The Reformation: Why a Five-Hundred-Year-Old Event Still Matters

The new Apple iPhone X is out, along with their latest watch, and other glitzy new gadgets!  I know a few people who already have their eyes on them.  It doesn’t seem like long after purchasing a fancy new piece of electronics or a car that a new model comes along to catch our attention.  Americans love to have the latest and greatest.  Marketers do their jobs well—sometimes a little too well.

Still, many of my neighbors have classic cars that they like to dust off and take out of the garage a couple of times a year.  That’s how we generally treat the classics: we clean them up, show them off, and then put them away until the next showing. They’re nice to show off, but we prefer our newer everyday driver—the old is not as good as the new.

Often when I’m interacting with unbelievers about the Bible, they will ask, “Why should I trust a 2,000-year-old book?”, as if truth had some sort of expiration date.  Which brings us to the Reformation, an event that happened 500 years ago during the Renaissance (age of rebirth) in Europe.  Why should we care about the Reformation?

One of my favorite movies and, admittedly, one that put my wife and some friends to sleep when we watched it with them, is the 1953 version of Martin Luther.  Luther, an Augustinian monk and leading figure of the Reformation, was called by Roman Catholic Church leaders to appear at the Diet of Worms, an imperial assembly of the Holy Roman Empire, to recant all of his works of theology and doctrine. His response to the demand that he recant was, "Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen."

By Luther’s time, the selling of indulgences, a works-based system of paying for certain sins, was a regular business of the Roman Catholic Church. Works-righteousness was one of many troubling issues taught by the Roman Catholic Church that Luther, Calvin, and others vehemently rejected on biblical grounds.

A recent Pew Research Center study found that only 46 percent of U.S. Protestants hold to the Reformation doctrine that salvation is by faith alone, while 52 percent believe that some sort of good works along with faith are necessary to attain eternal life.  Recently, Jordan Countryman and I spoke with a student at College of DuPage, the son of a Protestant pastor, who believed and was told by leaders in his church that good works were necessary along with faith to be saved.

During the five Sundays of October, Grace Church of DuPage will highlight the five “Solas” (Solae) of the Reformation:

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  • 10/1 - Sola Scriptura (Scriptures alone): the Bible alone is our highest authority
  • 10/8 - Sola Fide (Faith alone): salvation comes by faith alone in Jesus Christ
  • 10/15 - Sola Gratia (Grace alone): we are saved by the grace of God alone
  • 10/22 - Solus Christus (Christ alone): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King
  • 10/29 - Soli Deo Gloria (to the Glory of God alone)

As we engage in this study, I pray that we will all listen closely and understand how our daily lives are impacted by these timeless truths, not treating them as relics of the past that we take out, dust off, and put on display for a short time, only to put them away until the next anniversary.  Let us live our lives by these truths, to the glory of God!