But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Eph 2:4,5 NIV)
This is a slight rethinking of some thoughts I guest-posted last year over at New Lumps. This year I am reclaiming and reposting them here and linking to Tim Challies' Reformation Day Symposium. .
It seems to me that in these days when certain denominations seem to be going sideways, in need of a new Reformation for all intents and purposes, we might gain encouragement from God’s promise that He will not allow His true Church to die. Out of present ruins I believe He will raise it anew. He has reserved a remnant who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Indeed, one of the things the Reformation did was to confirm His faithfulness in this area.
In my opinion, one of the most meaningful aspects of the Reformation is that it peeled away layers of obscurity from God’s plan of salvation – a plan that could have been written by no human hand or imagined by no human intellect. These layers had been built up over the centuries for political or selfish reasons, the encroachment of human “wisdom” or just plain error.
How wonderful is the truth of His plan, even if it may seem from time to time to have been forgotten; buried in the mists of time, or tradition, or fashion, or ignored in favour of some formula of human invention that transfers sovereignty from God to man. But the truth has always been there, even when it has been forgotten or ignored or even deliberately pushed aside for some human agenda.
It is the truth even if we are unaware of it, or indeed whether or not anybody is aware of it. And in fact it was there, wasn’t it, for each of us, even before we were conscious of it.
“…While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8b)But at the time of the Reformation, the truth of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, completely aside from works, had been largely forgotten or obscured, even denied by the official church. The Reformers rediscovered and reminded us again of the sufficiency of Christ and his atoning sacrifice on the cross for our salvation. The Reformation did not bring a new thing – it remembered an old thing; an ancient thing; a thing that had been there all along, as truth always is.
How marvellous to know this truth. How wonderful the assurance of it!
What a blessing to one who first discovers it, or to a Church that re-discovers it.
G. K. Chesterton wrote of the deaths of the church and its recurring resurrection, although as a Catholic, I’m sure he didn’t write it in approval of the Reformation. But I think the image fits. Just as out of the seemingly complete destruction of a forest fire springs regrowth and new life, so out of the ashes of a dead and corrupt church came the rediscovery of these earliest truths, and the Church was reborn. Christ promised that his Church would not die and the Reformation was his way of ensuring it at a certain time and place in history. We do indeed serve a God who knows His way out of the grave.
How marvellous to realize we are saved by God’s grace alone, not by works that would be so pitifully inadequate to earn us the right to stand in His presence. How wonderful to be assured that no further suffering beyond that of Christ on the cross was necessary for our salvation and that the fictional netherworld of “purgatory” is a mere fabrication of man. “Jesus paid it all!” How marvellous to know that the hand of God Himself wrote the formula for our rescue from sin. How wonderful to realize that Jesus, by his death and resurrection, has accomplished it. How beautiful that God has told us of it in His Holy word. How loving and comforting of Him to give us His Holy Spirit that we might be assured and confident in Him.
Indeed, how great is our God!