Happy Reformation Day 2013!

// October 27th, 2013 // Uncategorized

Steve Lawson's Cartoon - Reformation Day 2013This was drawn by one of my Facebook friends, James Lawson, to commemorate Reformation Day 2013

Reformation day is celebrate on October 31st or the last weekend of October. It’s a celebration of the day that Martin Luther (1483-1546) nailed the 95 Theses to the door of a church in Wittenburg, Germany, in 1517. Who could have known that the boldness of the pounding of Luther’s 16th century hammer could be heard as late as 2013 and that the reformation and the rescue of the revelation of scripture from corruption would affect us in so many ways today?

The Reformation is important not because it’s some new system of thought (by far; if that were the case it would be discouraged and abandoned as infamous, not celebrated; it is nothing new but in history can be found even in the 4th century with Augustine of Hippo, in the writings of early church fathers, and all over the Bible). It’s important because it represents a turning point in the history of the Christian church in which it recovers the purity of the faith as preached by Jesus and His apostles — a recovery from the darkness of the influence of false doctrine within the Roman Catholic Church. Martin Luther did 2 main important actions, in my opinion of which we still feel the liberating effects today:

He protested the RCC

1. Luther was a Roman Catholic Monk who would eventually leave that church. By nailing 95 Theses or points of contention with his Roman catholic rule he protested against the evil deviations it had made from scripture. He protested the selling of indulgences as a means to salvation through ‘springing’ people from an imaginary, non-biblical purgatory. He stated boldly that ‘if the Pope had the power to sign papers and set people free from ‘purgatory’ then why doesn’t he do it out of love for the people and why do we have to buy them?’ This was the crack in the dam that lead to the ‘Reformation.’ Though there were many ‘reformers’ other than Luther (Zwingli, Huss, Wycliffe, and on and on), but the Reformation is attributed to Luther, I think partly because of his boldness where others would have been silent.

He translated the New Testament to put it into the common man’s hands

2. He translated the New Testament into the common language of the day — German — from which all people could read the Word for themselves. Previously, the Bible was mostly disseminated mainly to the Roman Catholic priests, and in Latin. The priest would often study commentaries and writings/works of RCC church leaders rather than the Bible and in ceremonial practices and preparing sermons would study the Bible, quoting from the Latin. This made the Bible inaccessible to most people (who most likely could not read Latin), it made was only in the hands of the priests, who didn’t really understand the Bible but saw it mostly through secondary, tertiary or quaternary church sources.

The RCC taught ecclesiastical (church) doctrine over Bible doctrine as a result, and there was the idea that only the Roman Catholic Pope and appointed RCC officials could interpret scripture for the people. Even Martin Luther, as a Roman Catholic priest, wouldn’t own a Bible of his own until he actually graduated seminary! Even Luther had to study the Bible for himself and later it lead to his salvation (yes, that’s right, he was not saved, yet a priest — common even today). He beat the pages of scripture incessantly, discovering a phrase, ‘the righteousness of God in Christ,’ that he couldn’t understand and hated. After time he gave way to the context and discovered that this thing called righteousness can be attained not through works or confession as in the Roman Catholic Church but by faith in Jesus Christ alone, just as the scriptures alone had said. This, of course, did away with the entire Roman system with its confessions to a priest, Maryism, and transubstatiation. His whole life changed. Eventually he would live very contrary to the Roman priest and monk style of life, even marrying and breaking celibacy.

Moreover, not only did Luther make a translation that people could read, rescuing the Bible from secretive, private interpretation, but he had this version distributed to the people. It was early on at this point of history that the Gutenberg Press (the printing press) was invented and put into use just in time to distribute Martin Luther’s translation (you know, like WordPress or Kindle or Nook only for physical books made of paper; old stuff, I know). It was then that the Bible could be read and interpreted by every individual, scripture being perspicuous and clear. No longer did one need to listen to filtered doctrine from a priest but one could then read it for oneself. This was important because — who, after all, is the Author of scripture? Though there were about 40 attributable writers, there’s but one Author — the Holy Spirit. Men of God wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, the Bible itself declares, to the Reformation represents putting the Holy Spirit back in control of the visible church.

These things changed everything — it destroyed Rome’s rebuilt Leviticus-like system and put in its place salvation by grace through faith and not of any of our own works. It emphasized salvation for each person and by Jesus Christ not the visible church institution — which it had always been since before the RCC meddled with it. It made possible true fellowship, true worship, better ecclesiology… It made Christ the leader and not the Pope, the scriptures the guide and not cardinals or monks, confession to God alone and not confession to a priest, Jesus Christ and not Mary. It pointed to the work of the Christ and Jesus Christ’s effort to save us and not our own works and fulfilling an irreparably broken law that we can’t keep. The Reformation is then a pivotal point in Church history that marks the emphasis by the Church of 5 things through which it overcame Roman Catholic control and was placed back into Holy Spirit control (that of scripture) — All of these points countered the false teaching of the Roman Catholic Church:

The reformers taught…

1. Sola Scriptura — By Scripture Alone

2. Sola Fide — By Faith Alone

3. Sola Gratia — By Grace Alone

4. Solus Christus — By Christ Alone

5. Soli Deo Gloria — To the Glory of God Alone

These are not about some denominational wing or sect of a larger whole; these unite just about every church that teaches the Gospel rightly. The world calls us Protestants, evangelicals; God the Son calls us His bride.

These are the 5 main points (five solae) of teaching, points of contention against Roman control, and to summarize these latinized phrases overall I would add another one — Ecclesia semper reformanda est. This phrase is often shortened to Semper reformanda, which both mean “The church is always to be reformed.” The idea is that the reformation didn’t begin and end in the 1500’s. The spirit of the reformers was that the church was to always reform itself and carry on the same example and mind that the reformers had. The Apostles command us in the New Testament of this principle that the church is always to examine its doctrine and teaching, essentially to always reform, as Paul taught Timothy in the epistles he wrote that he’s to be careful of the teaching delivered to him for the saints.

What a rich history, right? These are definitely things to celebrate! Here are some resources for more information.

More Information:

What Reformation Day is All About, by R.C. Sproul: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-reformation-day-all-about/

Reformation Sunday Messages: http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/MP3-Audio–Multimedia/Holiday-Sermons/Reformation-Sunday/

More cartoons by Steven Lawson: http://reformationcartoons.blogspot.ca/

Google “Reformation Day”: https://www.google.com/search?q=Reformation+day&rlz=1C1LENP_enUS499US499&oq=reformation+day

Google “The Five Solas of the Reformation”: https://www.google.com/search?q=The+Five+Solas+of+the+Reformation&rlz=1C1LENP_enUS499US499

95 Theses (translated into English), written by Martin Luther: http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/history/95theses.htm

Luther's 95 Theses
Keren_ / Foter.com / CC BY-SA