Happy Reformation Day 2010

Martin Luther - Here I Stand

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, provoking what later became the Protestant Reformation. In April of 1521, Luther was summoned before the Imperial Diet of Worms and asked to recant of his writings. His response was recorded for the ages:

Since then your serene majesty and your lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed: Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scripture or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen.

—Martin Luther

Ligonier Ministries posted the following short article on their blog in honor of Luther’s legacy and role in the Protestant Reformation:

At the time, few would have suspected that the sound of a hammer striking the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany, would soon be heard around the world and lead ultimately to the greatest transformation of Western society since the apostles first preached the Gospel throughout the Roman empire. Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to the church door on October 31, 1517, provoked a debate that culminated finally in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

An heir of Bishop Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther is one of the most significant figures God has raised up since that time. This law student turned Augustinian monk became the center of a great controversy after his theses were copied and distributed throughout Europe. Initially protesting the pope’s attempt to sell salvation, Luther’s study of Scripture soon led him to oppose the church of Rome on issues including the primacy of the Bible over church tradition and the means by which we are found righteous in the sight of God.

This last issue is probably Luther’s most significant contribution to Christian theology. Though preached clearly in the New Testament and found in the writings of many of the church fathers, the medieval bishops and priests had largely forgotten the truth that our own good works can by no means merit God’s favor. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and good works result from our faith, they are not added to it as the grounds for our right standing in the Lord’s eyes (Ephesians 2:8–10). Justification, God’s declaration that we are not guilty, forgiven of sin, and righteous in His sight comes because through our faith alone the Father imputes, or reckons to our account, the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Martin Luther’s rediscovery of this truth led to a whole host of other church and societal reforms and much of what we take for granted in the West would have likely been impossible had he never graced the scene. Luther’s translation of the Bible into German put the Word of God in the hands of the people, and today Scripture is available in the vernacular language of many countries, enabling lay people to study it with profit. He reformed the Latin mass by putting the liturgy in the common tongue so that non-scholars could hear and understand the preached word of God and worship the Lord with clarity. Luther lifted the unbiblical ban on marriage for the clergy and by his own teaching and example radically transformed the institution itself. He recaptured the biblical view of the priesthood of all believers, showing all people that their work had purpose and dignity because in it they can serve their Creator.

Today, Luther’s legacy lives on in the creeds and confessions of Protestant bodies worldwide. As we consider his importance this Reformation Day, let us equip ourselves to be knowledgeable proclaimers and defenders of biblical truth. May we be eager to preach the Gospel of God to the world and thereby spark a new reformation of church and culture.

—Robert Rothwell

Via: Ligonier Ministries Blog

Actions and Consequences

Pastor Nicholas Batzig posted this wonderful article in honor of Martin Luther and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The entire article is edifying and worth reading, but I particularly loved the ending: “May we learn to be Christians of courage and conviction for the name and fame of our Savior Jesus Christ. Who knows what our God will do with even a single day’s actions if we remain faithful to Him.”

The Scriptures are clear that the actions of One unique individual affected His people for time and eternity. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Christ, “by Himself, made purification for our sins,” through the one offering up of Himself on the cross. But, the Bible is equally clear about how the actions of his people can have a ripple out effect on the lives of the church throughout the centuries. Such was the case with Martin Luther. On October 31, 1517 (493 years ago), Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Acting on the persuasions of his conscience, and a desire to defend the Gospel of grace, the Augustinian monk single single-handedly set fuel to one of the greatest and most influential movements the world has ever seen. Every Protestant minister throughout the world has been – whether they are conscious of it or not – effected by the actions of this one man. The difficulty of what he endured for the sake of Christ must not to be underestimated. Only one year after posting the ninety-five theses Luther wrote a dear friend these words:

I am expecting the curses of Rome any day. I have everything in readiness. When they come, I am girded like Abraham to go I know not where, but sure of this, that God is everywhere.

In response to this letter, Luther’s mentor and friend Johann Von Staupitz wrote him with these telling words:

The world hates the truth. By such hate was Christ crucified, and I do not know what there is in store for you if not the cross. You have few friends, and would that they were not hidden for fear of the adversary . Leave Wittenberg and come to me that we may live and die together. The prince [Frederick] is in accord. Deserted let us follow the deserted Christ.

Had Luther feared man, rather than God, the Reformation might not have had the impact it did. The Western world, as we know it, might not have seen the missionary advances of the Gospel, and we may not be in the place we are today. While we recognize that it is Christ – not Luther – that turned the world upside down, we must also acknowledge that it was through faithful men like him that the world was turned upside down by the Gospel. May we learn to be Christians of courage and conviction for the name and fame of our Savior Jesus Christ. Who knows what our God will do with even a single day’s actions if we remain faithful to Him.

—Pastor Nicholas T. Batzig

Via: Feeding on Christ

Reformation Day Resources

Ligonier Ministries has posted a collection of Reformation Day resources that includes several articles and free MP3 lecture downloads by Dr. R.C. Sproul.

If we want reformation, we have to start with ourselves. We have to start bringing the gospel itself out of darkness, so that the motto of every reformation becomes post tenebras lux — “after darkness, light.” Luther declared that every generation must declare freshly the gospel of the New Testament. He also said that anytime the gospel is clearly and boldly proclaimed, it will bring about conflict, and those of us who are inherently adverse to conflict will find it tempting to submerge the gospel, dilute the gospel, or obscure the gospel in order to avoid conflict. We, of course, are able to add offense to the gospel by our own ill-mannered attempts to proclaim it. But there is no way to remove the offense that is inherent to the gospel message, because it is a stumbling block, a scandal to a fallen world. It will inevitably bring conflict. If we want reformation, we must be prepared to endure such conflict to the glory of God.

—Dr. R.C. Sproul

The Five Solas of the Reformation

1. Scripture alone. When the Reformers used the words sola Scriptura they were expressing their concern for the Bible’s authority, and what they meant is that the Bible alone is our ultimate authority—not the pope, not the church, not the traditions of the church or church councils, still less personal intimations or subjective feelings, but Scripture only. Other sources of authority may have an important role to play. Some are even established by God—such as the authority of church elders, the authority of the state, or the authority of parents over children. But Scripture alone is truly ultimate. Therefore, if any of these other authorities depart from Bible teaching, they are to be judged by the Bible and rejected.

2. Christ alone. The church of the Middle Ages spoke about Christ. A church that failed to do that could hardly claim to be Christian. But the medieval church had added many human achievements to Christ’s work, so that it was no longer possible to say that salvation was entirely by Christ and his atonement. This was the most basic of all heresies, as the Reformers rightly perceived. It was the work of God plus our own righteousness. The Reformation motto solus Christus was formed to repudiate this error. It 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.

3. Grace alone. The words sola gratia mean that human beings have no claim upon God. That is, God owes us nothing except just punishment for our many and very willful sins. Therefore, if he does save sinners, which he does in the case of some but not all, it is only because it pleases him to do it. Indeed, apart from this grace and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that flows from it, no one would be saved, since in our lost condition, human beings are not capable of winning, seeking out, or even cooperating with God’s grace. By insisting on ‘grace alone’ the Reformers were denying that human methods, techniques, or strategies in themselves could ever bring anyone to faith. It is grace alone expressed through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ, releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from death to spiritual life.

4. Faith alone. The Reformers never tired of saying that ‘justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.’ When put into theological shorthand the doctrine was expressed as “justification by faith alone,” the article by which the church stands or falls, according to Martin Luther. The Reformers called justification by faith Christianity’s “material principle,” because it involves the very matter or substance of what a person must understand and believe to be saved. Justification is a declaration of God based on the work of Christ. It flows from God’s grace and it comes to the individual not by anything he or she might do but by ‘faith alone’ (sola fide). We may state the full doctrine as: Justification is the act of God by which he declares sinners to be righteous because of Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone.

5. Glory to God alone. Each of the great solas is summed up in the fifth Reformation motto: soli Deo gloria, meaning ‘to God alone be the glory.’ It is what the apostle Paul expressed in Romans 11:36 when he wrote, ‘to Him be the glory forever! Amen.’ These words follow naturally from the preceding words, “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (v. 36), since it is because all things really are from God, and to God, that we say, ‘to God alone be the glory.’

—James Montgomery Boice
Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?

Via: Reformation Theology