Saturday, March 11, 2017


Reformation 500 WEEK 11    Luther Zwingli

Philip of Hesse, “along with other German and Swiss princes and rulers, faced three enemies: France, from the West; the Islamic forces or ‘Turks,’ from the East; and the Pope, ubiquitously [everywhere]. The princes could not afford to be divided; their lives and the survival of their provinces demanded a united front among the splintered reform movements to withstand these enemies at the gate” (Nichols, Luther, 117).

     “But theologians on neither side would bless a military covenant unless there were first an agreement in religion. The Swiss felt that the Lutherans were still tainted with popery.” The Lutherans “believed the Swiss were of one stripe with the [radical reformers].” Plus, Luther was against using the sword “in the defense of religion because the sword belongs only to the magistrate to keep peace”(Bainton, 91f). 

     Prince Philip summoned an impressive gathering of theologians to his castle at Marburg on the first three days of October 1529. From the Swiss Confederacy, Zwingli was joined by John Oecolampadius, from Basel; and Martin Bucer, from Strassburg. “Luther was joined by Justas Jonas and Philip Melanchthon as representatives of Wittenberg” (Nichols, 118). “It was the first council among Protestants, and the first attempt to unite them” (Schaff, 7:637).

     Both sides discussed fifteen articles, expressing the basics of evangelical doctrine. They agreed on all but the last article which concerned the Lord’s Supper. Both Luther and Zwingli condemned the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation [the bread and wine change into the body and blood of Christ]; and “Zwingli agreed that the celebration is something more than a memorial because there is a spiritual communion with Christ” (Bainton, 92). Zwingli argued for a spiritual eating of Christ on the basis of John 6:63: “the words I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” “Zwingli reasoned: Christ ascended to heaven, therefore he cannot be on earth with his body” (Schaff, 7:642). But Luther insisted that “This is my body” (which he wrote with chalk on the banquet table) should be taken literally. Thus, Christ’s physical body is in the sacrament. “I believe, said Luther, that Christ is in heaven, but also in the sacrament, as substantially as he was in the Virgin’s womb. I care not whether it be against nature and reason, provided it be not against faith” (Ibid, 642).

     The conference ended with this final statement: “although at present we are not agreed on the question whether the real body and blood of Christ are corporally present in the bread and wine, yet both parties shall cherish Christian charity for one another, so far as the conscience of each will permit; and both parties will earnestly implore Almighty God to strengthen us by his Spirit in the true understanding. Amen.”

     The Conference “was by no means a total failure. It prepared the way for the Augsburg Confession, the chief [creed] of the Lutheran Church” (Schaff, 7:649).

     Zwingli and his fellow Swiss went home and ended up fighting and losing a war against the Catholics. Zwingli was killed in battle, and his body was quartered by the executioner. “Luther did not soften at the news but regarded Zwingli’s death as a judgment for having taken the sword on behalf of the gospel” (Bainton, 94). “While eventually the Reformed tradition would claim Calvin as its foundational theologian, there would still be much in it that bore Zwingli’s imprint” (Gonzalez, 65). 

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation500 Luther Zwingli

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 11

Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.

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