The 16th Century Reformation began with one man, Dr. Martin Luther, whom God raised to counter the mighty medieval Church of Rome. In his 95 theses which he nailed to the Wittenberg Church door on 31st October 1517, Luther exposed the Church’s heresies with regard to salvation, worship, the sacraments and the government of the church. On this historic date, Christians true to their faith emerged from the darkness of pagan Rome.
This great revival came at a time of massive upheavals and theological declension in Europe. In the Roman Church, idolatrous practices and man-made traditions (the worship of relics and saints, penance, and prayers for the dead) were placed above the Bible. The priesthood was corrupt and perverted. One of the Church’s biggest money spinners was the sale of indulgences which permitted people to buy their way into heaven. It was this erroneous doctrine that precipitated the Protestant Reformation of 1517.
History often repeats itself. The Bible warns us about perilous times when many shall depart from the faith: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (I Tim. 4: 1).
Today, the Bible is set aside as many openly tolerate doctrinal errors. Churches are encouraged to seek signs, wonders, dreams and visions. Taking the easy road of ecumenical unity, church leaders replace the sound teachings of Holy Scripture with “scholarly” textual criticisms, liberal theology and rationalistic thinking, thus destroying the precious fruits of the Reformation.
As Bible Presbyterians, we stand against every work of darkness and all unbiblical teachings. How do we persevere in the faith and keep ourselves from being swept away by the swelling tide of apostasy and ecclesiastical compromise?
1. Remember our godly heritage
We must remember the significant contributions of the Reformation towards our faith, and the great men of God who suffered and perished in the defence of the faith.
We owe to the Reformation, our rich and sound Biblical heritage. By God’s grace, the Reformation torch had been passed on to the Bible-Presbyterian Church in Singapore. Sounding the alarm today – in the same vein as our 16th Century forebears – are godly men of courage in the fundamental Bible-believing movement called the 20th/21st Century Reformation.
Liberalism, modernism, ecumenism and Charismatism have infiltrated our mainstream denominations. In many churches, there is but a mere form of Christianity. But God has raised His faithful servants to withstand the influx of compromise and apostasy in Christendom today. Let us therefore not forsake our Bible-Presbyterian heritage, but call to remembrance what our forebears have gone through in their battle for the truth.
2. Know God’s Word
We thank God for the restoration of His truths through the Reformers. John Calvin, the French Reformer, aptly comments: “… the Lord, when he gave us the Scriptures, did not intend either to gratify our curiosity, or to encourage ostentation, or to give occasion for chatting and talking, but to do us good; and, therefore, the right use of Scripture must always tend to what is profitable. … The most valuable knowledge, therefore, is ‘faith in Christ’. Next follows instruction for regulating the life, to which are added the excitements of exhortations and reproofs. Thus he who knows how to use the Scriptures properly, is in want of nothing for salvation, or for a holy life.”
There are blessings for the diligent students of the Scriptures. The apostle Paul adds that “Scripture … is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim 3: 16-17). Like the Reformers, let us resolve to study God’s Word and immerse ourselves in its precious truths: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim 2: 15).
3. Hold fast to God’s Word
Our valiant reformers sealed the glorious truths of God with their lives. These fearless servants of God upheld the Bible as the sole authority of faith and practice. They believed that the Bible was above human traditions and church councils. Let us therefore heed the cry of the Reformers – “Sola Scriptura” (“by Scriptures alone”). Like them, let us faithfully proclaim, “Thus saith the Lord” not only in our pulpits, but also in the conduct of our daily lives.
Martin Luther, understood clearly that God required His people to believe and to obey His Word alone: “Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom 3: 4). In his famous speech before the Diet of Worms in 1521 – when he was told to recant his teachings and writings – the German Reformer boldly proclaimed his stand: “… my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.”
In these last days of religious deception, it is important for God’s people to equip themselves with His truths. We must know well the main tenets of our faith that we might “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Pet. 3: 15).
We thank God for the precious fruits of the Reformation. Let us not take lightly the great work which the Reformers wrought for the cause of Christ. May their patience, courage and perseverance encourage us to hold fast to God’s Word and to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). May we abide faithful till Jesus returns for us.