Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Ecclessia Reformata et Semper Reformanda

Those words are the Latin phrase for "The Church reformed and always reforming." It was a motto that came out of the Protestant Reformation. Many however, have forgotten that it is one of the most important principles that the Reformers taught.

In the 1500s, the Church of Rome had become corrupt and filled with all error. The decrees of the Council of Orange, that set down the fact that sinners were utterly dependent on God for His grace and their salvation, had been ignored in favor of a Pelagian like doctrine of man and God cooperating together through the sacraments of the Church to bring men into a right relationship with God. Priests and monks, oftentimes, could not write or read and so had little access to the Bible and any type of Bible scholarship. Therefore they taught what seemed right and good to them. Because of this, error and superstition was rampant in the Church. Beyond all this, the Roman Church had subjugated kings and princes from every nation so that each paid homage to Rome. Therefore the Roman pontiff ruled the world through the Church and was drunk on wealth and political power.

Into this mix came one man with a tormented soul who was looking for the way that a condemned sinner could be made right with God. Martin Luther said that when he saw the truth of Romans 1:17 "The just shall live by faith ..." it was like light from heaven had pierced his soul. He saw the great Bible truth that salvation was by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. When he realized that the indulgence preachers were, in effect, selling salvation, he challenged them to show their practices were legitimate according to the Bible. Luther understood that men are sinful and corrupt and therefore we need a source and standard of truth that does not come from men. We need one from God Himself. And we have it, in the Bible. Thus Luther was able to say once, "If a man would hear the voice of God, let him read scripture." At the Diet of Worms (pronounced Dee+eet of Vorms) he confessed "My conscience of captive to the Word of God."

Luther and the Reformers who came after him began a movement of "protest" against the system of the Roman Church. They wanted to re-form the Church under a biblical authority instead of the Popes. Thus came the doctrine of sola scriptura, that nothing is binding on the beliefs or life of a Christian unless it can be plainly proven from scripture. When Rome countered this reform movement and condemned it at the Council of Trent, a breach or schism occurred with the Protesters leaving the Roman Church and taking the gospel of justification by faith alone in Christ alone as the banner of their movement. They began to move the Church under the authority of Jesus as He has given us His word through inspired writers in scripture.

But the Reformers knew that the work of reform is never finished. It is not enough to begin, but the work is always ongoing. Men, in their depravity, will corrupt everything they touch. So, everything, and I mean everything, has to be tested against the standard of truth, the Bible. Every doctrine and every practice had to be tested (and still has to be tested) to see if it conforms to what the scripture requires. That is part of what it means to be a "people of the Book."

But the work of testing every belief and practice against the Bible is impossible if people do not know what the Bible teaches. This is where we find ourselves today. There has never been a time in America when so much of the population is so biblically illiterate. I laughed when I read of school students who thought that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. But the statement is more tragic than funny. The other part of being a people of the Book is that we have to be students of the Book. John Bunyan was a prince among puritans. It was said of him that if you were to prick him anywhere, he would bleed "bibline." He would bleed Bible. I wish that could be said about us today.

The Reformers brought a high view of the Bible back into the Church. They gave us expository preaching and verse by verse expositions of scripture. They taught us the deep things of Christ. They reformed the Church back closer to a New Testament model. But the work they started must be continued by us today. They have passed the baton of reformation to us and we need to wonder what kind of Church our children and their children will have (if the Lord tarries) if we are careless and drop the baton of reform.

Beloved, take up your Bible. Read your Bible. Love your Bible. Learn your Bible. Live your Bible. Test every thought, action, doctrine, teacher, preacher, and leader against the standards of scripture. Let us stand with Luther and confess to all "Our consciences are captive to the word of God!" so that one day it might be truly said of us that if we were to be pricked, we too would bleed Bible. Let us go forward bringing every part of ourselves and our churches under the authority of scripture so that we can become living embodiments of the motto "Ecclessia reformata et semper reformanda" "The Church reformed and always reforming." Amen?

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