COVER STORY – REFORMATION
When we think of the Lutheran Reformation, we no doubt think of great men like Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, Johannes Bugenhagen, and others. They were all front and center in bringing back the glorious truths of “Scripture Alone,” especially our salvation by “Grace Alone,” through “Faith Alone.” However, the Reformation was not just about the grace of God, the Reformation itself was a wonderful act of His grace.
Mankind always has a propensity for turning away from God but has no power to turn back to Him. Psalm 81:11-12 says of the nation of Israel, “But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn hearts, to walk in their own counsels.” (ESV)
Despite a rich heritage of God’s amazing protection, deliverance, and blessing, His people turned away from Him and would have nothing to do with God or His Word. God made multiple attempts over several centuries to bring them back, but to no avail. So, with great sorrow in His heart, God gave them what they wanted and what they deserved; He let them follow their own stubborn hearts. Without God, they fell prey to their enemies and were taken into captivity. Yet God had not given up on them for good. He promised a time when He would restore a remnant of His people.
History Repeats Itself
God did restore a remnant of His people by an extraordinary act of His grace. God gave His own Son to die for His people’s sins and rebellion. He raised up the apostles to proclaim the Gospel far and wide, and God’s Church grew and spread once again. The heart of man, however, remained rebellious. Over the centuries the visible church was turning farther and farther away from God. As in the days of old, they would not heed God’s voice in His Word. The church of Rome persecuted and killed those who tried to proclaim the truth of salvation by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone. So, God gave them over to their own stubborn hearts.
However, God is forever merciful. In an act of grace, He chose to restore a remnant of the faithful once again. God raised up a few men whom He captivated with His Word, turned their hearts to Himself, and compelled them by His love to proclaim that Word. Luther himself gave all credit to God for the Reformation. God was pushing and driving him to preach the Word as he learned to cherish the Word. Luther said, “For so says Christ: ‘Go ye . . . and preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15); again: ‘No one hides a light under a bushel’ (Matthew 5:15). This causes the Word to be like a live coal in our mouth; it cannot be kept there but forces us to open our mouth.” (What Luther Says, vol. III, page 1195)
Ripe for Reformation Today
The Gospel prevailed for several centuries following the Reformation. Christianity spread far and wide under God’s amazing grace. Now, however, we are again living in a time of great apostasy. The pride of man thinks he knows better than God, and those who were once God’s people are turning away from God at an alarming rate and will not heed His voice. They will have none of the true God. As they want and deserve, God gives them over to their own stubborn hearts, to walk in their own counsels. As a result, our world is falling to new depths of wickedness.
It is by God’s grace alone that you are still a child of the Reformation and listen to God’s Word. May we not only celebrate the Reformation, but by God’s grace, may we carry on the Reformation today.
David Reimis pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Vernon, British Columbia.