With Reformation Day today, my mind has been fixed on the rich history, theology, and applicable aspects of the movement. So I disciplined myself to sit down and write out some of the ways in which we could grow in knowledge and challenge ourselves continually in the Lord. My intention is not to start a theological debate, or to argue for denominational differences, but to take a stance on historical Christianity.
I must preface this with saying that the immense topic of the Protestant Reformation is incredibly vast, and to simply scratch the surface of such God-written history does not give it proper justice. Therefore, in this summarized post I'd like to share just a few thoughts on this monumental time in the church's history; how it has impacted my life, and inspired me to know God and make Him known among the nations!
Ever since the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, Biblical theology has impacted the Christian community in such a way that with a quick Google search you can easily become overwhelmed with the vast amount of theologians, doctrinal differences, and some so-called "Christian" beliefs that are gaining attraction (2 Peter 2:1). However, God has providentially kept and blessed His church with a sound Bible (2 Tim 3:16-17), with faithful pastors, evangelists, theologians, historians, and defenders of the faith from the Reformation period that have greatly influenced much of the world today. With that said, I'd like to encourage us all to passionately pursue the Bible. We have so many incredible resources at our fingertips, and many reasons not to grow in complacency. Always keep in mind what our beloved Christian brother C.H. Spurgeon rightly said: "Visit many good books, but live in the Bible."
Who Were The Reformers?
What did the Protestant Reformation stand for? Well, when most historically educated people think of the reformers or even reformed theology, they often think of a man named Martin Luther and how he started an open debate against Catholic tradition, doctrine, practice, indulgences, and the church's authority. On October 31st, 1517, Luther posted his 95 theses (centered on the practices of the Catholic Church) on the castle door in Wittenburg, Germany. This event acted as a forceful catalyst for the Protestant Reformation, bringing about essential Christian doctrines and Biblical change (reform) to the forefront of the Church. However, the majority of and often Christians misunderstand reformers or reformed theology as radical Lutherans or Calvinists, and in their new theology, the doctrine of predestination is usually brought to the forefront. Yet, when you look historically at the main purpose and pursuit of the reformation, you see a central theme and concern for Biblical truth, for Christian souls, and for the church. Such men as Thomas Aquinas, John Wycliffe, John Hus, Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, Huldrych Zwingli, John Knox, and John Calvin, (to name a few) all rode on the back of St. Augustine of Hippo and all of the early church father's understanding of Biblical truth which was rooted in sound doctrine. Though these men and others would differ in theological nuances, they stood firm with inerrancy, infallibility, and sufficiency of the authoritative scripture. All holding to the Protestant Reform: "Justification by faith alone!".
As I said before, God's grace in the reforming of His church with such brilliant minds and with the defenders of the faith is so incredibly vast that I could go on and on, so I must stop myself now and bring this to some applicable thoughts.
Why Does This Matter?
The question should really be stated: "How can this matter more to us”?
1) Knowing this rich Christian history ought to give us a greater passion for God's providential glory.
2) Thankfulness for the reformation, which begun in the heart, and worked its way out to action.
3) Pursue a faithful life of Biblical obedience and trust, even when traditions or culture don't agree.
When we clearly examine God's sovereign hand in the reform of His church in the 16th century it ought to bring much joy and gratitude to the Christian believer. The Protestant Reformers paved the narrow way for sound Biblical teaching and thinking that greatly affects all of our Protestant churches today. So be confident of this, that He who has begun a great work in the church will finish it. Jesus promises us that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church! (Matthew 16:18) Therefore, my fellow believers and friends, take time to think often, pray continually, and always give God the glory for keeping His promises throughout history.
"I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God." - Martin Luther
Happy Reformation Day!
- Jordan Scarbrough