“Happy 499th Anniversary”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed 95 statements to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany protesting the church’s collection of money for indulgences. The leadership of the church was manipulating her members to give money in order to lessen the time of loved ones in the fictional place the church called purgatory.
Eventually, the issue was seen to strike at the very character of God. The church had taken authority over God, by taking authority over His word. You may have heard the term Sola Scriptura. This Latin phrase declares that the Scriptures have ultimate authority. The English Reformer, Thomas Cranmer would write that “… it is not lawful for the church to ordain anything contrary to God’s word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another…” (Taken from the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church of England, Article 20)
We are free to believe whatever we want. But, no church calling itself Christian is free to re-define God in its own image or comfort nor to pervert His word for its own use! God has revealed Himself and one fundamental attribute of God is His sovereignty. Sovereignty means rule. When we speak of the sovereignty of God, we are referring to His absolute rule of all of His Creation. God expresses His sovereignty in His word.
Martin Luther simply recovered the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles. The church in his day had obscured the truth from her people. The critical issue of man’s inability to stand before the God who is holy, holy, holy, Isaiah 6:3, is plainly revealed throughout the Bible. Luther courageously declared before the church authorities affirming the teaching of Moses and Paul that by God’s grace alone is a man able to stand before God. God credits, imputes, perfect righteous to those whom He chooses. Therefore, God justifies a sinner through faith alone and this faith is a gift of God, Genesis 15, Romans 1, 3, 4, and Ephesians 2:8.
Because of God’s appointment of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, Cranmer and many others even before Luther, we by God’s grace can know the truth, be assured of the truth and rejoice in our union with Christ! We celebrate the Protestant Reformation because we seek to continue its legacy of ongoing reform in accordance with the word of God, having our minds illumined by the Holy Spirit.
Let me get to the heart of the matter. My salvation and yours depends upon a sovereign God. The Bible teaches that men are incapable of turning to God. All men are born spiritually dead. Only a God who is absolutely sovereign can save us. God breaks into the life of a man causing him to see the truth of life in Jesus. We do not have the ability within us to believe in God’s only begotten Son, Jesus. God must raise us from spiritual death to spiritual life. Only a sovereign God can promise that nothing will ever separate us from His love, Romans 8:38- 39.
In fact, I can’t think of anything in life that doesn’t depend upon the sovereign God. The Prophet Jeremiah was in mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem. He wrote, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” Lamentations 3:37- 38 Jeremiah declared that God ordains everything that happens!
I can hear the skeptics, “If the sovereign God ordains everything then what’s the point of doing anything?” God did not create robots. God’s sovereignty does not contradict our wills. Every single human being will do whatever he desires. God holds us accountable for what we do. But, God’s will stands above man’s will. He acts without any encumbrances. Whatever He wills is done.
God’s rule is absolute and inclusive. The fact that all men do not submit to God’s rule does not nullify it. There will come a time when God’s sovereign rule will be seen. When Jesus, the sovereign King, returns, every creature will submit to Him. Until then the visible rule of God is seen in the church, the visible kingdom of God.
So happy 499th anniversary to all who hold to the truth of God’s word which Luther et. Al. recovered for the glory of the holy and sovereign God! S D G. To God Alone Be Glory!