Reformation Month: Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation 500th

Ulrich_ZwingliOnce again we have entered the month of October and for true Protestants that means remembering the great Reformation of the 16th century. This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Swiss Reformation, perhaps an event we might easily bypass. But we ought not, for this is another noteworthy aspect of God’s great work of reforming His church in the world – in Switzerland also.

Why is the Swiss Reformation said to have begun in 1519 – and thus, the 500th anniversary in 2019? Because that’s when Reformer Ulrich Zwingli began preaching through the Bible, and that sparked the reformation of the church in Zurich and beyond (keep reading for more on that).

As we introduce this aspect of the great Reformation in this post, we point you to a few online resources that will help you learn a bit about this godly servant of the Lord and the Swiss Reformation that God used him to commence.

First, Prof. H. Hanko (emeritus church history professor in the PRC Seminary) wrote two articles on Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation in the Standard Bearer, which you may find here and here. Here is a short sample from the first one:

Zwingli‘s conversion was probably a gradual one which began while in Einsiedeln, but which came to full expression in Zurich, to which he was called in the latter part of 1518. There were several elements which played a role in his conversion. Increasingly, as he saw the need for reform in the church, he came to hate the Romish abuses which destroyed men’s souls. As his studies turned more and more to Scripture, he, even before Luther, saw that Scripture alone had to be the authority for all the faith and life of the church. In fact, when he began his ministry in Zurich on January 1, 1519, on his 35th birthday, he began a systematic exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew. During the next four years of his ministry, he continued preaching systematically through the New Testament, going from Matthew to Acts, then to the Pauline and Catholic epistles, and then on to the other books, with the exception of Revelation. During the week he preached from the Psalms.


Second, back in August Joe Carter posted an article on the Gospel Coalition website titled “9 Things You Should Know About Ulrich Zwingli.”  Though brief, he gives a good overview of the significance of Zwingli and his place in the cause of the Reformation. I give you a couple of his “9 things” about this Reformer. For the rest, visit the link provided here.

1. Ulrich Zwingli (also: Huldrych Zwingli) is considered the most important reformer of the Swiss Reformation of his day (and the most important until the arrival of John Calvin). He started a revolution in religious thought in Switzerland that paralleled the work of Martin Luther in Germany. Zwingli wrote, “Before anyone in the area had ever heard of Luther, I began to preach the gospel of Christ in 1516 . . . . I started preaching the gospel before I had even heard Luther’s name . . . . Luther, whose name I did not know for at least another two years, had definitely not instructed me. I followed holy Scripture alone.”

4. A hallmark of the Reformation was the recovery of biblical preaching. Zwingli’s unique contribution was the revolutionary approach of preaching through Bible books. In 1519 he started preaching through the Gospel of Matthew, a method known as lectio continua. Zwingli then continued to preach expositional sermons through Acts, Timothy, Galatians, 1 and 2 Peter, Hebrews, the Gospel of John, and the other Pauline letters before turning to the Old Testament, beginning with the Psalms, then the Pentateuch and the historical books.

Third, there are several special websites devoted to the Swiss Reformation. Here is one that is worth visiting and reading.


Fourth, watch for the Nov.1 issue of the Standard Bearer (which we are working on this week). This Fall’s special Reformation issue will mark the 500th anniversary of this Reformation with a focus on U. Zwingli and H. Bullinger and the work God wrought through them in the city of Zurich.

In a future post we will consider some good books on the Swiss Reformation and its Reformers.

Published in: on October 7, 2019 at 10:58 PM  Comments (1)