Bible Study Guides – The Waldenses

October 31, 2010 – November 6, 2010

The Dark Ages and the Reformation

Key Text

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Jude 3.

Study Help: The Desire of Ages, 455, 456; The Great Controversy, 64–78.


“The Waldenses had sacrificed their worldly prosperity for the truth’s sake.” The Great Controversy, 67.

1 Why did the twelfth century Waldenses have clearer views of “the faith once delivered to the saints” than had the papacy? John 7:16, 17.

Note: “Of those who resisted the encroachments of the papal power, the Waldenses stood foremost. In the very land where popery had fixed its seat, there its falsehood and corruption were most steadfastly resisted. For centuries the churches of Piedmont maintained their independence; but the time came at last when Rome insisted upon their submission. After ineffectual struggles against her tyranny, the leaders of these churches reluctantly acknowledged the supremacy of the power to which the whole world seemed to pay homage. There were some, however, who refused to yield to the authority of pope or prelate. They were determined to maintain their allegiance to God and to preserve the purity and simplicity of their faith. A separation took place. Those who adhered to the ancient faith now withdrew; some, forsaking their native Alps, raised the banner of truth in foreign lands.” The Great Controversy, 64.

2 Upon what did these simple people base their faith, and why did it appear to be new? Jude 3.

Note: “Theirs was not a faith newly received. Their [the Waldensians*] religious belief was their inheritance from their fathers. They contended for the faith of the apostolic church.” The Great Controversy, 64. *The Waldenses are also called the Vaudois.

3 As the Waldenses were among the first people to receive the Scriptures in their own language, what did they teach concerning Rome? Revelation 17:1–6.

Note: “The Waldenses were among the first of the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Holy Scriptures. Hundreds of years before the Reformation they possessed the Bible in manuscript in their native tongue. They had the truth unadulterated, and this rendered them the special objects of hatred and persecution. They declared the Church of Rome to be the apostate Babylon of the Apocalypse, and at the peril of their lives they stood up to resist her corruptions. While, under the pressure of long-continued persecution, some compromised their faith, little by little yielding its distinctive principles, others held fast the truth. Through ages of darkness and apostasy there were Waldenses who denied the supremacy of Rome, who rejected image worship as idolatry, and who kept the true Sabbath. Under the fiercest tempests of opposition they maintained their faith. Though gashed by the Savoyard spear, and scorched by the Romish fagot, they stood unflinchingly for God’s word and His honor.” The Great Controversy, 65.

4 As it was their lot to fulfill the prophecy of Hebrews 11, where did the Waldenses meet to worship, in contrast to the papal cathedrals? Hebrews 11:38–40; John 4:23, 24.

Note: “Behind the lofty bulwarks of the mountains—in all ages the refuge of the persecuted and oppressed—the Waldenses found a hiding place. Here the light of truth was kept burning amid the darkness of the Middle Ages. Here, for a thousand years, witnesses for the truth maintained the ancient faith.” The Great Controversy, 65, 66.

5 What was the basis of the Waldenses’ life, faith and education? How was this transmitted to their children? Deuteronomy 6:6, 7.

Note: “The Waldenses had sacrificed their worldly prosperity for the truth’s sake, and with persevering patience they toiled for their bread. Every spot of tillable land among the mountains was carefully improved; the valleys and the less fertile hillsides were made to yield their increase. Economy and severe self-denial formed a part of the education which the children received as their only legacy. They were taught that God designs life to be a discipline, and that their wants could be supplied only by personal labor, by forethought, care, and faith. The process was laborious and wearisome, but it was wholesome, just what man needs in his fallen state, the school which God has provided for his training and development. While the youth were inured to toil and hardship, the culture of the intellect was not neglected. They were taught that all their powers belonged to God, and that all were to be improved and developed for His service.” The Great Controversy, 67, 68.

6 What marked contrast was seen between the Waldensian pastors and the haughty priests of Rome? Matthew 20:28.

Note: “Their [The Vaudois] pastors, unlike the lordly priests of Rome, followed the example of their Master, who ‘came not to be ministered unto, but to minister’ [Matthew 20:28]. They fed the flock of God, leading them to the green pastures and living fountains of His holy word. …

“From their pastors the youth received instruction. While attention was given to branches of general learning, the Bible was made the chief study. The Gospels of Matthew and John were committed to memory, with many of the Epistles. They were employed also in copying the Scriptures. Some manuscripts contained the whole Bible, others only brief selections, to which some simple explanations of the text were added by those who were able to expound the Scriptures. Thus were brought forth the treasures of truth so long concealed by those who sought to exalt themselves above God.” The Great Controversy, 68, 69.

7 For what did the Waldenses’ education prepare them, and what was considered an essential part of their training? II Timothy 2:3–5.

Note: “The spirit of Christ is a missionary spirit. The very first impulse of the renewed heart is to bring others also to the Saviour. Such was the spirit of the Vaudois Christians. They felt that God required more of them than merely to preserve the truth in its purity in their own churches; that a solemn responsibility rested upon them to let their light shine forth to those who were in darkness; by the mighty power of God’s word they sought to break the bondage which Rome had imposed. The Vaudois ministers were trained as missionaries, everyone who expected to enter the ministry being required first to gain an experience as an evangelist. Each was to serve three years in some mission field before taking charge of a church at home. This service, requiring at the outset self-denial and sacrifice, was a fitting introduction to the pastor’s life in those times that tried men’s souls. The youth who received ordination to the sacred office saw before them, not the prospect of earthly wealth and glory, but a life of toil and danger, and possibly a martyr’s fate.” The Great Controversy, 70, 71.

8 How did they bring the truth to the people as far as possible without causing the opposition of the priests? Matthew 10:16.

Note: “To have made known the object of their mission would have ensured its defeat; therefore they [the Vaudois missionaries] carefully concealed their real character. Every minister possessed a knowledge of some trade or profession, and the missionaries prosecuted their work under cover of a secular calling. Usually they chose that of merchant or peddler. ‘They carried silks, jewelry, and other articles, at that time not easily purchasable save at distant marts; and they were welcomed as merchants where they would have been spurned as missionaries.’—Wylie, b. 1, ch. 7. All the while their hearts were uplifted to God for wisdom to present a treasure more precious than gold or gems. They secretly carried about with them copies of the Bible, in whole or in part; and whenever an opportunity was presented, they called the attention of their customers to these manuscripts. Often an interest to read God’s word was thus awakened, and some portion was gladly left with those who desired to receive it.” The Great Controversy, 71.

9 What example did the Waldenses and their ministers follow? John 4:31–34.

Note: “The Waldenses longed to break to these starving souls the bread of life, to open to them the messages of peace in the promises of God, and to point them to Christ as their only hope of salvation. …

“Eagerly did the Vaudois missionary unfold to the inquiring mind the precious truths of the gospel. Cautiously he produced the carefully written portions of the Holy Scriptures. … With quivering lip and tearful eye did he, often on bended knees, open to his brethren the precious promises that reveal the sinner’s only hope.” The Great Controversy, 73, 74.

10 What desire enables this church to survive repeated efforts to exterminate it? Acts 11:23.

Note: “The persecutions visited for many centuries upon this God-fearing people were endured by them with a patience and constancy that honored their Redeemer. Notwithstanding the crusades against them, and the inhuman butchery to which they were subjected, they continued to send out their missionaries to scatter the precious truth. They were hunted to death; yet their blood watered the seed sown, and it failed not of yielding fruit. Thus the Waldenses witnessed for God centuries before the birth of Luther. Scattered over many lands, they planted the seeds of the Reformation that began in the time of Wycliffe, grew broad and deep in the days of Luther, and is to be carried forward to the close of time by those who also are willing to suffer all things for ‘the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.’ Revelation 1:9.” The Great Controversy, 78.

Personal Review Questions

1 What characteristics were seen in the Waldenses?

2 What enabled them to identify the true character of Rome?

3 Why did the Vaudois understand the Scriptures clearly?

4 What special work did they do at the risk of their lives?

5 What blessings did these people bring and themselves enjoy?

Additional Reading

“The perception and appreciation of truth, He said, depends less upon the mind than upon the heart. Truth must be received into the soul; it claims the homage of the will. If truth could be submitted to the reason alone, pride would be no hindrance in the way of its reception. But it is to be received through the work of grace in the heart; and its reception depends upon the renunciation of every sin that the Spirit of God reveals. Man’s advantages for obtaining a knowledge of the truth, however great these may be, will prove of no benefit to him unless the heart is open to receive the truth, and there is a conscientious surrender of every habit and practice that is opposed to its principles. To those who thus yield themselves to God, having an honest desire to know and to do His will, the truth is revealed as the power of God for their salvation. These will be able to distinguish between him who speaks for God, and him who speaks merely from himself. The Pharisees had not put their will on the side of God’s will. They were not seeking to know the truth, but to find some excuse for evading it; Christ showed that this was why they did not understand His teaching.

“He now gave a test by which the true teacher might be distinguished from the deceiver: ‘He that speaketh from himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh the glory of Him that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.’ John 7:18, R. V. He that seeketh his own glory is speaking only from himself. The spirit of self-seeking betrays its origin. But Christ was seeking the glory of God. He spoke the words of God. This was the evidence of His authority as a teacher of the truth.” The Desire of Ages, 456.

©2003 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission