It isn’t hard to look around see that our generation is usually disinterested with, or even hostile toward, the concept of history, tradition, and orthodoxy. We tend to neglect the wisdom and example – both good and bad – of past generations in favor of our own schemes and achievements, and we congratulate ourselves in the end that we were able to figure things out on our own.
This is foolishness.
Learning and appreciating history is extremely beneficial to our walk with God and to our purposeful use of the life, He’s given us. And one of the most relevant and consequential events in church history is the Reformation, namely the Protestant Reformation, which was sparked by Martin Luther’s posting of his controversial “95 Theses” on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31st, four hundred and ninety-nine years ago.
In his 95 Theses, Luther challenged the moral and theological corruption of the Roman Catholic Church and proclaimed that we are given salvation and justification through faith in Jesus Christ alone – not through the pope, the bishop, the priest, or even monetary payment.
This isn’t true because some super-Christian named Martin Luther said it, but because Scripture said it. The fact of the matter is just that: there are no super-Christians. No human being has the same authority as Christ and the Word of God. No one comes to God through their own merit or their own ability (Ephesians 2:8-9) – and no person on this earth can offer real salvation and forgiveness besides Jesus.
This is why Reformation Day is a huge cause for celebration; because through it, we proclaim and appreciate the work of Christ. We affirm that we cannot buy our salvation and forgiveness and redemption because He has already done it before us.
Something really special about this work of Jesus is that we – who are totally and completely undeserving – are invited to participate in it as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (1 Pet. 2:9). This isn’t an invitation to sit on God’s throne or to elevate ourselves to the status of Savior (as Luther condemned the church for doing 499 years ago) but to share the gospel and exhort the Body of believers to continue reforming into the image of Christ.
This is where the treasured phrase of the Reformation comes from – semper reformanda, which is translated to mean “always changing,” or “always reforming.” Contrary to popular belief and contemporary philosophy, this does not mean that the Church should continually change to a more culturally and generationally relevant version of itself. Instead, we should be “always reforming” from our old nature to the new, estrangement from God to submission and intimacy with Him, and ignorance about His will to a knowledge and trust of His Word.
So in light of this, we can see that the Reformation is still ongoing. We are still addressing the corruption of the Church. We are still calling ourselves back the authority and infallibility of God’s Word. We are still turning from convenient and comfortable falsehood to the pursuit of absolute truth. We are still submitting our hearts, emotions, and mentalities to the guidance and conviction of an Almighty God who loves and redeems us.
In the words of James White: “the Reformation fought a battle that each and every generation is called to fight simply because each and every generation is made up of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam, and hence there will always be those who seek to detract from the singular glory of God in the gospel. . .” May we each, brothers and sisters alike, fight this battle all of our lives with persistence, conviction, and humility. Semper reformanda.