My computer often reminds me of important spiritual truths. For example, when it begins to respond sluggishly, erratically, or unreasonably, I perform a “System Restore” exercise that resets all operations to an earlier point in time. This reset button allows the computer to perform as it did before problems started.
Down through the centuries of church history, God has called women and men to lead followers of Christ in hitting the reset button regarding the way the church thinks, worships, and lives. This issue of Holiness Today commemorates just such a time: the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The anniversary date marks an event that seemed innocent enough to the man who called attention to problems he perceived in the Christian church.
Martin Luther represented many church leaders frustrated with beliefs and practices that had crept into the church. He decided it was time to talk publically.
So, he wrote 95 talking points to spark conversation and nailed them to the door of the Wittenberg church in Germany. The religious revolution this act sparked surprised everyone, including Luther.
The discussions, debates, and responses resulted in resetting the Christian church to beliefs and practices more in line with the essentials of the Christian faith. The Protestant Reformation did not aim to take the church down new paths; rather, it sought to return the church to paths that followers of Christ had taken in the past.
Many people think the Protestant Reformation was primarily a protest against the Roman Catholic Church. Not so. The protest of the Protestant Reformation was primarily against any understanding of Christian faith that did not declare:
- Jesus is Lord.
- The Bible is the primary authority for matters of faith and practice.
- God’s gift of salvation is received by grace through faith alone.
- The good works of Christ’s followers do not merit salvation.
A host of additional reforms to Christian beliefs and practices surfaced as the protest unfolded. God used many faithful believers to bring reform in many places. Martin Luther ministered in Germany, and his thought spread quickly throughout Europe. John Calvin ministered in Switzerland and trained pastors who returned to his home in France. Huldrych Zwingli also ministered in Switzerland. Thomas More and Thomas Cranmer led the reformation in England.
John Wesley continued reform efforts in his day. John Knox ministered in Scotland. And, of course, spiritually sensitive priests in the Roman Catholic Church recognized the need for reform and led the Counter-Reformation. Their efforts resulted in the Council of Trent, which brought many worthwhile changes. This incomplete list only highlights a few leaders and countries where God brought reform to the Christian church.
The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation reminds us of a primary truth of the Christian faith: God is on a mission in our world.
He wants a personal relationship with every man, woman, teen, and child on earth. He invites us to join Him in this mission. We are His ambassadors in our world. We must keep the main thing the main thing: Jesus is Lord! The Bible is the written Word of God that speaks of the living Word of God, Jesus Christ. Our faith in Christ is the free gift of God received by grace. Christ changes us through the work of His Spirit to make us Christlike disciples. Celebrate the Reformation by joining God in His mission to make Christlike disciples in the nations!
Frank M. Moore, editor in chief of Holiness Today
Holiness Today, September/October 2017
Please note: This article was originally published in 2017. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.