REFORMATION SUNDAY by Pastor John Samson
The last Sunday in October is traditionally known as â€œReformation Sunday,â€ in Protestant Churches, drawing from the date of October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his â€œ95 Thesesâ€ to the door of the Wittenberg Church in Germany, sparking the Protestant Reformation.
Martin Luther in Germany heralded the Biblical doctrine of justification through faith alone; salvation is by Godâ€™s grace alone, received through faith in Christ alone. Good works play no part in a personâ€™s salvation (Rom. 3:21 - 4:5; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 3:9) but are merely the by-product, or fruit, of a relationship with God, established by Godâ€™s grace alone.
Following on from Luther, God raised up a Frenchman by the name of John Calvin to lead the growing Protestant movement. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin opposed the errors of the Roman Catholic Church concerning salvation, directing people to the truth of the Bible. Though definitely in agreement with the doctrine of justification by faith alone; John Calvin (based in Geneva, Switzerland) through both his preaching and his writings, systematically applied the message of the Bible to every aspect of life. Calvin's Institutes became the handbook of all the Reformers. Like Luther before him, Calvin believed in the Sovereignty of God, (in the doctrine of election and predestination, all that Calvin said was first said by Luther) and wanted society (as well as the church) to view the world through the lens of the Bible. He wanted the laws of the land to be conformed to and founded on biblical principles.
A broader view of history would reveal that the Reformation itself began long before Luther, when men like John Wycliffe (1329-1384) and John Hus (1373-1415) stood for the truth of God. Hus paid the ultimate price, a martyrâ€™s death, for doing so.
Wycliffe, with the help of his followers, called the Lollards, and many other scribes, produced dozens of English language manuscript copies of the scriptures. They were translated out of the Latin Vulgate, which was the only source text available at the time. He died a natural death. In 1415, the Council of Constance ordered his remains exhumed and burned. The order was not carried out until 1428, 44 years after his death.
William Tyndale c.1494â€”1536 also had a monumental role in translating the Bible for the English speaking world, and shared the same fate as Hus by being burnt at the stake.
These men were not only concerned with what the Scriptures taught, but that the common people had access to read the Bible in their own language. It would be a fair appraisal to see these men's efforts (under God) as foundational to the sweeping changes throughout Europe that Luther and Calvin would bring. Wycliffe, Hus and Tyndale built the bonfire, so to speak, and Luther simply lit the match and held it to the wood! The result - most of Europe was set ablaze with the biblical doctrines of grace.
The Reformers had 5 main slogans, all using the word "SOLA," which is the Latin word for "ALONE." It was this word "ALONE" that designated the true biblical Gospel and set it apart from all other pretenders. Urging a return to the Scriptures as the source of all truth, the cry of these Reformers was not simply FAITH!, GRACE!, CHRIST!, THE SCRIPTURE!, or THE GLORY OF GOD! (All embracing a false Gospel could do that.) But the cry was "FAITH ALONE!, GRACE ALONE!, CHRIST ALONE!, SCRIPTURE ALONE!, THE GLORY OF GOD ALONE!" With Scripture alone as the sure foundation, the Reformers affirmed that justification is by grace alone, received through faith alone because of Christ alone â€” for the glory of God alone.
It is easy to see the need for the same correctives in our own day. These essential truths of the Bible are often blurred, ignored or even denied in the pulpits of our land. Yet, now is not the time to be feint of heart or to dilute or adjust the Gospel message under the pressure of the cultural relativism all around us. To be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God. With the Reformers, let us â€œcontend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.â€ (Jude: 3) May each of our churches enjoy a Gospel centered, God exalting Reformation Sunday!
A related article by Pastor John Samson: Has The Holy Spirit Moved On