June 1, 2023 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Ted N.C. Wilson, President, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Greetings, friends. Today, as we continue our journey through The Great Controversy, we will see how the work of the Reformation went forward in the countries of Denmark and Sweden.
Students from Wittenberg, Germany, helped spread the reformed teachings as they returned home from the center of Lutheranism. One of these students, who had a great influence on the people of Denmark, was Hans Tausen.
Born the son of a peasant, it was clear early on that Hans was highly intelligent. Longing for an education but unable to afford such a luxury, Hans entered a cloister, where he won the favor of his superior. It was seen that this young man was full of promise and would be a strong asset to the Roman Church. The friars decided to provide him with an education of his choice at any of the universities in Germany or the Netherlands, with one exception—he must not go to Wittenberg, where it was feared he might be poisoned by “heresy.”
Tausen went to Cologne, one of the strongholds of the Roman Church, but soon became disgusted with the mysticism practiced there. At about the same time, he came across the writings of Martin Luther and read them with wonder and delight. He longed to study under the great Reformer, and quietly enrolled as a student at Wittenberg.
Upon returning to Denmark, Tausen went back to his cloister. No one yet suspected he had become a convert to Lutheranism, and so he began quietly sharing what he had learned from the Bible. Eventually, however, his teachings could not be hidden. When the friar learned what Tausen was doing, he was filled with rage and immediately sent him to another monastery where Tausen was imprisoned in a cell.
But strong bars could not keep Tausen from sharing his faith. Even here, he communicated to his companions a knowledge of Bible truth. Thinking to get rid of this troublemaker, the superiors expelled him from the monastery, but that only freed the Reformer to spread the truth further.
A royal edict had just been issued protecting followers of the reformed doctrines, and Tausen, along with others, began preaching Bible truth in churches across the country. The New Testament, translated into the Danish language, was circulated widely, and before long, the entire country of Denmark declared its acceptance of the reformed faith.
The influence of the reformation teachings from Wittenberg was also felt in the Scandinavian country of Sweden. Two leaders of the Swedish Reformation, Olaf and Laurentius Petri, the sons of a blacksmith, studied under Luther and Melanchthon, and these brothers were eager to teach the truths they had learned.
Olaf reached the people through his zeal and eloquence, while Laurentius, like Melanchthon, was learned, thoughtful, and calm. Both brothers were Bible scholars, and both had unflinching courage in advancing the truth.
Soon, however, papal opposition was felt as Catholic priests stirred up the superstitious people, and Olaf was often attacked by an enraged mob, sometimes barely escaping with his life. Fortunately, however, these Reformers were protected by the king, who favored the Protestant teachings, and the brothers were allowed to continue preaching.
“In the presence of the monarch and the leading men of Sweden, Olaf Petri, with great ability, defended the doctrines of the reformed faith against the Romish champions. He declared that the teachings of the Fathers are to be received only when in accordance with the Scriptures.” He further declared that “the essential doctrines of the faith are presented in the Bible in a clear and simple manner, so that all men may understand them” (The Great Controversy, p. 243).
These are important and helpful points for us to keep in mind today:
First, that all religious teachings must agree with Scripture, and second, that the teachings of the Bible are presented through Scripture in a clear and simple way so that everyone can understand them.
It’s interesting that some people argue only scholars can truly understand the meaning of the Scriptures, but through the history of the Reformation, especially as people received the Word of God in their native languages, the Bible became clear to them. Scholars and peasants alike were able to understand the Scriptures.
As a result of Olaf’s presentation to the royal court, the king of Sweden fully accepted the Protestant faith, and not long afterward, the national assembly declared in its favor. The New Testament had already been translated into the Swedish language by Olaf Petri, and, at the king’s request, both Olaf and his brother, Laurentius, translated the entire Bible.
Children in Swedish schools were taught to read the Bible, and “Steadily and surely the darkness of ignorance and superstition was dispelled by the blessed light of the gospel” (The Great Controversy, p. 244).
Friends, now, as then, we can claim the promise of enlightenment given to us in God’s Word. We read in Psalm 119:130—” “The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.”
Let’s allow the light of God’s Word to shine into our hearts each day as we read it and ask Him for guidance.
I invite you to pray with me just now.
Father in Heaven, thank you so much for the power of Your Word. The clarifying Word of God. The enlightening Word of God. Your words, from Heaven itself. Coming to us to give us courage and hope. Instruction and enlightenment. Now, Lord, we ask that you will help us. Just as you did the reformers. To share this word with others. Even people around the world. And yes, in our own neighborhood, encouragement for the future. For we know that Jesus is coming soon. And in these last days of Earth’s history, you are asking us to proclaim these precious Bible messages to bring hope and encouragement to all those who are confused today. Thank you for hearing us in this prayer. And again, thank you for the Word of God. In Jesus’ name, we ask it. Amen.