Reviving the reformation
Luther not looking his most cheery
The sixteenth century Reformation was ignited 500 years ago on the 31st October; the date when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses about the Roman Church to the church door in Wittenberg.
The Reformation was one of the most significant cultural changes to take place in Europe and certainly a titanic event in Christian history, and yet today many people aren't sure what it was about.
Luther himself, always asserted that the Reformation, although beginning as an objection to the excesses of the Roman church, became about the very nature of how we are saved. We call this the doctrine of Justification. Can we justify ourselves? Does the church justify us through it's so-called treasury of merit? Or does God alone justify us?
On 18th April 1521, Luther was asked in the presence of the Pope whether he would recant and apologise for his assault upon medieval Catholic dogma. But the monk who had just been excommunicated from the church which he had been dedicated to, said:
'Unless I am proved wrong by Scriptures or by evident reason, then I am a prisoner in conscience to the Word of God. I cannot retract and I will not retract. To go against conscience is neither safe nor right. God help me. Amen.' (From 'The Reformation' by Owen Chadwick.)
Luther cared beyond all else that from the ploughboy in the field, to the highest official, people knew that the Bible said they could not be saved by their good works, but by the grace of God through faith in Christ alone. It matters more than anything else! 'All Germany is in revolution,' wrote the papal legate. 'Nine tenths cry Luther!'
In our day, there are not many people who cry anything relating to the doctrine of justification. But the fact is, we need to recapture the great truths that can so easily be lost and render the church weak and people lost. Luther in his own day spoke of the 'Babylonian captivity' of his Church, drawing a parallel to how spiritually impoverished the Israelites were in exile. Could it be that as we see the state of our national church today, we are witnessing a similar kind of captivity? Could we ourselves be contributing to it through ignorance of core truths?
This year we are going to be taking some of the great themes of the Bible, which Luther and others sought to give voice to. I hope it will remind us that the gospel is radical and vital. Watch out for a series in September-December where we unpack some of the biggest insights that they bequeathed to us. We will also be giving opportunities to engage with some great resources by Mike Reeves and others, which should put some fire back into our hearts. Oh that we would be prisoners to the Word of God once again!