October 27, 2014

3 Ways to Honor the Reformers

by Clint Archer

On October 31st 1517 Anno Domini a comically tonsured German monk, with an attitude and a mallet posted the Medieval equivalent of a snarky  blog post on the castle door at Wittenberg. Martin Luther’s 95 Theses voiced irrefragable concerns about doctrine, ecclesiastical abuses, and unbiblical doctrines. The paper was merely intended to spark debate and reform within the Roman Catholic Church.

However, the spark blew a little further than the intramural playground of the Vatican. The white squall of God’s Spirit (with a little help from Guttenberg’s press and a Latin-German dictionary) ignited the hearts of the masses, as the Theses went viral.

Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melanchthon, Bucer, Farel, and countless others lived and died to leave a legacy of passion and proclamation. They showed that when you love Jesus and his word, you would rather die than keep quiet. If they inspire you, here are…

3 ways to make the Reformers proud today:

1. Read more Bible than blogs

Post Tenebras Lux is Latin for “After Darkness Light” which was the tagline motto of the Reformation. After centuries of spiritual darkness which enshrouded the world in ignorance, the Reformers basked in the illumination which dawned with the Scriptures availability in vernacular languages.

When Luther was exiled, and went into the witness protection program of Fredrick the Wise (cool nickname) at Wartburg Castle, instead of languishing in a pity party of impotence, he redeemed the time by translating the Hebrew OT into German [Actually it was the NT, which he did in 11 weeks, later called the “September Testament” (1522); the OT was tackled in 1534]. One of the hallmarks of Reformers was their desire to get the Bible in the hands of everybody. As biblical translator, William Tyndale, articulated in his impromptu mission statement retort to a Greek-snob, “I defy the Pope and all his laws! In fact, if God spares my life, I intend to make it possible for a common farmer, a plowman, to know more of the Scripture than you do!”

You are standing on the shoulders of the Reformers when you savor the taste of Scripture on your native tongue. Enjoy your English/Spanish/Afrikaans/Zulu Bible. Read it, mull over it, memorize it. I’m a fan of Greek and Hebrew, but a translated Bible is a precious gift of God.

Read the part above the study Bible line with more attention than the comments below. Read more Bible than commentaries.

If you quoted Calvin in a debate on Election, he would slap you. Quote Scripture. If you appealed to Luther to back up pedobaptism, he’d grunt a Germanic expletive at you. Appeal to Scripture. (As a Baptist, my guess is that he’s changed his view on baptism, and his use of coarse language!)

And read more Bible than blogs. Make that a personal rule, “Resolved to not check my RSS feed until I’ve checked in with the God-breathed word.”


2. Use Your Latin

Well, not actual Latin. What I mean is that we should be familiar with whatever medium or forum in which doctrine is currently discussed.

Latin was not the lingua franca. It was the medium of the academic elite. Theological debate flowed in Latin. It was one of the ways the Roman Catholic church stopped people thinking for themselves.

Today, there is no way anyone with a modem or smartphone can plead ignorance. To be in the dark today is a matter of negligent stewardship.

If you live in a township in Soweto, you may have an excuse for not having access to sound teaching. But if you are reading this blog post, and still don’t know both sides of the Cessasionist/Continuationist brouhaha, or the Premill/Amill tussle, or the Lordship/FreeGrace debate…it is because you are willfully ignorant (a nicety for ‘stupid on purpose’).

Know who the movers and shakers of Evangelicalism are, read their blogs and books, and listen to their MP3 sermons. Make sure you are not unplugged from the matrix of theological understanding due to laziness. Don’t be the sluggard with his hand in the bowl, too lazy to get the gruel to his lips.

Get familiar with the mediums in which doctrine is discussed today.


3. Don’t go back to Rome

Not that many Protestants are really tempted to become a ECT signatory; but there is a sentiment among those whose libraries are light on church history books, to think of Catholics as “not so far off.”

Please read Vatican II in your spare time. It will bring tears to your eyes as you see how deviant its view is of what our Savior did on the cross (passages that exemplify this are found in last week’s post, see the former link). It will make you love Jesus more, and it will make you run far from Rome on your way to the cross in gratitude for grace by faith alone.

Understand what the Reformers were willing to die for. Read “Five English Reformers” by J. C. Ryle. That will purge the urge to reconcile with Rome. Don’t give up ground for which the Reformers bled.

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Johnny

    Another good way is for pastors to host Reformation parties at the church on the 31st (ideal this year, as it falls on a friday). Its a great opportunity for fellowship, for hymns and for study of why this event is so important. Unfortunately, too many pastors seem to get caught up on the candy grab as well.
    I feel like a broken record sometimes…

    • Our youth group has a yearly Reformation party wherein we reiterate some of the history, have a quiz, and share testimonies. It’s a fun and informative time and I highly recommend it.

      • Johnny


  • Breton

    Would it be Lordship/Cheap Grace debate??
    I believe the reformers used the term free grace, and also very much sounded the trumpet of the Lordship of Jesus Christ…Seeking the use of this medium to correct my ignorance #instantapplication

    • Jas25

      Can’t get cheaper than free so they seem the same to me.

      The problem is that one side is fighting a strawman of the other by claiming that they are adding to the conditions for salvation. The other is discussing sanctification, but letting themselves get dragged into a debate about salvation (thus only validating the mix up).

      It’s really more of a Lordship/Saved and Unchanged debate at heart and the idea that it’s somehow a discussion about salvation should be dropped entirely…

      • Breton

        I think Lloyd-Jones coined the phrase “cheap grace” in reference to the “saved but unchanged” group.
        But I appreciate your response. They definitely are creating a straw man argument in regards to our position. We’re not stating obedience as a pre-req, but as a response to the gospel.

        What’s that cheesy quote, “if you get hit by a logging truck you’ll be changed forever, and Jesus is a lot bigger than a logging truck”..??

        • Romans 6:1 puts an end to the discussion “What shall we say then, shall we sin more that grace may abound? May it never be!”

      • Salvation is completely free and has no price…but it will cost you everything. “Take up your cross and follow me”

        • Jas25


          “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:25

          Blessed assurance for those who have surrendered their life to Christ. Horrible news to those clinging desperately to it.

    • Yeah, but they used Latin so it sounded way cooler. Sola Gratia!

  • Jas25

    Clint, point 2 struck a cord majorly with what I’ve been experiencing in the church a lot lately. So often I hear the argument that “you don’t have to get a 100% on a theological quiz to be Christian” (thankfully, a true statement) to mask the fact that most people are willfully ignorant of God. We really need to throw off this false belief that reading and research aren’t necessary in growing with God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

    The Roman Catholic Church may have created a system that prevented laypersons from growing in their own understanding of God, but looking at a vast majority of professing Christians (even those who fellowship with teachers that encourage Bible reading) it doesn’t really seem like the system was necessary…

    • Incisive and insightful point. Now we have no one to blame for our ignorance but ourselves.

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  • Matt

    I think we need to be careful not to idolize these men. They had issues too. I doubt they would want to be put on pedestals and have people using their names as labels.

    • Good caution. Pedestals have a way of toppling. Although, I’d really like to get my hands on a Luther or Calvin bobble head. That’s the kind of pedestal they’d be ok with.

      • Jas25

        Or, at least, the bobble head seems to approve.

  • tovlogos

    Really on point, Clint. Blessings to you. “Read More Bible than Blogs.” Amen. It’s medicinal.
    There was a time when the great theologians didn’t know much; but they studied, and walked the narrow Path.

    Thanks much,

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