A Relevant Reformation
Around October’s end, Bible-believing churches around the world remind themselves where they came from.
In Singapore, many have it stated on our NRICs that we are “Protestant” Christians — a term borrowed from the Protestant Reformation of 16th century Europe. We don’t see ourselves as part of the Roman Catholic though we may have many good friends who do so.
Thus for many years at GBC, we commemorated Reformation Sunday to remind ourselves of roots that reach further back than Mattar Road or even Kampong Silat. More recently we even had three full concerts designed around themes from the Reformation: understanding what theologians call the Five Solas of the Reformation, the story of Jesus our Savior in the true Scriptures, and the recovery of the use of the Psalms for public worship and prayer.
Why is it important to understand and remember the Reformation? Is it still relevant more than 500 years later?
In a way, the question is like asking if the air that we consume is relevant, or the blood coursing through our veins is relevant because Reformation truth is simply, Christian truth by which we breathe and live. Among our things, the 15th century Reformation restored to us:
- the authority and sufficiency of God-breathed Scripture,
- the truth that we are justified by faith alone,
- the wondrous grace of God the only reason for our salvation,
- a relentless focus on Jesus Christ our only Savior and high priest, and
- the soul-satisfying truth that we live for God’s magnificent glory.
The late R C Sproul said concisely that “The Protestant Reformation was about two things. It was about who can say what’s true and it was about how to reconcile who we are with who God is.”
These most central and foundational truths were lost to us, and were recovered in the Reformation. And that which was found should never be lost again. Our very own late pastor, Dr E N Poulson spoke of the Reformation this way: “We must not forget, we dare not forget. How wonderful that we can remember this which is neglected by even more of the churches – Reformation Sunday. Because there came that time in history when most of these things had been set to one side.”
It has been said that where one generation believed the truths of the Gospel and the next assumed the Gospel, the next generation denied the Gospel. It only takes a moment for us to take our eye off the Gospel, and it will be lost to us again.
After all, can we not all identify persons who claim confusingly to follow Christ Jesus but:
- Don’t heed Scripture because they don’t recognise its authority,
- Live exhausted and frustrated in relentless self-justification,
- Embody the self-righteous hypocrisy of the Pharisees,
- Have lost their first love for Jesus Christ Himself, or
- Have little thirst or taste for the glory of God?
As the monk Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five challenges to the church door of Wittenberg in Germany, ninety-five statements challenging the beliefs and practices of the established church, he began a battle for theological recovery and church reform that restored to us air for breath and blood for life.
It was an uphill fight for truth as the common people gained access to the Scriptures in their own language, and were able to wrestle with what the Bible actually said. Without Luther’s iconic first act of protest, and the flood of Biblical truth that it unleashed, would the world have changed? It is no exaggeration to say that we would not have the Gospel word of our salvation today.
And what a word it is — able to defeat the princes and powers of darkness that hold sway in this world!
Now more than ever, with the massive disruption and difficulties of COVID-19, we need to hear that this Gospel word we possess has enormous power, the power of God for the salvation of all who believe (Rom 1:16).
Luther’s well-known Reformation hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” paraphrases Psalm 46 and expresses unshakeable confidence in our God and His word:
“And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has 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.”
If you are interested to find out more about Martin Luther and the Reformation, check out this video that was also screened at our service: