So it’s the week before the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation’s official start, and I’ve been blogging almost every Tuesday since November 1, 2016 about it. I’d hoped, when I first started this series, to get well past Luther in order to show the Reformers who actually surrendered their lives for the sake of God’s Word.
I didn’t meet that goal.
Daily blogging left me little time to research the men and women of the Reformation. I had good intentions, mind you, but I just couldn’t budget my time appropriately. For that reason, a few months ago I shifted my focus to merely trying to keep the Reformation before you. In recent months, I tried to demonstrate that the Reformation impacts Christian thought today, and that ignoring its emphasis on faith alone and Scripture alone places us in grave danger of repeating the apostasy that the Reformers protested in the first place.
As I’ve written countless times throughout this series, the Reformers each stood against the distorted teachings and practices of Roman Catholicism as a result of reading the Word of God. Once they saw how far Rome had deviated from the Bible, they sought to make Scripture available to everyone both through preaching and through translating it into common languages.
Of course, I’ve oversimplified matters. The Reformation was far more complex, and years passed before Reformed Theology reached its full development. As a Reformed Baptist (admittedly something that would have made Calvin’s skin crawl), I appreciate the move away from infant baptism, for example. Most 16th Century Reformers actually persecuted the Anabaptists for refusing to baptize their babies, and they probably would be quite perplexed that some 21st Century Baptists claim the Reformed tradition.
I hope any Presbyterian women reading that last paragraph won’t write me off!
Anyway, my point is that, although I realize how varied the issues involved in the Reformation are, the two primary issues of justification by faith alone and the exclusive authority of Scripture remain the watershed issues that divide Protestants from Catholics. And evangelicals dare not compromise on either.
Sadly, we indeed have compromised. For the most part, professing Christians regard the Roman Catholic Church as simply another Christian denomination. That perspective, while it certainly seems charitable, forgets the Reformers who risked (and sometimes gave) their lives in order to stand against the erroneous teachings and practices of Roman Catholicism. The dividing lines that they once drew in reverence for the Gospel, we now blur for the sake of a unity with those who follow a different gospel.
The Reformation, 500 years ago, brought Christians back to the Bible, which in turn lead people to the Gospel of justification by faith alone. If I continually plead with you to remember the Reformation, I do so because the purity of the Gospel depends on it. Well after next Tuesday (a glorious day of celebration), I will continue periodically blogging about the Reformation. I pray you’ll continue thinking about it and that you’ll stand firmly for the Gospel that motivated the Reformers.