7 Benefits of the Reformation
This year, 2017, marks the 500th birthday of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31st it will be the anniversary date when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg.
Earlier this month I took a 10-day trip to Germany on “vacation with a purpose”. It was a Reformation tour to mark this anniversary year, walking in the steps of Martin Luther. From his birthplace at Eisleban, to his university and monastic days in Erfurt, to the town of Wittenberg where he lived and worked, we were bathed in 16th century history. The tour was organized by Regent College, with daily lectures from Dr. Iain Provan. The lectures were accompanied with walking tours and museums. I’ve been in enough museums to last for several years!
While I’ve studied the Reformation in the past, my trip to Germany caused me to reflect on the shadow cast over us by Martin Luther and the reformers. Many of the accomplishments of the 16th century we take for granted. But here are 7 benefits of the Reformation that come to my mind:
Discovering that Salvation is by Grace Alone through Faith Alone
The unbiblical practice of selling indulgences to the people was the tinderbox that set Luther’s heart on fire. He was offended by this money making scheme of the Church and chose to challenge it. Luther made this “discovery” when studying Romans: “the just will live by faith” (Rom 1:17).
Centrality of the Word of God
Luther determined that Scripture would take precedence over traditions of the church. In his disputes with the Pope and the officials at Rome he appealed directly to the Bible. In his dramatic statement to the Holy Roman Emperor at Worms in 1521, he declared: “My conscience is captive to the Word of God”.
Our English Bible translations
Although he was not the first to do so, Luther translated the Bible into the German vernacular and it had a huge impact on the people. Until then one had to know Latin in order to read the Bible. The advent of Bible translation began because of the Reformation.
Primacy of Preaching
Luther and the Reformers replaced the altar with the pulpit, placing it in the center of their redesigned churches. This move indicated the central place of the Scripture in the reformed churches. Services were held in the vernacular, rather than the Latin as had been the practice for centuries.
Place of Singing in Public Worship
Luther introduced congregational singing into his church order. He recognized the role of teaching as sound theology was put to music. As one who loved music, Luther penned dozen of hymns, of which the best known is “A Mighty Fortress is our God”.
Seeing no biblical mandate for celibacy of the clergy, the Reformers were free to marry. This was a sign of reformation and independence from the Church of Rome. Luther advocated the right of congregations to select their own pastors.
Priesthood of All Believers
Luther saw the mediatory role of the priests as unbiblical. He saw Scripture teaching that believers have direct access to God. Each believer is a priest with immediate and unhindered access to the Father, without needing the service of a priest.
These are a few of the changes that came to us from Luther and the Reformers. Their foundational feature was a commitment to the Scripture. We are the benefactors of their insights and courage. What was my takeaway? Still today, we must be reforming (and always reforming) to bring the gospel truth to a new generation.
Comments are closed.