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Church History Snapshot - Ulrich Zwingli

(This was originally posted on November 11, 2019)

One cannot think of the Swiss Reformation without Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531). A son of a prosperous farmer and magistrate, Zwingli became a disciple of Erasmus at an early age. While studying theology at the University of Basel, one of his professors, Thomas Wyttenbach (1472-1526), greatly influenced Zwingli. Wyttenbach had publicly attacked the abuse of indulgences by the Catholic Church even before Luther did so. Wytteback also exalted the authority of Scripture and taught that salvation was by faith alone in the crucified Christ.

In 1522, Zwingli published Concerning the Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God. In this work, Zwingli rejected the infallible authority of the papacy, ecumenical councils, and church tradition. Instead, Zwingli believed that the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures were authoritative. Therefore, Zwingli officially separated from the Catholic church in 1522.

Because of Luther’s similar break from the Catholic Church in Germany around the same time, naturally, Catholics assumed that Zwingli was getting his marching orders from Luther.

Zwingli responded in 1523 by saying,

The papist say, “You must be a Lutheran because you preach just as Luther writes. I reply, “I preach just as Saint Paul writes. So why not call me Pauline?’ In my view, Luther is a mighty advocate of God who has closely studied the Bible, more seriously than anyone has done on this earth for a thousand years. No one has been like Luther in the manly and unflinching courage with which he has attacked the pope. Still, I do not wish to be called after Luther’s name, since I have read little of his teaching. I desire to have no name except that of my captain, Jesus Christ, whose soldier I am. Yet I value Luther as highly as anyone alive.

Why do I share this story? Three reasons:

  1. Several people who will read this blog will recognize the names, Luther and Zwingli. Far less will know Erasmus and Wyttenbach. Yet, God used each man to make a difference in this world for Christ. History may or may not remember you, but that doesn’t change the fact that God has a plan for you to influence others for eternity.

  2. It took a lot of courage to stand for truth. Zwingli eventually dies in battle (that’s a story for another time). He was willing to give his life for biblical truth. For what are you ready to die?

  3. I wish that we all could say with Zwingli, “I desire to have no other name except that of my captain, Jesus Christ, whose soldier I am.” For whose approval are you living for today?

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