Do Not Forget The Reformation of the 16th Century
By Rev Tan Eng Boo
The Reformation Wall Monument in Geneva Switzerland:The monument includes important events and documents that changed the world. The monument was built in 1909 for John Calvin’s 400th birthday. (From left to right: William Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and John Knox). Taken by Rev Tan Eng Boo.
It would be a great loss for our church if we come to a point in time when we forget the Reformation of the 16th Century. We will lose our precious biblical heritage on which the Bible-Presbyterian Church was established. Thank God for Reformation Sunday which was commemorated last Sunday (Oct 25). This is one Sunday of the year that the church must not forget. We must remind ourselves and the younger generation of believers of this historic event that took place in Church History.
Michael Reeves and Tim Chester in their book Why the Reformation Still Matters? said:
“But five hundred years on does the Reformation still matter? It matters because this is our story. If you are Anglican, Baptist, Brethren, Congregational, Independent, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal or Reformed, then these are your roots. Your history can be traced back to these events five hundred years ago.”
To be exact, this is the 503rd year of the Protestant Reformation. The date was October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.
Let me share with you why I see the Reformation still matters today:
1. Scripture alone is still our supreme authority.
We believe in the inspiration of the Holy Bible (2 Tim. 3:16). This is God’s Word for our lives and ministry. It is the supreme authority over the church and its tradition. All councils and creeds are subjected to its authority. “If God, the highest authority, has given us His Word, it must have authority over us” (John S. Feingberg). The Westminster Confession of Faith (Holy Scripture 1:4) says:
“The Bible speaks authoritatively and so deserves to be believed and obeyed. This authority does not depend on the testimony of any man or church but completely on God, its author, who is himself truth. The Bible therefore is to be accepted as true, because it is the word of God.”
“Scripture alone” is one of the Five Solas of the Reformation. The reformers were guided by the conviction of God’s Word. Jason K. Allen said, “For Martin Luther–and for us–Scripture is the norma normans, the determining norm by which everything else is measured. It is the standard, the benchmark, the plumb line for the church”.
May we always hold high, God’s precious Word in our church and in our lives.
2. The Gospel alone is still the only hope for the salvation of sinners.
What is the gospel? It is the Good News (Greek: “euangelion”). William Tyndale said, “Evangelion (what we call “the gospel”) is a Greek word, signifying good, merry, glad and joyful news, that makes a man’s heart glad and makes him sing, dance and leap for joy”. Tyndale was a pioneer in translating the Bible into English and he wrote those delightful words. He sealed them with a martyr’s death.
The apostle Paul summarised the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
The gospel is about the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is about how He has redeemed us from our sins. This gospel will save the sinner. Therefore, we read of Paul who was “not ashamed” to share the “gospel” with sinners, because through it, sinners will be saved (Romans 1:16). This is the only way to eternal life and heaven (John 14:6). The gospel, is the Good News! “For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people” (Titus 2:11 ESV).
James Montgomery Boice said, "The Reformation motto solus Christus… affirmed that salvation has been accomplished once for all by the mediatorial work of the historical Jesus Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification, and any "gospel" that fails to acknowledge that or denies it is a false gospel that will save no one".
The gospel must be fully embraced by the church. Ray Orthlund said, “The need of our time is nothing less than the re-Christianization of our churches, according to the gospel alone, in both doctrine and culture, by Christ himself.”
3. The Church still needs to be reformed.
Reformation theologies were developed due to concerns which arose during the time of 16th Century Western Europe. Luther had issues to deal with in his time. So had Christians in that generation. Today, Christians in the 21st Century face a different issue which would be alien to the reformers of the past. Today, we face on-line heresies, same-sex marriages, cyber-temptations etc. As McGowan puts it, “we do our children a serious disservice if we fail to address the issues that present the most challenges to their remaining in our churches.”
Reflecting on the Reformation, the Reformed theologian A. T. B. McGowan comments, “Although the Reformation took place in the sixteenth century, it is important to understand that this was the beginning of something and not the end. The Reformed churches affirmed the need to be semper reformanda (‘always reforming’).”
Let us remember the Reformation in which the church was brought back to biblical Christianity.
“Every word of God is pure; he is a shield unto those who put their trust in him” (Proverbs 30:5)