27 Oct 2008

Reformation Sunday

We were blessed to be able to attend the annual Reformation Rally at St George's Presbyterian Church last night, in celebration of Reformation Sunday. The service was organised by the Geelong Reformation Fellowship, and Rev Dr Allan Harman, retired Principal of the Presbyterian Theological College, was guest speaker.

Reformation Sunday is traditionally the Sunday closest to 31 October and takes its date from October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church in Germany, sparking the Protestant Reformation. Luther rejected the Roman Catholic teaching that sin could be absolved through papal indulgences, since he believed that grace was given by God alone.

Luther's reading of Paul's letter to the church in Rome changed his thinking profoundly:

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith. Romans 1:17
He realised that the righteousness of God was not a characteristic of a fearful God - something that made it impossible for man to live up to his demands - but rather, righteousness was an activity of a loving God. God is righteous when he declares that the unrighteous who have faith shall be righteous.

The world changing ideas of Luther and other Reformers - John Calvin, William Tyndale, Thomas Cranmer, along with men who came before him - John Wycliffe and John Hus to name two - resulted in the Protestant Church of today.

The Reformers had 5 main slogans, all using the word sola, the Latin word for alone. It was this word alone that defined the true biblical Gospel and set it apart from other pretenders. Urging a return to the Scriptures as the source of all truth, the cry of these Reformers was was:

Faith alone!
Grace alone!
Christ alone!
Scripture alone!
The Glory of God alone!

With Scripture alone as the sure foundation, the Reformers affirmed that justification is by grace alone, received through faith alone because of Christ alone — for the glory of God alone.

Dr Harman reminded us last night that we didn't come together to celebrate an historic event of no modern significance but one that defines who we are as Protestant Confessional Churches and that serves as a timely reminder for today.

The essential truths of the 16th Century Reformation are being blurred, ignored, denied or even forgotten in the pulpits of today's churches. This is not the time to dilute or adjust the Gospel message under the pressures of social conformity. To be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God.

With the Reformers, let us "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints." Jude 3

May each of you enjoy a Gospel centered, God exalting Reformation Sunday this year.

(I hope this doesn't offend anybody...it is a bit of fun!)

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