w/m Aaron Keyes and Pete James
God the uncreated One, the Author of salvation
Wrote the laws of space and time and fashioned worlds to His design
The One whom angel hosts revere hung the stars like chandeliers
Numbered every grain of sand, knows the heart of every man
He is King forever, He is King forever
He is King forevermore
God our fortress and our strength, the Rock on which we can depend
Matchless in His majesty, His power and authority
Unshaken by the schemes of man, never changing Great I am
Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, He is faithful through it all
Crown Him King forever, crown Him King forever
Crown Him King forevermore
Mighty God in mortal flesh forsaken by a traitor's kiss
The curse of sin and centuries did pierce the lowly Prince of Peace
Lifted high the sinless man, crucified the spotless Lamb
Buried by the sons of man, rescued by the Father's hand
To reign as King forever, reign as King forever
Reign as King forevermore
King eternal God of grace, we crown You with the highest praise
Heaven shouts and saints adore, You’re holy, holy, holy Lord
What joy in everlasting life, all is love and faith is sight
Justice rolls and praises rise at the name of Jesus Christ
King of kings forever, King of kings forever
King of kings forevermore
I heard this song recently, for the first time at the “Sing” conference in Nashville and was immediately blown away. Not only does it have a powerful melody that helps lift the lyrics, but helps them stick like glue to our hearts. Very few songs these days are SO focused on the person and work of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and to me, that is the sign of a great song that will last.
God the uncreated One, the Author of salvation. Clearly, the writers want God to be the focus and want to tell of His attributes. It always makes my brain explode to think how God had no beginning. I begin to think, “Why did He wait so long”, and “wasn’t He lonely”, then I remember, He had perfect fellowship within the Trinity for eternity. Wrote the laws of space and time and fashioned worlds to His design. God is not only Creator, but Sustainer. There is not a random molecule in the universe. The One whom angel hosts revere, hung the stars like chandeliers. What a great line, and a great picture. If you’ve ever seen the vastness of the universe explained, it is mind boggling, yet, God is so big, He just hung it all there in its place. Numbered every grain of sand, knows the heart of every man. The God who knows every detail of His universe, also knows every thought we think, every temptation we face, every emotion we feel, and every choice we make… and that King has still chosen us to be His subjects. He is King forever, He is King forever. He is King forevermore.
God our fortress and our strength, the Rock on which we can depend. As we enter the 501st year since the reformation, this line hearkens back on last week’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God”. Matchless in His majesty, His power and authority. Unshaken by the schemes of man, never changing, Great I am. One of the most comforting attributes of God is His immutability. God doesn’t change because God is not reacting to life’s events. Nothing surprises God. Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, He is faithful through it all. Crown Him King forever, crown Him King forever. Crown Him King forevermore. We are citizens of the United States, but that is only a temporary kingdom. Our eternal allegiance is to the eternal kingdom of our King Forevermore!
Mighty God in mortal flesh, forsaken by a traitor's kiss. The curse of sin and centuries did pierce the lowly Prince of Peace. This next verse takes a turn to look at the incarnation of Christ. While it was Judas who physically betrayed Christ, our lies betray Him everyday. While it was the Roman soldiers who drove in the nails, it is our sin that made it necessary. Lifted high the sinless man, crucified the spotless Lamb. Buried by the sons of man. Not one drop of blood was shed for His own sins as Jesus could not, and did not sin. Rescued by the Father's hand to reign as King forever, reign as King forever. Reign as King forevermore. Because of the work done 2000 years ago, we have a High Priest, and King who was “raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)
King eternal God of grace, we crown You with the highest praise. Heaven shouts and saints adore, You’re holy, holy, holy Lord. The song, rightly ends in praise and adoration of our risen King. What joy in everlasting life, all is love and faith is sight. Justice rolls and praises rise at the name of Jesus Christ. King of kings forever, King of kings forever. King of kings forevermore.
A Mighty Fortress is Our God
w/m Martin Luther (1529). Translated by Frederick Hedge (1853) Chorus Bill Itzel (2017)
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing
Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate
On earth is not his equal
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He
The Lord of hosts His name, from age to age the same
And He will win the battle
Out of darkness, light has come
We will follow ‘til the dawn
The word alone will be our guide
’Til all is known at Jesus’ side
When face to face we see Him
And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him
Last week, we looked at how Martin Luther and the Reformation changed theology (The 5 Solas), but he also made a great impact on congregational singing. Before the Reformation, the singing was done by the clergy up front and the people just listened (Sadly, much of modern worship 500 years later has come full-circle and is very performance based). Not only had the Roman Church banned congregational singing, but the mass was in Latin and the common people did not understand what was being sung. In fact, John Huss was burned at the stake for three heresies, one of which was encouraging congregational singing. To reform singing in the church, Luther wrote hymns for his people to sing… and we’ve been singing them ever since.
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. A Bulwark is a wall or fortification. This hymn is one that focuses on the attacks of the devil, and Luther could see clearly what the perversion of the gospel could yield, as he grew up surrounded by the darkness that was about to be pierced by the light of the Reformation. God is our fortress in the darkness. The devil will try to constantly attack our hearts, our families, our churches, but he is nothing compared to the barricade of God’s power and protection. Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. We can certainly see this clearly today as the trials of this life hit us in wave after wave and often seem to prevail. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe. His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal. Our ancient foe is the devil. He has been the enemy of mankind since the garden and is always “prowling about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). While he is nothing compared to our God, for he is a created being who has no power except what God allows him, he is still a formidable foe to us, who preys on our flesh and weakness.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing. Because of the power the devil has been given, and because of the weakness of our flesh, we often fail when we try to live in our own strength. Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. 1 Peter 1 says that “He (Jesus) was foreknown (Chosen to have a special love relationship with) before the foundation of the world.” and in Isaiah 42:1 it speaks of the Messiah, when it says “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” Luke 9:35 says “A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” Jesus was chosen by the Father, before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8) to be the lamb slain in our place. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He. The Lord of hosts His name, from age to age the same, and He will win the battle. As the passage above in Isaiah prophecies, “he WILL bring forth justice to the nations."
I have added a chorus on this special occasion to tie in the principle of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). Out of darkness, light has come, we will follow ‘til the dawn. Post Tenebras Lux is the Latin for “Out of Darkness, Light” and is the theme of the Reformation. The word alone will be our guide. Before the Reformation, the Catholic church held (and still does) that the Bible, the Word, is just one source for truth, on par with papal authority, sacred tradition, and the teachings of the magisterium. Today, there are those who claim to receive a “word from God”, and no one is allowed to question its validity because it is “from God." Today, we need to understand the concept that scripture alone is the final authority for faith and practice and that we have the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” and that we are not to add or take away from the words of the book. Scripture alone is authoritative, complete, and sufficient. ’Til all is known at Jesus’ side when face to face we see Him. One day, we will not need scripture to guide us for when “we see Him, we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2).
And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us. We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us. It brings great peace to know that God is going to triumph. It gives even more peace to know that He will triumph simply because He wills it. That’s power and sovereignty. The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him. His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure. One little word shall fell him. Our fear of the devil and of the tribulations of this life often comes when we lose sight of God’s sovereignty. There is not a random molecule in this universe that God is not in control of. Nothing happens that God does not either cause or allow and that is why He is our Mighty Fortress!
If you have been through the Connection Center lobby of Mount Airy Bible Church, you have likely seen the banner advertising Reformation Day. Most Evangelical Christians are not only unfamiliar with the figures of the reformation at the bottom (L to R - Zwingli, Huss, Knox, Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, Wycliffe), but also the doctrines that came out of that time. Christianity had degraded to a point where it would be barely recognizable by the early church. Doctrines and practices were corrupted and the whole world was in a spiritual environment of darkness.
“Post tenebras lux” is a latin term meaning “Out of Darkness… Light”. This is a term often used to describe what the Reformation meant to the world and to the doctrines of the church. The 5 solas are:
Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) » The Roman Catholic Church taught that the foundation for faith and practice was a combination of the scriptures, sacred tradition, and the teachings of the magisterium and the pope. Luther and the other reformers stressed that nothing is as authoritative as “Thus sayeth the Lord”. That is why Luther, Tyndale, and others were so anxious to get the Word of God into the hands of the common man, in their common tongue, even if it cost them their lives.
Sola Gratia (Grace Alone) » Catholic theology teaches that we are saved through a combination of God's grace, the merits that we accumulate through penance and good works, and the merits that the saints before us accumulated. Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear that we are saved by grace through faith alone.
Sola Fide (Faith Alone) » While the Catholic Church taught that we are justified by faith PLUS the works that we do, the reformers made clear that we are justified by faith alone, not by works, lest any man should boast.
Solus Christus (In Christ Alone) » The Church at the time falsely taught that we are saved by the merits of Christ and the saints, and that we approach God through Christ, the saints, and Mary, who all pray and intercede for us. This is not found in scripture for we are saved by the merits of Christ Alone, and we come to God through Christ Alone.
Soli Deo Gloria (To the Glory of God Alone) » The final teaching the reformers protested against was the teaching that the glory for a sinner's salvation could be attributed partly to Christ, partly to Mary and the saints, and partly to the sinner himself, but, in the words of Jonathan Edwards, “We bring nothing to our salvation, but the sin that made it necessary.”
Key Players in The Reformation
John Wycliffe » John Wycliffe has been called “The Morning Star of the Reformation.” Wycliffe lived in the 1300’s, 150 years before Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenburg, but his influence was the spark that ignited the reformation flame. By the time Wycliffe was just a teen, he was at Oxford and eventually was on the faculty there. While at Oxford, he wrote 3 important works that targeted corruption in the Roman Catholic church: On Divine Dominion (1373–1374), On Civil Dominion (1375–1376), and On the Truth of Sacred Scripture (1378). The first attacked papal authority as having no scriptural basis, the second targeted the Catholic Church’s power over civil authority, and the third taught the authority of Scripture over all else. These were violently opposed to the teachings of the church that plunged Europe into the “Dark Ages”. Wycliffe also translated the “Wyclifffe Bible”. He died on December 30, 1384 after two strokes, but at the same council that martyred John Huss years later, Wycliffe’s bones were dug up, burned, and the ashes spread into the river. His followers came to be called Lollards and continued his message of reform long after his death.
John Huss » John Huss was a Czech priest and preacher born in gooseland in the Kingdom of Bohemia around 1369. Upon seeing the wicked immorality in the priesthood, he began preaching “violent sermons” against the sins he saw around him, and was soon banned from preaching. Huss was greatly influenced by the works of John Wycliffe and because of their ties, he was excommunicated, tried for heresy in a mock trial, and burned alive. Greg Morse tells the story, “Lured to the Council of Constance under the promise of safety, (Huss) was immediately thrown into prison for six months, given a mock trial, and ordered to recant — which he refused. In July 1415, he was stripped naked, adorned with a dunce hat painted with devils and labeled “Arch-Heretic” — all as he prayed for his enemies. They then led him past a burning pile of his books and chained him to the stake. In response to being chained up like a dog, he said, “My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this one for my sake, so why should I be ashamed of this rusty chain?” They told him once more to recant, but he refused, proclaiming, “What I taught with my lips I will now seal with my blood.” And that he did. As the flames climbed higher, he sang. After Huss was finally condemned to death, he proclaimed, “You may roast the goose, but a hundred years from now a swan will arise whose singing you will not be able to silence.” Exactly 102 years later, a sprightly monk nailed ninety-five theses to Wittenberg’s door.”
Urlich Zwingli » Zwingli was a contemporary of Luther in the city of Zurich in Switzerland. While a priest at Grossmunster church, Zwingli came to believe the same biblical doctrines as Luther but had a broader focus, including social reform with his doctrinal reform of the church. Zwingli was the first to declare that the bread and wine were merely bread and wine and were just a reminder of the blood and body of Christ. Unlike Luther, Zwingli’s path had much less struggle. In 1523, he was allowed to argue his doctrines before the public and won them over. Protestant teachings spread throughout the whole area, and while the doctrines were correct, the outworking of those doctrines were often full of iconoclasm (the destruction of all icons and religious art). Soon, the city authorities banned all images from churches. “Switzerland was a confederation of territories linked by a network of treaties” (The Essence of the Reformation, Kirsten Birkett). Peace was attempted through a couple of treaties in 1529 and 1531, and after 2 short battles, in which Zwingli and other protestant leaders lost their lives, the boundaries were set between protestant and catholic territories.
Other people worth reading about in the reformation include:
Key Players in The Reformation
It is not an exaggeration to say that William Tyndale changed the course of history. If you own a copy of the Bible in English, you can thank Tyndale. While Luther was leading a reformation in Germany and Calvin was leading a reformation in Switzerland, Tyndale’s English translation of the Bible was changing Christianity in England.
Tyndale was born in 1494, in Gloucestershire, in rural western England. At the age of 14, Tyndale entered Magdalen College, where he learned grammar, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, rhetoric, logic, and philosophy. He excelled in the study of languages under the finest classical scholars in England. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1512 and a master’s degree in 1515.
While at Cambridge University, Tyndale learned of, and embraced the teachings of Martin Luther and gathered regularly with other scholars at the White Horse Inn to discuss religion and theology. It was in these debates as well as his meetings with local Catholic clergy that Tyndale felt the deep desire to give the common man the Word of God in their own language.
“During one meal, he fell into a heated argument with a Catholic clergyman, the latter asserting, 'We had better be without God’s laws than the pope’s.' Tyndale boldly responded: 'I defy the pope and all his laws.' He then added these famous words: 'If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough, shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost.'" (Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, 77).
To translate the Bible, Tyndale needed permission from the church, so he traveled to London to meet with the bishop of London, Cuthbert Tunstall. Tunstall would not give permission for fear of the upheaval in England that he saw in Germany.
While Tyndale wanted to obey the authorities, he knew he was forced to choose between man’s word and God’s Word, so he became an exile and a fugitive for the last 12 years of his life as he began work on his unauthorized English translation. In 1525, he finished his translation of the New Testament in Cologne and found a printer to print six thousand copies of his New Testament, the first copies ever printed in English.
Those copies were smuggled into England and were in high demand. After years of failed attempts at arresting Tyndale, his enemies tried another strategy. In early 1534, Tyndale moved into a house in Antwerp as the guest of Thomas Poyntz, a wealthy English merchant who was sympathetic to the reformation. Back in England, a man named Harry Phillips, who had racked up many gambling debts, was offered a large sum of money to find, befriend, and betray Tyndale. In his desperation, Phillips accepted the offer. Phillips lured Tyndale into a narrow passage, where soldiers arrested him. After twelve years as a fugitive, Tyndale was finally captured.
Tyndale was executed on October 6, 1536. He was strangled, burned, and his body blown apart by gunpowder, but at some point before his death, he cried his famous last words: “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes” (Tyndale, cited in Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, 83). We will forever owe a debt of gratitude to William Tyndale every time we memorize scripture, read a passage, or share the gospel from an English translation of the Bible.
Bill Itzel has been a worship leader and singer/songwriter for over 30 years and is based in Westminster, MD. His family tours and leads worship, not only in their home church (Mt. Airy Bible Church), but around the country. This is a blog about congregational worship and the latest news in the The Itzel's ministry.