Biblical Messages

The Mission of the Reformation

Luther never set out to start a new church; he just wanted the old one put back on track with the Scriptures.  As time went on, the church of the Reformation coined several phrases that became hallmarks of the Reformation.  We get a bird’s-eye overview of them in this message today.  Click below to listen, or further down to watch the Facebook Live video feed.

 

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Encouragement From The Word

Back on Track

This Sunday, many churches around the world will mark an important event:  it was on October 31, 1517 – 500 years ago – that Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk from Germany, nailed papers containing 95 theses for the reformation of the church to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg.  Thus began what we know from history as the Protestant Reformation.

Luther never intended to start a “new” church.  He wanted to help the “old” church return to her roots.  The pre-Reformation church had become a little too full of itself, spending more time, effort and money on propping up the institution (with all its bells and whistles) than on its true mission, to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching” (Matthew 28.19b-20a, NRSV).

Luther’s mission was not to start from scratch, but to help the church he loved to be true to its biblical roots, particularly in five areas:

  • People are justified before God by faith alone;
  • People are saved from sin by grace alone;
  • Jesus Christ alone is Saviour and Lord;
  • The Bible alone is our authority for faith and life; and
  • God alone gets the glory.

It wasn’t that the pre-Reformation church had no concept of these things; it’s just that so much had been added on top of them that these basic principles had been obliterated.  Luther’s mission was to help put the church back on track with Scripture.

While what we call the Reformation took place in the 16th century, to be fair, the church has gone through a number of reformations since; in fact, the church – we! – do well to experience daily reformation, where we are put back on track with the Word of God.

How about you?  Is it your church’s mission to make disciples?  Is it yours?  Those are questions worth asking as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Encouragement From The Word

What does the Bible say?

October 31 is an important day, but maybe not for the reason you think.

Yes, October 31 is also the day candy sellers and dentists everywhere look forward to each year, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

October 31 – tomorrow – marks a very important day in the history of Christianity. It was on October 31, 1517, that a young Augustinian monk named Martin Luther decided to post 95 ideas he had derived, as a result of reading the New Testament, for reforming the church from within.

Now, when I say, “post”, I’m talking old school here: he did not post them on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. He literally nailed these notions to the big wooden door of the cathedral church in Wittenberg, Germany. It wasn’t all that odd; it was the normal way of disseminating information. It was the social media of the day. (Remember, even the printing press was a relatively new innovation at this point.)

The idea was that other scholars would read what Luther had written, and there would be dialogue and debate about how to make these ideas work for the benefit of the church.

However, some ordinary folks (read: not scholars) got hold of these ideas, because someone had taken them down and sent them to a printing press for wide dissemination. And when the ordinary folks got hold of these ideas, they ran with them, and went even further than Luther wanted to go.

Thus began the Protestant Reformation, on October 31, 1517.

Luther’s idea wasn’t to start a new church, but to make the Roman church better. And though Protestantism, and its many denominations, saw birth in the Reformation, there was good that came out of it for the Roman church, too, as it reformed from within.

It depends on one’s perspective, I suppose, but while some would see the Reformation as a celebration of the breakup of the church, others see it as a call to get back to the Scriptures. Much of what has been emphasized in Protestantism has been a call to ask, “What does the Bible say about this?”

As you mark Reformation day tomorrow (perhaps with copious amounts of candy), think about the many matters that go through your mind, and on which you must make decisions. Then ask yourself, “What does the Bible say about this?” That will be an apt celebration indeed.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119.105, NIV).