Commemorating the 500th Year of The Reformation
Dan: In the last two weeks, Ben and I have had a wonderful opportunity to participate in an impacting series of events in Geneva, Switzerland, commemorating the 500th year of the Reformation. This included a three-day School of the Reformation, then a private invitation-only presentation and discussion at the United Nations in Geneva, and finally a great celebration in Reformation Park. Bedros Nassanian, who came from Gateways Beyond in Cyprus and now leads Gateways Geneva, is a dear young friend of several years and has an amazing gift of gathering. He gathered a huge variety of prominent leaders, from Europe, the Reformed Church, the Evangelical Alliance in Switzerland, the leader of Campus Crusade in Europe, and even leaders from Ghana and Indonesia.
My son Ben and I were able to share back to back. I shared on the gains in the Calvinist Reformation in Geneva as well as those things Calvin desired that did not come about. Also I spoke about the restorations that took place after Calvin and will yet take place in our day. The response was very strong. Ben shared on seven major theological and spiritual lessons he learned from being my son. One of the themes of the school was passing on the heritage from fathers to sons (literal and spiritual). There was a very strong appreciation of the father/son dynamic in our presentation.
At the U. N., I was one of four presenters on the foundations of human rights in the Bible and in the Reformation. On the Saturday, there was a wonderful celebration with the Mayor of Geneva, and the leader of the Reformed Church.
The Reformation restored justification by faith and, with Calvin, a clear understanding of the relationship of faith and works/law, the importance of government by a plurality of elders in each local congregation and in the congregations of the city together that make up one body. The Puritans in Great Britain and America would later restore the doctrine of the continued election of the Jewish people, and this would influence the Lutheran Pietists and the Moravians.
Some Messianic Jews do not have a good response of honor and love for the Church. This is mainly due to replacement theology in the churches and anti-Semitism, especially in the later Martin Luther. But in spite of this, we are called to honor. The Lord clearly revealed to us that we are to love the whole Church, and to give honor where honor is due. Only by this approach can we make the gains we seek in seeing the alignment of Israel and the Church, including the Messianic Jewish community.
I think it is important for Messianic Jews to realize that without the Reformation we would probably not exist and Israel would probably not exist, at least as we see the working of God in history through the Church. Why? The Reformation restored the central place of the Bible and education so that all could read it for themselves. Though Calvin did not see very much on Israel’s election (he did see a promise for the later conversion of the Jews to Christianity), his later Puritan followers would come to much more understanding on God’s love for the Jewish people, and some even to their restoration to the Land. This influenced the Lutheran Pietists, the Moravians, the Methodists and many Anglicans. It was this influence that brought Britain to make it their national policy to restore the Jewish people to their Land. Christian Zionism was the fruition of this long process. Arthur John Balfour, the former Prime Minister and then Foreign Secretary, who had strong Christian Zionist family roots, affirmed Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, and wrote the British Balfour Declaration itself.
We, as Messianic Jews, were celebrating the Reformation and joining together with our friends from the saved remnant from the Nations. This is very important, and part of the great alignment taking place with Israel and the Church today.