While I’ve neglected this blog for some months, I find the afternoon of Reformation Sunday a good time to stop and offer a few thoughts; thoughts that formed a greeting for my church family with this morning:
The Reformation was nothing less than a rediscovery – in Scripture itself – of the Gospel by the church, or a portion thereof. Put differently, the Reformation was a rediscovery of confidence in the Gospel. While as a whole the Reformation was a process that took place over time (and, arguably, is still taking place), it began with special intensity on October 31, 1517. On that day, reportedly, a German monk named Martin Luther nailed what came to be known as the 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Not quite four years later (and 500 years ago last April), Luther appeared in front of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, at the Diet of Worms, and there confirmed his determination to stand on, and for, the truth of God’s Word at all costs (Luke 21:12 comes to mind).
It’s interesting that in our day most associate October 31st with Halloween. Popular imagination increasingly links this day to what Paul calls “…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Martin Luther wrote a hymn titled, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” The third verse of that hymn reads:
And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure: One little word shall fell him. – (Hymns for the Family of God, #118)
How can we sing those words with real confidence? Only if we believe the Gospel that Luther and others with him preached, a Gospel summarized in what we now know as the five “solas” (or “only” statements) of the Reformation: We are saved by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide), in Christ alone (sola Christus), for the glory of God alone (sola Deo gloria), according to Scripture alone (sola Scriptura). It is this Gospel that we rejoice in today because, as the Holy Spirit through Paul tells us, this Gospel is “…the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16, ESV).
Happy Reformation Day!