The Swiss giant: Ulrich Zwingli |

Martin Luther was not alone 500 years ago. And he is not alone today. To mark the 500th anniversary of the reform, he prepared a series with a new article every day for the month of October through key figures of this event.

Ulrich Zwingli’s career as a reformer was relatively short, but his energetic and multifaceted leadership was crucial in the early Protestant movement.

Born in 1484 to the chief magistrate of a small Alpine town called Wildhaus, Zwingli attended the universities of Vienna and Basel before serving as a priest in the Swiss city of Glarus from 1506 to 1516. While serving as a priest in the city of Einsiedeln from 1517 to 1518, Zwingli broke with traditional Roman Catholic practice by preaching clearly expository in the German vernacular of his people. That kind of preaching earned him a position in the canton of Zurich in 1519.

At Einsiedeln, Zwingli had been a passionate student of the Greek New Testament, just then compiled by Erasmus of Rotterdam. In Zurich, Zwingli spent six years preaching directly from the New Testament, mingling with the people of his parish, writing against unbiblical Catholic dogmas and practices, and engaging in public debates with Catholic authorities before city leaders. During that time, the city councils of Zurich and the nearby canton of Bern voted to adopt Protestantism.

The sixty-seven articles

Zwingli composed “The sixty-seven articles”. The document’s brief introduction and conclusion reveal Zwingli’s deep respect for the authority of God’s Word and his firm belief in the Bible’s status as the sole revelation of the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s will for people. Christian. The introduction says,

The following articles and opinions, I, Ulrich Zwingli, confess to have preached in the respectable city of Zurich based on the Scriptures that are called inspired by God… and where I have not yet correctly understood said Scriptures, I allow myself to be taught, but only from these scriptures.

Zwingli would expand these articles in 1525, in a treatise entitled “True and false religion”. In 1526, he composed “Ten Berne Theses”, which served as a concise summary of his Reformed outlook.

Far from the pomp

Zwingli, the Swiss giant of the Reformation, was particularly outraged by the pomp, hypocrisy, and idolatry of man-made religion. His efforts to reform Zurich and other Swiss cantons can best be conceived as an effort to free people from the burdens imposed by a man-made religious system that could not fulfill its promise of eternal life.

Article 7 of “The sixty-seven articles” affirms that Christ “is an eternal salvation and head of all believers, who are his body, who is dead and can do nothing without Him.” Attending mass, participating in the so-called sacraments of Roman Catholicism, or even being ordained as a priest does not make a person a spiritually living member of the true ecclesia catholic (universal church). That only happens because of the gospel and the Spirit.

Eat a sausage, find a wife

Zwingli was an activist who not only aimed to teach and apply only the Bible, but also pressured both the church and civil authorities to realign their laws and policies with the Word of God. During the Lent of 1522, Zwingli gave implicit consent in the home of a parishioner, the printer Christoph Froschauer, while he and his guests ate sausages, prohibited at the time by the Roman Catholic Church during Lent but a staple of local consumption. Zwingli successfully lobbied the Zurich city authorities to release these men from jail, where they had been put for breaking the Lenten fast.

Taking advantage of the leniency of the municipal council, Zwingli and ten other priests wrote to the Bishop of Constance asking for the right of priests to marry, since the general demand for clerical celibacy was unbiblical and unwise. Zwingli himself was already living with a widow, Anna Reinhart, whom he married shortly after Zurich became a Protestant canton free from the bishop’s authority.

Zwingli also held a deep respect for women and longed for them to experience authentic Christian discipleship. In 1522, he visited a convent to give a series of lectures entitled “On the Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God,” theological lessons on the doctrine of revelation and the interpretation of the Bible.

Twelve years of Reform

On October 11, 1531, at the age of 47, Zwingli died unarmed on a battlefield near Kappel, Switzerland, serving as a chaplain to Protestant troops, carrying only a flag and a Bible.

At the time of his death, only twelve years had elapsed since he had left his life as a priest in Einsiedeln, a short career compared to the decades of Luther and Calvin’s Reformation. But there’s a reason Zwingli is often the third name people mention when remembering the Reformation. By the grace of God, the dozen years of this dynamic reformer led countless Swiss men and women out of the dead ceremony, and back to Jesus Christ.

Heinrich Bullinger succeeded Zwingli as pastor of the Gross Münster church and director of the Zurich “School of the Prophets”, which trained men in biblical languages, exegesis and preaching. In the 1560s, Bullinger was the main author of the Second Helvetic Confession, adopted soon after by the Reformed churches in Switzerland, Scotland, Hungary, France, and Poland. It remains to this day one of the most influential and beloved doctrinal statements of various Reformed denominations throughout the world.

Originally posted on . Translated by Becky Parrilla.

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