“More Than an Event”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…” Acts 17:6
The proclamation of the Person and Work of Christ by Paul and Silas was declared to have turned the world upside down. Likewise, the recovery of the truth of the gospel by the Reformers turned the world upside down! The Protestant Reformation was more than an event! It was God’s means to correct the teaching of the Medieval Church. The Spirit’s work of reformation is as needed today as it was in the 16th Century.
October 31, 1517 was a day that God used to change the church! An Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther was outraged that the Church in Rome was connecting salvation to giving money. As Luther studied the Bible so that he could teach it, the doctrine of justification by faith alone became clear.
God caused Luther to see that the gospel revealed the perfect righteousness of God which God imputes to a sinner. He does so only by faith alone, Romans 1:17 and 3:28. Luther said that when he understood the doctrine of Sola Fides, the first Sola, it was as if the gates of Paradise opened and he walked through.
Four more biblical doctrines were recovered from the Scriptures. They are: Sola Gratia, by Grace Alone; Solus Christus, by Christ Alone; Sola Scriptura, by Scripture Alone and Soli Deo Gloria, to God Alone be Glory. The Five Solas reflect God’s plan of redemption. The Reformers recovered these doctrines and taught them as the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”, Jude 3
The second Sola, Sola Gratia, means by grace alone. Salvation is by God’s grace alone. All men are born dead in sin. We all inherit Adam’s sin nature. Genesis 6:5 and Romans 3:10-18 declare man’s total bondage to sin. Salvation is by grace through faith, Ephesians 2:8. Even the faith that Christians profess is a gift of God’s grace. Salvation from start to finish is solely by God’s grace.
The Reformers did not invent new or novel ideas. They did not offer an alternate perspective on salvation but declared the plain truth of God’s word. The Reformation was a providential blessing from God through which the church recovered the truth.
Yet there was a main issue that concerned the great Reformers. It was authority. The Latin phrases Solus Christus and Sola Scriptura which mean respectively, by Christ Alone and by Scripture Alone, emphasize the rightful source of authority. The Reformers asked the Scriptures, “Who has supreme authority the church or God?” Of course, we would all say that God has supreme authority. The Bible reveals that God is absolutely sovereign. The Bible also reveals that Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth, Matthew 28:18. But the Reformers saw that the Church of Rome had usurped God’s authority.
To state the issue of authority clearly, Christ is the King and Head of His Church. He exercises His Kingship and Lordship through His word, the Bible. The Bible is the ultimate authority of all life and salvation.
Of course, there are many authorities over all of us. God established the church, civil government and the family. All derive their authority from God’s word. But, the Bible is the ultimate Authority and Christ is the Supreme King and Ruler. Men have a granted authority under God.
The four Solas described above reveal God’s means of redemption. Men are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone as God has revealed it by Scripture alone. The fifth Sola describes God’s purpose for redemption. Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be glory. God’s own glory is His purpose. Everything is ordained by God for His glory. Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” And, Romans 11:36, “for from Him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Life is not about us; it is all for God!
We get the name Protestant from the German Princes who protested along with Luther against the Church which sought to usurp God’s authority and keep people in bondage. The Reformers intended that the church would always reform herself in accordance with the Word of God. May she continue to do so!