Martin Luther’s protest in 1517 has affected all of our lives. Quite frankly, there would not have been a Protestant denomination had God not stirred the soul and empowered the mind of this monk named Martin Luther.
By the illumination and grace of God, Luther discovered that the church he loved was guilty of fraud, deception, and treachery on a massive scale. Whatever the personal cost, he felt convinced that against these abuses he must take his stand. God also opened Luther’s eyes to permit him to frame some central teachings that, to this day, shape the core of Protestantism – that the Bible is the central source of religious authority and that salvation is received by faith and not deeds.
It is more than ironic that in this most significant anniversary year, the pope and his church are playing leading roles in celebrating the life and ministry of Martin Luther. To monitor their activities and chart their speeches, you would be forgiven for assuming that they were about to confer sainthood on the man who has done the most single-handed damage to their cause.
Their celebration, however, is a huge deception. The reality is that they are congratulating themselves on the undeniable success of the Counter-Reformation. This is a movement spearheaded by Pope Francis’ Jesuit Order with the objective of undoing all that Luther’s protest accomplished and returning the rulership of the world to the Roman Catholic Church.
In the Catholic-Lutheran document, From Conflict to Communion, which paves the way for the return of the Lutheran church to the Church of Rome and explains why Rome is ready for celebration, this statement appears:
“What happened in the past cannot be changed, but what is remembered of the past and how it is remembered can, with the passage of time, indeed change. Remembrance makes the past present. While the past itself is unalterable, the presence of the past in the present is alterable. In view of 2017, the point is not to tell a different history, but to tell that history differently.” (Ch 2, Sec 16) .
On the 500th anniversary of the formidable Protestant Reformation, the Lutherans have clasped hands with the Papal church, effectively agreeing with the current pope that the Protestant Reformation is over.
Semper reformanda (“always reforming”) is one of the enduring slogans often associated with the Protestant Reformation. While the origins of the phrase may be murky and probably date from the late 1600s, the kernel of the idea is true enough: until we are glorified – until we are fully, finally, perfectly conformed to the exact likeness of Christ – we as saints individually, and the whole church collectively, must always be reforming.
• The idea is not that we should change for the sake of change. You can be sure that whoever first penned that slogan was not urging Christians to stay abreast of every wind of earthly fashion in order to suit someone’s shallow notion of “relevance.”
• Nor does the principle of semper reformanda require us to rewrite our doctrinal standards every generation in order to keep in step with the constantly-changing dogmas of human philosophy.
• The only true and valid reformation occurs as we align our beliefs, our behaviour, and our worship with the Word of God. In fact, the full, unabbreviated version of the Latin slogan is Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei (“The church Reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God”).
God’s Word is the only true standard we have a divine mandate to conform to, and it is the ultimate standard by which we will be judged.
Tragically, none of the doctrines, dogmas and deeds that led to Luther’s Protestant Reformation have changed. Instead of renouncing those cardinal and offensive doctrines that resulted in the unmerciful slaughter of tens of millions, Rome has added to its unbiblical beliefs.
Why then are parts of Protestantism so keen to link hands with Rome today? How grieved would Luther and the other Protestant Reformers be could they witness the current rejection of their sacrificial efforts?
No matter what unscriptural compromise the Lutherans (and others) choose to participate in, our protest is not over.