5 Pillars of Reformation Truth
David L. Brown, Ph.D. & Malcolm Watts
October 31st. What do you think of when you hear that date? If you are like nearly every American, you would answer, Halloween. Yet, Halloween is today and has been an occult sacrifice day for several millennia, at least dating back to the second century before Christ. The history and heroes of Halloween preclude it from being an appropriate day for Christians to observe. As a former witch, who came to know Christ as Savior put it, "Halloween is purely and absolutely evil, and there is nothing we can do to make it acceptable to the Lord Jesus."Having said that, I must point out another fact concerning October 31st. On October 31st, 1517 a monk and university professor named Martin Luther published his 95 Theses against the Catholic Church Dogma that asserted that a person could buy forgiveness of sins. Luthers position was, indulgences do not forgive sins! They bring a false peace to man's conscience! Salvation only comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore the just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17). He posted his 95 Theses, written in Latin, on Whittenbergs Castle Church door, challenging the Church powers that be to a debate. If you want to see Luthers 95 Theses in English the are posted on my web page located at -- ..\History\luther95.htm.
These are the words from the introductory paragraph of Luthers challenge
Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally may do so by letter. In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
He then listed the 95 propositions that would be debated. The act of posting this challenge is generally credited with starting, what is called, The Protestant Reformation. After more than 1000 years of spiritual darkness the Gospel was rediscovered and people began to experience, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the comforting reality of Christ's Salvation. Roman Catholic teachings were rejected, because it was seen that they were not the religion of Jesus Christ. The purity and strength of New Testament Christianity and the genuine Gospel was once again preached, souls were genuinely saved and lives changed. But, I should note that the battle to return to the Bible and the preaching of the Cross was not without great cost! Many, many believers proclaimed the truths of the Scripture at the cost of their lives. Multiplied thousands were imprisoned, tortured, and burned alive for the Gospel. In fact, the blood of the Christian martyrs paved the way for us. We can read the Bible, preach the Word and testify for Christ because of those who lived and died for the truth.
It seems only fit that we pay honor to the biblical truths that were rediscovered during the German and English Reformation of the 15 and 1600s. The Reformers had 5 catchphrase, slogans or mottos that indicated their return to New Testament Christianity. I have called them, The 5 Pillars of Reformation Truth.
Lets take a look at the first pillar
For hundreds of years the people had been taught the unbiblical false notion that the traditions of "the Church" (of Rome) were equal with and in fact superior to the Holy Bible. The cry of the Reformers was Sola Scriptura or The Scripture Alone. By that they meant that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were inspired by God and therefore the sole and sufficient authority in all matters of faith and practice and therefore the Scripture alone is the measure of truth. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 testifies to this truth -- "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
The written Word stands gloriously alone in its majesty. It testifies in God's name. It demands reverence, unhesitating faith in its doctrines and unfaltering obedience to its commands.
Tradition that does not line up with the word of God is to be rejected. We see this in the exchange between Christ and the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 15:2-3 "Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. 3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?"
Over and over again the Reformers rejected the teachings "Holy Mother Church, the decisions of Popes and the decrees of Councils because they went contrary to the clear teaching of the Holy Scriptures. They believed the truth of Psalms 119:160 "Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever." They knew that mans words were temporary but Gods words were eternal (Matthew 24:35 "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.") They knew it was fruitless to develop a system of worship based on the traditions of men instead of the Word of God. Matthew 15:8-9 points that out when he says, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
Sola Scriptura The Scripture alone is the sole and sufficient authority in all matters of faith and practice. In fact, it is the Scripture that God uses to effect the New Birth for we read, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." 1 Peter 1:23 The second pillar of Reformation truth is
Generally, grace is the free, unmerited favor of God. Specifically, grace is the unmerited eternal salvation of God, which comes freely to the believing sinner as a gift through the atonement of Jesus Christ. It is receiving the opposite of what we deserve. It is the free forgiveness of sin and the offer of free imputed righteousness, which was purchased by Jesus Christ. Salvation by grace means salvation is not attained or maintained by human works; rather, it is the free gift from God offered to sinners deserving of nothing but punishment, through faith in Christ's blood. This is the Gospel of the grace of Christ.
Salvation is entirely of grace. This means it is exclusively a divine work, absolutely sovereign and free, in which sinners play no part and make no contribution. Paul promotes this Bible truth in Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast."
I must remind you that God is not obliged to save anyone. No one merits or deserves salvation. Grace, and grace alone, is the cause of salvation. If by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. Romans 11:6
By grace, God chooses people to eternal life, redeems them through Jesus Christ, calls them by the Holy Spirit, justifies them by faith, adopts them into His family, and preserves them unto eternal life (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 11:5; Galatians 1:15; Titus 3:7; Ephesians 1:5-6; 2:7; Romans 5:21).
But, the scheme of salvation taught by the Church of Rome is totally contrary to the Bible teaching that salvation is by grace alone. Rome teaches the doctrine of merit, that good works do truly deserve eternal life; and whosoever believes differently is accursed. The Roman Church taught and teaches the idea that a righteous person may accumulate a surplus store of good works, over and above what is required (called, works of supererogation). These extra merits, form a treasury or fund, and can be dispensed by the Pope to less holy Roman Catholics who can then enjoy the benefits earned by others (the doctrine of indulgences)!
But the Reformers declared the truth of the Bible that -- [God] hath saved us...not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9). This is Reformation doctrine, Sola Gratia. It is explained quite well by Augustus Toplady. He said --
"The way to Heaven lies not over a toll-bridge, but over a free-bridge; even the unmerited grace of God in Christ Jesus. Grace finds us beggars but leaves us debtors." The next pillar of Reformation truth is
How can a person have access to God? Is it through the priests, departed saints, holy angels or the Virgin Mary as the Church of Rome alleges? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
Christ alone is forth in Scripture as the only mediator. The Bible says, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;" 1 Timothy 2:5 "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." John 14:6 "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Acts 4:12
Only through Christ can we have acceptance with God. He is the only way of access into God's presence and the only channel by which blessings are bestowed. Solo Christo -- By Christ Alone.
"How can a person be right with God?" The Bible and the Roman Church give us conflicting answers! The Bible says, A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:28).
Lets begin by defining the term justification. Justification means, "to declare righteous." Justification is God's declaration that those who trust Jesus Christ are perfectly righteous before Him. It is a legal concept, as when a judge gives a verdict. God is the great Judge. It is His law we have broken. Before I am saved, God declares that I am a condemned sinner. After I come to Christ, God declares that I am righteous because of what Christ did for me on Calvary. Justification is being brought into a new spiritual position before God (Romans 5:1-2).
The doctrine of justification by faith alone is the central truth of Christianity and the real test of a church's fidelity to the Gospel. When God justifies sinners, He declares them to be exempt from punishment and entitled to reward solely on the ground of what Christ has done for them (Romans 3:24; 5:9). Faith is simply the sinner's personal reliance on Christ as Savior (Ephesians 1:13).
God justifies us when, in our desperation, we flee to Christ and place our entire confidence in His substitutionary life and death. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Galatians 2:16).
Dr. Isaac Watts, the great hymn writer and preacher put it this way -
The Roman Catholic Church denies the doctrine of justification by faith. According to Roman dogma, "The instrumental cause [of justification] is the sacrament of baptism," and, "through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works..." enables people to be - "further justifled!" (From: The Decrees of the Council of Trent.)
The Reformers raised their voices in united protest against such perversion of biblical Truth. Luther's declared:
As Jonah of old declared, "Salvation is of the LORD." Jonah 2:9 The Apostle Paul wrote "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," 2 Timothy 1:9
God alone is responsible for our Salvation and therefore we should lift high the voice of adoring praise and thanksgiving, so that all the glory is given to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The entire plan of salvation as the Apostle Paul teaches is, "To the praise of the gloty of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. Hence the doxology: Unto him be gloiy in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end." Ephesians 3.21.
The Reformers rejected the Romanist doctrine that exalts the Pope, the priests and, by its doctrine of salvation by works, believers themselves. They rightly saw it as a man-centred religion, very far removed from the religion of the New Testament. The Truth rediscovered in the Reformation brought the glory back to God.
William Tyndale, the English Reformer, Bible translator and martyr, wrote in his Prologue to the Epistle to the Romans:
"We see that God only, Who, according to the Scripture, worketh all in all things, worketh a man's justifying, salvation, and health... God's mercy in promising, and Truth in fulfilling His promises, saveth us, and not we ourselves; and therefore is all laud, praise, and glory to be given unto God for His mercy and Truth, and not unto us for our merits and deservings."
May God in our day revive these great truths for which many Reformers died. And, I believe that this is what should be celebrated on October 31st, not Halloween.