Luther and himself, Melanchthon, making no distinction between the quiet reformers who believed in baptism and the radicals who had used mob action (peasant's revolt)to war against papal oppression, wrote (February, 1530) "The government is under obligation to kill them:" A year later, Luther himself wrote: "I approve, ...although it is terrible to view."

Here we have a classic example where the lawless deeds of some is used to persecute the true, honest believers in Biblical truth. And the mainline Reformers sided with the Papal position. Proper procedure would have been to punish those individuals who instigated the violence, but instead they condemned truth and persecuted those who followed it.

Luckily not all Protestant princes followed the decree. Prince Philip of Hesse, when urged to do so, said, "We cannot find it in our conscience to judge someone with the sword for his faith, where we have no other adequate evidence of an uprising."


The Catholic Church teaches the immortality of the soul, complete with the soul going to hell, purgatory and heaven. In his early years Luther frequently referred to the "sleep" of the dead. He asserted that the immortality of the soul was only a papal doctrine to "make it possible for them to hold fast to human dreams and doctrines of devils."

However, as the doctrine of the sleep of the dead was accepted by the " whole Bible only" reformers, who also believed in baptism, etc., Luther began to say less and less about it. It was never included in his catechism or in his confession of faith.

After Luther's death the truth on the state of the dead continued to be suppressed and the papal traditions upheld.


Luther opposed the Sabbath, calling it legalistic. He failed to see the spiritual value of the full truth in the Biblical Sabbath. He was however perceptive enough to point out that Sunday was not the Biblical Sabbath, Saturday was.

A Protestant leader named Schwenckfeld, was quite impressed with Gait's thorough Biblical research on the Sabbath, but countered it by spiritualizing away Sabbath. He wrote the Biblical admonitions should not be taken literal but all one does is "resting from sin is the true spiritual Sabbath." To which the Sabbath believers responded that he had an "extreme mystic holy day theory."

Luther, on hearing of the Sabbath keeping churches springing up, declared. "A foolish group of people who call themselves Sabbatarians."

By 1529 reports of people being martyred in reference to Sabbath keeping begin to show up. In France, Barabara of Thiers was executed because "God commanded us to rest on the seventh day."

So once again, Biblical truth was uncovered but suppressed while the Papal tradition was maintained in it's place.



The Bible, not tradition, was the watchword. The whole Bible was regarded as God's holy Word.

Andreas Karlstadt, contemporary and co-reformer with Luther declared: "God's Word is a fountain out of which the Divine Spirit flows into the believers...we believe the Biblical books because the Holy Spirit spoke them to the church."

Karlstadt wrote: "I am grieve by the bold depreciation of James."

As to the Revelation, it was the Anabaptists who, with diligent and prayerful study discovered many truths of the Advent hope, long suppressed by all churches.

It was the firm adherence to the Bible in opposition to the traditions of the papacy which caused these faithful believers to suffer, not only the wrath of the papacy, but also the wrath of the Protestants. Yet if their stand on the Bible had been followed the Papacy would never have gained the victories over Protestantism which have been gained.


Karlstadt also emphasized the importance of justification by faith and pointed out that good works are never to be seen as "merits". But he pointed out to Luther that throwing out the moral law was contrary to scriptural teaching. He strongly asserted that the moral law was still the divine standard by which the obedience of grace is demonstrated in the life. Do we then abolish the law? No! We become "lovers and doers of the law."

Karlstadt stressed that "the full gospel of Christ" must include not only justification by faith but also sanctification, or a "new supernatural life," lived in harmony with the commandments of God, as the forgiven sinner gives himself to Christ in complete self-surrender and total commitment.


Karlstadt replaced the mass with the communion service. He again offered the cup with the bread and emphasized that this was a memorial service of Christ's death. He officiated without the Eucharistic vestments, wearing a plain gown. He did not elevate the host and made no reference to this being a reenacted sacrifice. It was Karlstadt who reintroduced the Lord's Supper as Jesus gave it to His disciples.

(Note: Karlstadt and his followers were totally against violent measures to implement changes. They refused to participate in the peasant's revolt, etc. Yet, as we will see, they were constantly lumped with, and condemned, with the people who sought reform by violence, rather than the Spirit of God. This was just another of the enemies tactics to cause the reformation to flounder and maintain as much of the false doctrines as possible)


Karlstadt saw baptism, not as a ticket to heaven, but as a public confession of commitment to Christ, and an acknowledgment that the old way of life was forsaken and a new way entered upon. "He who wants to receive baptism properly...must repent, forsake the old life, and take up a new life," he wrote.

This is sola scripture! Infant baptism came from Catholic tradition not Biblical authority. "Repent, and be baptized." (Acts 2:38) the Bible says.
"Know you not, that as you are baptized into Jesus Christ you are baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead, even so we also should walk in newness of life!" (Romans 6:3-6)
Jesus set the example by being baptized by John in the river Jordan.

These reformers instituted the dedication of children after the example of Jesus. This service was begun by Hubmaier in Switzerland. The ordinance of foot washing was also rediscovered by several of them.

Interestingly, the mainline reformers renounced their belief on baptism, not with the Bible, for they had no basis for that, but because of "disruption to the state." For the honest Christian, to be baptized into Christ was a solemn decision indeed, not to be taken lightly, for many were forced to seal their decision with their lives.


The doctrine of the "sleep" of the dead was taken up strongly by these reformers who based their belief on a thorough knowledge of the subject from the scriptures.


Karlstadt saw the moral law as the continuing standard of the Christian life, but at first he excluded the Sabbath command. As he continued to study, he realized that God did not place the command in the middle of the Decalogue by mistake. So he began to advocate Sabbath keeping. But he did not associate it with the 7th day.

Luther condemned the whole idea as legalism but pointed out that to be consistent, Karlstadt would have to keep Saturday. Some of Karlstadt's followers took Luther's words seriously and searched the scriptures to see if these things were so.

Oswald Glait, about 1529, became the first to point out that the true Sabbath was the "seventh" day. Glait pointed out that the moral law of the Decalogue was as binding on Christians under the new covenant as it had been in the Old. "Either the Sabbath must be kept," he argued, "or all the other nine commandments must also be rejected."

He maintained that the ceremonial law was the shadow that passed away, but God's moral law stands firm. "Sunday," he said, "is the pope's invention," and the abrogation of the Sabbath is none other than "the devil's work."

Oswald Glait can be classified as the first Seventh-day Adventist, for his arguments on the Sabbath sound surprisingly like those of any Seventh-day Adventist. And he also believed in the coming of Christ before the 1000 year millennium.

Others took up the message and Sabbath keeping churches sprung up in Moravia, Bohemia and spread to other European countries. The Seventh-day Baptists are direct descendants of this movement.


The big showdown came at the Council of Trent in 1562. Would Sola Scripture become the authority of the Christian community, or would Catholic Tradition be the final authority. In the Council of Trent the Protestant position of Sola Scripture was defeated and the Catholic Tradition upheld BECAUSE THE PROTESTANTS THEMSELVES WERE UPHOLDING IT.

"The Bible and the Bible only," were the watchwords of the Protestants.
"The Bible as interpreted by the Church and according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers," this was the position and claim of the Catholic Church.

Back and forth the arguments flowed. There were strong advocates for the Bible only, even among Catholics within the council. The Papal authorities became very worried as the debate continued day after day.

Then on January 18, 1562 Archbishop Reggio came with an argument that completely took the wind out of the sails of the Protestants and won the battle for tradition over the Bible.

"The Protestants claim to stand upon the written word only. They profess to hold the Scripture alone as the standard of faith. They justify their revolt by the plea that the church has apostatized from the written word of God and follows tradition. Their profession of holding the Scripture alone as the standard of faith, IS FALSE. Proof: The written word explicitly enjoins the observance of the seventh day as the Sabbath. They do not observe the seventh day, but reject it. If they do truly hold to Scripture alone as their standard, they would be observing the seventh day as is enjoined in the Scripture throughout. Yet they not only reject the observance of the Sabbath, but they have adopted and do practice the observance of Sunday, for which they have only the tradition of the Church. Consequently the claim of :Scripture alone as the standard,' fails; and the doctrine of ‘Scripture and tradition' as essential, is fully established, the Protestants themselves being the judges."

The Protestants had no answer. They themselves had admitted that Sunday was a child of the Papacy, yet they were worshiping upon it, rather than upon the Sabbath day.
See note

The Catholic scholars were elated, the advocates for "Scripture alone," surrendered, and the council at once unanimously condemned Protestantism and the whole Reformation as only an unwarranted revolt from the communion and authority of the Catholic Church, and proceeded to other matters.


Thus it will be in the latter days. The study of history shows men arising with a message. Luther began strong, but drew back retreating back into Papal traditions, condemning those who moved on. Zwingly went further than Luther, but retreated on the issue of Baptism and the Sabbath, staying with Papal traditions and also condemning those who moved on. And so it went. The Baptists pressed on further, suffering extreme persecution for their Biblical beliefs, yet they too are rapidly retreating back into Papal traditions, and now even join in condemning people who advance to positions they once held. Seventh-day Adventism took up the torch and bravely carried the scriptural truths spreading them throughout the world, but they too are being pulled down. Attacked left and right to give up the plain Biblical truths and retreat to mystical traditions.

The counter Reformation has almost completely undone the Protestant Reformation.

By accepting the traditions of the Catholic Church — of which Sunday is held forth as her mark of authority over God's law and her power to interpret scripture — Protestantism seals her doom and will be conquered and absorbed into the control of the Papacy. Just as Revelation predicted.

The Sabbath will be the final test, because it will be on this commandment that apostate religion will enforce the traditions of man upon the nations, while disregarding the the plain commandment of God, revealed in His Word.

"In vain they worship Me", Christ said, "teaching for doctrines the traditions of men." (Matt. 15:9)
"Come out of her my people!" (Rev. 18:4)

"Here is the patience of the saints, here are they that keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus." (Rev. 14:12)


1443. Sabbath, Change of, Cited as Proof That Tradition Is Above Scripture

Source: Gaspare [Ricciulli] de Fosso (Archbishop of Reggio), Address in the 17th session of the Council of Trent, Jan. 18, 1562, in Mansi SC, Vol. 33, cols. 529, 530. Latin. [ Gian Domenico Mansi, ''Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio"]

[col. 529] Such is the condition of the heretics of this age that on nothing do they rely more than that, under the pretense of the word of God, they overthrow the authority of the church; as though the church, His body, could be opposed to the word of Christ, or the head to the body. On the contrary, the authority of the church, then, is illustrated most clearly by the Scriptures; for while on the one hand she recommends them, declares them to be divine, [col. 530] offers them to us to be read, in doubtful matters explains them faithfully, and condemns whatever is contrary to them; on the other hand, the legal precepts in the Scriptures taught by the Lord have ceased by virtue of the same authority. The Sabbath, the most glorious day in the law, has been changed into the Lord’s day. Circumcision, enjoined upon Abraham and his seed under such threatening that he who had not been circumcised would be destroyed from among his people, has been so abrogated that the apostle asserts: "If ye be circumcised, ye have fallen from grace, and Christ shall profit you nothing." These and other similar matters have not ceased by virtue of Christ’s teaching (for He says He has come to fulfill the law, not to destroy it), but they have been changed by the authority of the church. Indeed, if she should be removed (since there must be heresies), who would set forth truth, and confound the obstinacy of heretics? All things will be confused, and soon heresies condemned by her authority will spring up again. [See No. 1444.]

1444. Sabbath, Change of—Cited in Council of Trent as Proof that Tradition Is Above Scripture

Source: Heinrich Julius Holtzmann, Kanon und Tradition ("Canon and Tradition") (Ludwigsburg: Druck and Verlag von Ferd. Riehm, 1859), p. 263. German. [FRS No. 72.] [Facsimile (in the original German) below.]

The Council [of Trent] agreed fully with Ambrosius Pelargus, that under no condition should the Protestants be allowed to triumph by saying that the council had condemned the doctrine of the ancient church. But this practice caused untold difficulty without being able to guarantee certainty. For this business, indeed, ‘well-nigh divine prudence’ was requisite—which the Spanish ambassador acknowledged as belonging to the council on the sixteenth of March, 1562. Indeed, thus far they had not been able to orient themselves to the interchanging, crisscrossing, labyrinthine, twisting passages of an older and newer concept of tradition. But even in this they were to succeed. Finally, at the last opening [see editors’ note] on the eighteenth of January, 1562, all hesitation was set aside: [Gaspar de Fosso] the Archbishop of Reggio made a speech [see No. 1443] in which he openly declared that tradition stood above Scripture. The authority of the church could therefore not be bound to the authority of the Scriptures, because the church had changed circumcision into baptism, Sabbath into Sunday, not by the command of Christ, but by its own authority. With this, to be sure, the last illusion was destroyed, and it was declared that tradition does not signify antiquity, but continual inspiration. [Editors’ note: This "last opening" of the Council of Trent was not the last day, but the opening of the 17th session, the first meeting of the last series of sessions that was opened, after a lapse of time, under a new pope. The council was in session for longer or shorter periods over a series of years.] Source: Neufeld, Don F., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Student’s Source Book, Don F. Neufeld and Julia Neuffer.—Washington, D.C., Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1962, pgs. 887-888 Note's source at "Bible Light"

Reference Books:
W.L.Emmerson: The Reformation and the Advent Movement
Harold Grimm, The Reformation Era 1500---1650
LeRoy Froom: The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers
B.G. Wilkinson: Truth Triumphant:The Church in the Wilderness
Romes' Challenge: Why Do Protestants Keep Sunday? Catholic Mirror
J.N. Andrews: History of the Sabbath

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