This fall October 31, 2017 will mark the 500th year when a German monk, Martin Luther, placed his 95 statements or protests as an invitation to public debate regarding the abuses he observed regarding the Catholic Church. The Protestant Reformation was not centered on only one man although Luther’s actions are most noteworthy. God’s Spirit was bringing reform to the Church from many places. In England there was John Wycliffe and John Tyndale, along with John Hus in Bohemia. There was Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin in Switzerland and John Knox in Scotland. They all joined with Luther moved by God, and cried out for reforms in the Catholic Church.
Some of the issues they faced were the following: excessive wealth and power of the Catholic Church, the selling of indulgences to reduce one’s time in Purgatory, is the final authority for one’s faith and practice in the Bible or the Catholic Church, how a person is justified or made right before a Holy God, the relationship between faith and works, the merit of Christ’s obedience or the merit found in the sacramental system of the Catholic Church, the translation of the Bible into the common man’s language so he or she could read it, and other matters.
Over time these cries of the Protestant Reformation became crystallized into what historians called the ‘Five Solas’ (meaning alone in Latin) of the Reformation. They are commonly known as: Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, and To the Glory of God Alone. The meaning and implications of these statements have shaped the Protestant Church and its theology and practice to this day. The Protestant Reformation was massive paradigm shift in the authority and nature of the Church, the role of Holy Scripture, and how a Christian understands and lives out his or her faith. What many of us believe today theologically was formed by the Protestant Reformation.
Many today in the Evangelical Church no longer think that the Protestant Reformation really matters. There is a strong push for ecclesiastical unity without honest doctrinal discussion of key differences. Some question the authority and sufficiency of the Bible to address sexual and moral issues in their desire to redefine marriage and family. The definition of the Gospel and how sinners are reconciled with a Holy and Righteous God is blurred and murky in many churches. The drive for the Evangelical Church’s relevance with the culture have made ‘pragmatism and expediency’ more important that what the Bible teaches. These are valid concerns in our day.
Right now as much as 500 years ago the Evangelical Church could use another reform restoring the key doctrines articulated during the Protestant Reformation. The basic spiritual needs and questions of humanity are only found in the Scriptures alone, Christ alone, Grace alone, Faith alone and to the Glory of God alone. Our reason, our feelings, and our experience, can never be raised above and over what the Scriptures clearly teach. If we do this we will find ourselves living in the world of ‘everything is relative’ not standing on the sure ground of The Absolute Truth of Scripture.
Let us ‘hold fast’ to the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation even if this means standing against the rushing current of the present Evangelical Church.
I love you, Pastor Rick