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The Reformation was all about Theological Clarity

July 16, 2017

 

The following is the content of a message delivered by Mr Robert Campbell at the annual demonstration Scarva, 13 July 2017:

 

The message of the gospel is powerful and profound. To have our faith in Jesus Christ alone, to have truly repented of our sin, to be walking daily in the light of His Word to the glory of God alone, reveals His amazing Grace.

 

A Christian faith that does not radically change diminishes the radical nature of God's free grace. In the year we mark the 500th anniversary of what became the Protestant Reformation, we dare not rejoice in its effects and not think about what happened spiritually!

 

Our society has changed vastly over the years, but societies always change. They lurch in one direction then another; the unmovable disappears then mysteriously reappears.

 

In 1924 St Petersburg became Leningrad, then in 1991 Leningrad became St Petersburg. This change in the name of a city illustrates the vast movement that societies can take. Nothing is static if only we have time to see the change.

 

Malachi 3:6 reminds us, "For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." In the midst of vast and perpetual change God is the only One who doesn't change; He is the only One who remains the same, "unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth."

 

PRE-REFORMATION CONFUSION

Prior to the Reformation problems had grown up within Christianity. For instance the Bible was hard to access in the days before the printing press, as its reproduction was a long, slow, and expensive process. Low literacy rates and the language used were also a problem. While owning a Bible could be extremely dangerous.

 

The lines between folk religions and Christianity had blurred (we call this syncretism and it still happens), and where this occurred it confused and transformed the message of the gospel into another gospel. With these changes the forgiveness of sin no longer centred on Jesus' death on the cross, but what men could do to earn or merit salvation.

 

POST-REFORMATION CLARITY

So after 500 years of gospel clarity, how clear are we on the gospel? Or do we just have clarity on, and a commitment to, the history of and the traditions that flowed from the Reformation?

 

One hundred years ago long political speeches were printed verbatim in newspapers; even the interjections by the crowd were included. People avidly read every word in its context. Today we are given short sound-bites followed by political commentary that tends to be little better than conjecture, speculation or conspiracy. I dread to think what history students 100 years hence will think about now when they load the microfilm into the viewer!

 

In the same way, how is it that in the past our forefathers in the faith could explain the Christian faith simply, profoundly and consistently.

 

I want to give you two verses of scripture:

 

James 1:22: "...be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves,"

 

• and Mark 16:15: "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."

 

The Christian faith is a living faith. If we merely try to re-enact the living faith of our forebearers, rather than have a personal, present and active faith in Jesus Christ, we will lose out. Gone are the lessons and blessings of the past; gone is the opportunity to win others to Christ by living our faith, in our generation, and in our context, gone is the impetus and urgency to pass it on to the coming generation.

 

Everyone of us in this field, on that avenue, in this town need the gospel. Without it eternally we have no hope, and presently we have no direction. Being religious and knowing Jesus as your personal Saviour are not the same thing. In Jesus' day both Pharisees (traditional and conservative) and Sadducees (progressive and liberal) were very religious but had little of the gospel. Okay, that was wildly anachronistic, but dump the names just use the attitudes and you'll see little difference today.

 

We need to grasp that the Reformation was not some sort of political revolution. Rather it was all about theological clarity. Justification, or becoming a Christian, was and is by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone. If you don't get that, you don't get Christianity or what the Reformation was about. More than ever, we need to clearly understand, and with simplicity explain, the gospel. At the very least let people reject the Jesus of the Bible and not a Jesus of their own imagination.

 

John 3:16-17: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."

 

Is your trust in Jesus alone for salvation? Where will you be in eternity?

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