October 31 is Reformation Day. The principles of the Reformation are treasured by Lutherans who appreciate the blessing that the Heavenly Father worked through His servant Martin Luther. Those principles are “Sola Scriptura, Sola Fidei, and Sola Gratia.” These Latin expressions declare that “Scripture alone, Faith alone, and Grace alone” are the hallmarks and the foundation of teaching in the Lutheran Church. That being the case, it is not unnoticed by the discerning Lutheran that another Reformation is needed. The Lutheran world today is a far cry from the confession that Luther made when he said, “I know that I would be the most agreeable and the dearest person if I were to say this one word revoco, that is, I recant (withdraw what he had taught). But I will not turn heretic by contradicting the opinion which made me a Christian. I would rather die by fire or be exiled and cursed” (WLS, III, page 1184, para. 3779). It is a signal grace that while forerunners of the Reformation such as Wyclif, Huss and Savanarola died violently for defending the faith, that man upon whom the Lord laid the burden to bring the Reformation to fruition died a natural death in spite of the threats that he endured.
We are bold to say that the Lutheran church in general ought to be ashamed of itself for becoming a church of which Luther would want no part! We ourselves ought be ashamed if our observation is no more than a nod and lip service.
Through the Reformation that began in 1517, many changes were effected in the church, in the educational world and in society. Many of them still carry influence today.
When we think of the Reformation we appreciate the fact that above all it was about the preservation of the Gospel. Luther said, “We are asking nothing more, nor have we ever asked for anything more, than the free Gospel” (para.3778). Slavishness to the law, human tradition, and papal authority had robbed the troubled sinner of the comfort of the Gospel. The message of the Gospel drawn from Scripture (Sola Scriptura) is simply this that God the Father determined freely in His own heart to send His Son for the salvation of mankind (Sola Gratia). The gift of salvation is assimilated through faith (Sola Fidei) which is itself a gift of God through the Spirit Who works through the Gospel. “Throughout the Gospel, Christ does no more than draw us out of ourselves and into Himself; He spreads His wings and invites us to take shelter under Him” (Vol. II, page 361, para 1703). What security the child of God has in the Gospel, and what hope for the future when death calls us from the present realm into the next!
The essence of the Reformation was not a movement to establish a “pure” church. The essence of the Reformation was to rekindle an understanding of and appreciation for the “free Gospel” from which flows the confidence of salvation, and thereafter a commitment to “contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).