Do you know why October 31, 2017, is such a special day? A day to celebrate and give much thanks to our God? Not because it’s Halloween. It is Reformation Day! This year is particularly special because it is the 500th anniversary celebration.
Most historians mark the start of the Protestant Reformation as October 31, 1517, when a Catholic priest, monk, and professor named Martin Luther nailed Ninty-Five Theses to the church doors at Wittenburg, Germany. The church doors were commonly used as a bulletin board to post important information. This movement became know as the “Protestant” Reformation because in the years following Luther’s formal protest, many others began to protest church abuses. These became known as protesters, and thus the movement became known as the Protestant Reformation. This movement was the basis for hundreds of Protestant denominations that exist today.
These Ninty-Five Theses were a public rebuke and challenge to papal authority and to corrupt practices within the church. Luther was especially upset and reacting to the selling of indulgences. These were supposedly a means of buying forgiveness for yourself or others, thus requiring no need for repentance.
By 1518, Luther’s Ninty-Five Theses had been reprinted and distributed in many cities across Europe. In 1521, Pope Leo X formally excommunicated Luther from the Catholic Church, but the fires of change had begun to set Europe ablaze. Luther’s stand had emboldened many others to stand. Catholic practices had kept the Word of God from the common man. Sermons and mass were always given in Latin, even when no one in the pew spoke Latin. During the period leading up to the Reformation and the decades following, Bible translations began to be propagated in common languages so that all could read and hear God’s Word.
The Reformation became a worldwide revolution, especially in Western civilization. It was not just a church movement, but one that affected all of society. There were five particular teachings that began to define the Reformation. They are known as the “five solas” that distinguished the protesters from the Catholic Church. They are:
For decades now I have been involved in discussions about reformation vs. revival. Are they the same? How are they different? What do we need most today? Which one comes first?
My conclusion is that they are different, that either may come first, and that we need both! OneCry is all about crying out to God for revival. Maybe it would be appropriate to cry out for revival and reformation, or reformation and revival.
Reform needs to take place. We need revival. We need God’s sovereign intervention in the affairs of the church and our world. We need to cry out to God for both. My view is, work on “reforming” the church and her ways, to line up with biblical theology, philosophy, practice, etc., and pray that God would send revival.
Like in Luther’s day, we live in a time where many of the now “Protestant” Church’s practice and theology do not line up with biblical practice and theology. We desperately need the Holy Spirit to blow upon the church and on our land.
Andrew Murray captures this burden in his book Absolute Surrender:
Do not let us think, because the blessed Reformation restored the great doctrine of justification by faith, that the power of the Holy Spirit was then fully restored. If it is our belief that if God is going to have mercy on His Church in these last ages, it will be because the doctrine and the truth about the Holy Spirit will not only be studied, but sought after with a whole heart. It is not only because that truth will be sought after, but because ministers and congregations will be found bowing before God in deep abasement with one cry: “We have grieved God’s Spirit. We have tried to be Christian churches with as little as possible of God’s Spirit. We have not sought to be churches filled with the Holy Spirit.”
So let us press on in obeying Him, seeking Him, loving Him, and crying out to Him! May this be one cry from all of us.