When we talk of reformers we most often think of Martin Luther with his bold, passionate and magnetic personality. Ulrich Zwingli, on the other hand, was a mild, scholarly man with impeccable manners and a knack for making friends. One thing that we can learn from these stories of the Reformation is that God needs people with many different personalities, different strengths, different ages and different educational advantages in His work. God will use anyone who is totally consecrated, willing and humble who will carry out heaven’s instructions.
Zwingli Preaches the Scriptures
Week by week, Zwingli taught the crowds of people who came to hear him preach. Using the story of Adam’s fall in Eden, Zwingli showed that all are free to obey or disobey God’s law. When Adam chose to sin, he infected all his descendants with seeds that produce rebellion and that all need help which comes only from Jesus – who is both wholly God and wholly man. He reminded the people that Jesus died so all sinners could be given life. Zwingli taught they must be attached as closely to Jesus as a branch must be attached to the tree trunk to be alive. Jesus must be their salvation, their helper, their righteousness, their leader and guide. Love for Jesus would change them until they were like Him in character.
The Doctrine of Salvation by Faith, Not Works
But Zwingli knew that the errors taught by the Roman Church caused confusion in the minds of the people. He patiently showed them from Scripture that eternal life is a gift made possible by Christ’s sacrifice and that their good deeds did nothing to save them. He explained that although we can’t be saved by our own good works, yet we cannot be saved without lives of obedience to God. He emphasized that good works must be done through the power of Christ in the heart. “The life of a Christian is one of constant good works,” Zwingli told the people who flocked to hear him, “works that are begun by Jesus, directed by Him step by step, and finished to His precise directions.”
These simple words from Scripture breathed life into once spiritually dead lives. As visitors listened to Zwingli preach in Zurich, they excitedly took the new teachings home with them and repeated them to their family and friends. Switzerland was known for producing great warriors, but now people were picking up the sword of the Spirit as Zwingli, Myconium, Hedio and others faithfully taught and preached the truths from God’s Word. A revival of goodness and godliness swept away the traditions and errors in people’s hearts.
Enemies of the Truth Oppose Zwingli’s Preaching
But all was not peaceful for Zwingli. There were those who scorned his sermons and who warned the people that their lives would be ruined by these strange teachings. Satan was ready to introduce errors as soon as new truth from Scripture was presented. Whenever he would start to feel discouraged though, Zwingli would remind himself that the Christian life is a battle. He likened himself to David and saw that he must meet his “Goliath,” trusting the results of the conflict to the all-wise God of heaven.
The stress of hard work and opposition had its effect on Zwingli’s health. He retired to Baden for a rest. There he was connected with two men, Staheli and Luti, who became vocal preachers of truth.
The Swiss Pass Religious Laws
Many of the country’s law makers listened to Staheli and Luti preach and were convicted that all church members needed to hear the Scripture. Unfortunately, they made an unwise decision to enforce the preaching of the Bible by a law that forced all priests and monks to use only thoughts taken from the Bible for their sermons. They did this with the hope of spreading truth, but they didn’t understand that the only worship that is of value to God is worship offered by a willing heart. God gave people free will to choose whether they will serve Him or Satan. Everyone has the right to choose to believe the truth or reject it. No country has the right to make laws that tell us how or where we may worship God – that is an individual decision. Today we call this principle “separation of church and state” and it’s a principle that the Bible teaches. But somehow, this principle was missed in parts of Switzerland for a time.
As force always does, this new law created anger and hatred in the hearts of the priests. Many of them had never read the Scriptures and their anger was directed to Zwingli for the changes his preaching was bringing into the Roman Church. They plotted how they could kill him. Things were so volatile that a guard was stationed out on the street in front of Zwingli’s house. But truth must be preached and Zwingli and his followers continued with their God-given mission.