Reformation Day!

It is Reformation Day again, and we should be reminded of God’s graciousness in reviving His church in the past so that we might be encouraged to pray for Him to do it again! 488 years ago on this day a typical act by an obscure German monk was used by God to stir into motion the Protestant Reformation, in my opinion the greatest revival since Pentecost. This reformation centered on the rediscovery of the Gospel. Of course it resulted in a renewed understanding of the church, Christian living, etc. but it all started with a renewed grasp of the biblical gospel.

We need such a renewal today. There is much confusion in the church today over what the gospel truly is. This can be seen even in our language. Rather than “gospel” we more regularly hear of “the plan of salvation.” Surely the phrase can be used appropriately, but why has it largely replaced “gospel.” It too easily suggests a mechanistic approach which is really only directed at the unconverted. In contrast the Gospel is not simply a plan but a proclamation of news- what God has done in Christ- and is both the power of God unto salvation and the basis for living the new life which is to be found in Christ.

I hope to write more on the language we use for the gospel, but my point here is that we need to make sure we (and our people) grasp well the basic truths of the gospel. We need to see that we must understand the bad news of our condition in sin before we will ever see the gospel as good news. We need to understand what problem the gospel claims to address- is it the need for self-esteem, the answer for loneliness, the answer for family trouble, or is it something deeper? And we need to understand how the cross stands at the center of this proclamation. How does the crucifixion of Jesus make the forgiveness of sins possible? Far too many evangelistic presentations around today “work” without any reference to the cross.

Romans 3 addresses all these issues. Perhaps this is why Luther himself referred to this passage as “the chief point, and the very central place of the Epistle, and of the whole Bible.” Here is a link to my attempt to preach this passage on a previous Reformation Sunday with these concerns in mind (scroll down to the sermon on Romans 3).

(Picture: Courtesy Wartburg Foundation, Eisenach / Gotha Druck, Wechmar)

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