Communion Presbyterian Church ARP

What's the Reason for the Reformation?

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

3:1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.  (TAKE A VOTE ON DIVISIVE)


It’s interesting to read about the Apostle Paul’s advice to Titus, who was a young pastor, and saying to him, “Have nothing to do with a divisive person!”


On Reformation Sunday, this IS the day that we celebrate all kinds of divisive people!  Martin Luther, John Knox, Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine, and the list goes on and on throughout history of people being very divisive in the church, very divisive in society.  Why would we celebrate the very people whom Paul has just warned a young pastor to avoid??


Context, my friends, we need to consider the context.  Who really is the divisive person?


Vs. 3.9 = Speaks of someone who is controversial, ie, someone who advocates teachings that are not explicit in the scriptures.  Someone who likes to emphasize peripheral teachings like the importance of genealogies, or some fascination regarding how the OT law should be observed.  These kinds of teachings devalue the more important matters with which Christians should be concerned – such as: justification, the redeeming love of God, and our response to His salvation with good works.


This conversation reminds us of the TRUE REBEL with a cause, Jesus Christ, who came to the institutions of authority in his day, and said plainly to them, Matthew 22:29 "You are WRONG because you do not know the Scriptures…


Paul was teaching Titus that a person is warped and sinful if they refuse to adhere to the Scriptures as the ultimate authority, and instead, advocate teachings not emphasized in the scriptures.


And this is why the phrase Sola Scriptura, Scriptures alone, was a rallying cry during the Reformation of the 1500’s (and in every Reformation that has happened, and will happen in the future).  It will always be a call to examine the Scriptures FIRST, and then to build a upon a tradition of interpretation from there… Find the plain sense of a passage, then consult other helps…


Now the RCC of Martin Luther’s day believed in the Scriptures; but they also had other SOURCES of authority by which to interpret what the Scriptures said, and it appeared that these alternate authorities were given preference over the scriptures.


For example, the most famous refrain asserting the primacy of the RCC church over every Christian tradition is the following question:  Which came first, the Church, or the Scriptures?


Well in every case, the church came first!  The church was around for thousands of years before Moses started writing the Torah (this is a Reformation conviction).  Abraham was a father of our faith before there was any text for him to consult!  How did Abraham develop a proper faith without any book telling him what to believe?


Ultimately, it was the grace of God which directed him, disciplined him, and persevered with him.  At times, God spoke an audible word, other times through other means of revelation – but all guided by the Holy Spirit.


In the NT, the New Covenant church was up and running for over a century before they ever received a complete NT canon.  What directed them without a NT text?  Well, The presence of the Apostles and their discipleship, the OT scriptures with the Apostles’ interpretation of it, certainly the persevering power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and finally the traditions that the Apostles established in the early church which was finally preserved in the NT canon.


Now it is here that the RCC will say, “See, you need apostolic authority to tell you what the Bible says – And that’s us, the Pope and his priests are the modern day apostles!  You just can’t let people interpret the Bible on their own – That’s how you get Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses.”


And a Reformation minded Christian says, “I’m not saying that other sources of authority are not important for informing my convictions, in fact, we embrace the earliest creeds, traditions, and interpretations of the Bible by the ancient church – all of this Christian history is not simply the sole property of the RCC!  This belongs to the historic Christian faith.


What the reformers rejected with the slogan, ‘Scripture Alone,’ was the claim that the RCC was the sole and universal decision maker on all matters of faith and practice – all the while, it could be easily determined that they had made some poor decisions for their faith and practice which could not be defended with a reliable text or tradition.


Now if the RCC simply advocated Reformation Theology, we’d all be fine!  But instead, we have to ask questions like this…


-Why are we praying to dead people? 

-Why does it take a guy living on the earth to make a dead person worthy of being prayed to in heaven?

-Why are we calling Mary the queen of Heaven?  And why should I pray to her? And who determined that she was born without sin and remained a virgin all her life?

-Why must I believe in Purgatory?  And how does my earthly money purchase people out of a spiritual place?

-Why do we take pilgrimages to, and bow before relics? 

-How come priests and nuns are not allowed to marry?

-Why is the Mass the literal re-sacrifice of Christ whereby his very flesh and blood must be re-offered every week to re-purchase my atonement?

-Why am I sinning if I miss a ‘high and holy’ feast day?

-Why am I told not to eat just prior to observing the Eucharist when the Apostle Paul tells me to do the exact opposite???

-And who in the world is Fatima, and why should I care about her visions?


Of course, these are only a FEW of the HOT button questions we protestants ask of the RCC.  And the early reformers asked the same questions -- with the desire to be faithful to what the Scriptures taught - -but these Reformers were often excoriated or excommunicated because they questioned “authority.”


But the Reformers said that they had a MOST IMPORTANT and FINAL authority – God’s word, which is timeless in its teaching and without error in what it discusses.  The Reformers knew that some interpretations of the Scripture could err; they could be too dependent upon an important person’s interpretation addressing the concerns of a specific time or place.


Now I know that today, many people say the same thing about the Bible.  That it has mistakes and was written for desert dwellers of long ago and it can’t address the issues of our world today.  But the Reformers of today say, “If you hold to that view, you’re just replacing the authority of the Bible with another authority – something like psychology, or scientism, or public polling – and of course, none of those authorities could ever be wrong!!


So the Reformation had then, and still has today the phrase, SOLO SCRIPTURA, to emphasize that we WILL be a divisive people if the Bible is not the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT authority in our lives.


Another slogan of the Reformation was Solo Gratia, or Grace Alone.


Again, the RCC church believes in being saved by grace.  But it’s a grace with a different definition.


According to the RCC, the moment you are baptized, you possess a saving grace that is equivalent to 100% righteousness.  The washing by a priest makes the convert, or the baby, 100% pure with a perfected soul and ready for heaven – no purgatory required – if they died the next moment…


The problem is…, as that convert or baby goes on, and venial sins of omission and commission mount, and if any mortal sins are present, the “grace” of Christ, which they once possessed, will be overtaken by sin.  Therefore, some kind of ‘sin cleansing’ program must be enacted so that they might be washed AGAIN, just like at their baptism.  So the RCC church provides “access” to grace through multiple sacraments, indulgences, penance, and even purgatory.  The RCC is the mediator of Christ’s grace – but that grace MUST be accessed by taking a step of action in order to appropriate the needed grace.


The Reformers said, “How is this grace?  When you have to work to achieve it?  Grace is God’s unmerited favor whereby He pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous apart from anything we do.”


4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy


This Reformation truth, articulating the fact that we are saved by grace, must be constantly affirmed in our day.  Surveys of Evangelicals today say that they are saved BECAUSE they do good thing.  Most Evangelicals today state that people will go to heaven if they live good lives. 


And although those are gracious sentiments, it destroys the foundation of the gospel – that your works are more important in saving you than the works of Jesus Christ! 


And as I’ve stated before, the Reformers were very keen to recognize that this grace is so much the work of God, through the person of Christ, applied by the Holy Spirit, that they embraced this grace as an “electing grace.”  This means that not even our sincere and heartfelt prayers of repentance, or our “accepting of Jesus,” brings to us this grace – it is all the action of a gracious God who saves a people who had nothing to offer God but their sin and resistance!


But he transforms them so that they willingly confess their sin and admit their need of a savior – confess all the while, that it was GRACE ALONE, and nothing in them, that changed their hearts to love and follow Jesus Christ.


Closely related to Grace Alone is the concept of being saved, Sola Fide, by FAITH ALONE.  Being saved by faith alone is the response to God’s grace.  The believer rests on the content of the Gospel instead of trusting in their own works to earn their salvation.


The RCC church knows that faith is important, we are saved by grace through faith after all!  But again – and I’m going to go right to the heart of the matter – the faith they advocate is a faith which says, “Certainty of salvation, assurance of salvation, is not permitted for the believer, because we can never be absolutely certain that we have fully confessed, or accessed 100% of the saving grace required prior to death.”  This is why Last Rights (or whatever they call it now) are important! This is why Purgatory is essential in the RCC, because no one can know absolutely that a person has Justifying faith – each member of the RCC church, is therefore, very dependent upon the grace and teaching of the RCC!  Once you go around telling people that they are absolutely justified by their own faith – then who would need the church anymore?  Or the saints, the relics, or the Pontiff?


There is actually a very exciting unintended consequence of the RCC church requiring a place like Purgatory.  It emphasizes the high standard of righteousness that God requires for someone to come into his holy kingdom.  The RCC reasons that each of us may have repented of our sins, but there is always a part of our nature that still loves sin more than God.  We can’t enter into heaven so unmixed before God.  We must be purged not only from the debt of our sins, but we must also be purged of any latent desire to want to perform any sins – God won’t admit any person into his presence who isn’t absolutely holy as He defines it.


The Reformers said, THAT IS EXACTLY the kind of righteousness that we possess BY FAITH!  We have the favored status of righteous son of God – this is what our faith is in:  God declaring us righteous because we believe in what Christ as savior has done for sinners – even though we still sin, and may even still cherish some sin – God can declare even the wicked as righteous, if, while being wicked, you still believe that your only hope is the imputed righteousness of Christ -  that is what our faith is in – gazing at the perfections, sacrifice, and victory of Christ – and not in any process that must take place in us in order to pass the mark of purity!


We are saved by FAITH ALONE, and that faith is in the finished work of Christ, and in his promises to save those who repent and believe.  NOT in our adding to the gospel story.


3.7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. . 8 The saying is trustworthy,…


This segues into the next slogan of the Reformation, SOLUS CHRISTUS = CHRIST ALONE.


The RCC believed in Christ Alone as well; but the Pope claimed to be the living representative of Christ on earth.  During the time of Martin Luther, there was some grave concern over how the Popes lived and how they actually represented Christ!  The seemed to be men of wealth and privilege, far removed from the foot washing service of Jesus.


Martin Luther visited the very city where the Pope resided in Rome, and thinking he would find a holy city of religious devotion, he was saddened and perplexed by encountering a city of rampant immorality and sacrilege.  Obviously the presence of the Pope in a holy city was not leading to a transformation of the population.


This led the Reformers to reject the special religious class of priests as being the only mediators of grace and absolution for the church.  The Church was not the voice of Christ to the people; it was Christ himself speaking in the scriptures to the hearts of his people.


Closely related to this point is the unique place that Jesus holds in respect to his saving work.  There is no other savior that meets, matches, and exceeds the need for sinners who must be reconciled to God.  Jesus Christ, his divinity and humanity is at the core of the Gospel, and we must never trust in the name or position of any other – it is always in CHRIST ALONE


Savior Jesus Christ, 2.14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.


The final slogan of the Reformation was SOLI DEO GLORIA, to GOD ALONE BE GLORY. 


During the Reformation, there was some question as to who was really being glorified by the work of the church.  Was it the leadership, was it the buildings, was it the individual who thought to themselves, “I sure hope someone notices how much I do for God!”


All of our life is to be lived to bring glory to the one who truly deserves it – the God who created and sustains this universe by the power and might of his will.  There is nothing more humbling than to realize that God alone accomplishes His purposes for His own glory – we should, and must be enamored with one priority – that God receives all the credit and praise for His attributes and plans.


2.13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,


Heaven isn’t going to be about me receiving glory when I get there.  It’s about directing all of our attention upon the Lord.  This means that even today, we might need some Reforming in our churches.  We should be honest about who is really the focus of our worship services – is it entertainment, is it concentrating on a demographic group, is it in trying to please those who are most Reformed?


Our focus is upon God and His glory, as he is revealed in the Scriptures alone, where announced is the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone.

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