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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

When the Reformation Began

by Danny Wright

When Luther nailed his ninety-five thesis to the Castle Church door, many count that as the start of the Reformation. From that perspective, the Reformation started 489 years ago. Of course, Luther wasn’t alone. David gave us well known names…Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, as well as some names many are not as familiar with…Grebel, Mack, Karlstadt, and Manz.

Some have suggested that the Reformation is over. Though many try to minimize the wedge between Rome and Protestants, there is still a great divide in theology and practice. Perhaps, if we knew when the Reformation began, we’d be able to capture when it ends.

As Jason pointed out, a key to understanding the reformation is found in understanding God’s righteousness and man’s depravity. Brad showed how such a distortion creates further perverse doctrines and practices. But when did we first see a variance from orthodox theology and practice.

The first challenge comes in practice. The church had grown at record pace. Along with new people added daily, there was the added strain of articulating and defending doctrine. But as the church continued to grow, so did her complexity of need. But what would be the practice? Would the elders reject the ministry of the gospel to make sure widows were fed? Would widows be left to fend for themselves, as the elders would not have any time to assist their need? Neither. The church reforms, developing the ministry of deacons so that widows can be fed and elders can focus on the ministry of the Word and prayer.

A second challenge came in doctrine. God’s sovereign salvation to Gentiles created an area of confusion for Jewish converts. (Take comfort brothers, even the early church struggled to clearly articulate the Israel/Church relationship!) Should the gentiles adhere to Jewish law and custom, potentially contaminating the church with legalism? Should the law be abandoned completely, leading to antinomianism? Again, the elders step up and present neither as an option. The apostles and elders circulate a letter to the churches instructing them to avoid legalism, yet deny antinomianism as well.

If the church, in the age of the apostles (which has passed) needed reform, what hope is there for us? There are two answers:
    There is no hope.
There is nothing wrong with the plan of the church, nor with the truths of God. The church does not need reform because the culture shifted. Reformation is necessary because we are sinners. Until we lose this flesh, we will all be “prone to wonder.”
    There is great hope.
If the apostles found the church in need of reformation, how can we say we have hope? Because we have the faith which was once for all handed down for the saints beautifully recorded for us in His Word (Jude 3). As long as we have the Word—and we always will (1 Peter 1:24-25)—we have cause for hope and our source for reformation. The apostles still speak to us, through the words inspired by the Holy Sprit, calling us to reformation.

The moment man followed the teaching, “Has not God said?” the call for reformation began. It carries through the saints of the Old and New Testaments. The torch was passed to men like Athanasius and Augustine, Luther and Calvin. It didn’t start with Luther and Calvin, so the question begs, “Does it end with them?”

The work is not done. Let us dive into the Word of God, with the battle cry for the church corporately and each of us individually…Semper Reformanda!


  • At 5:13 AM, Blogger ~d said…

    you were right, danny. it was worth sitting down and spending the time reading these posts. i just had to wait until i was so sick that i couldn't sleep. two hours of uninterrupted quiet time in this house is so rare otherwise.


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