October 2017 is a month of great gratitude for LMPC. Recently, we celebrated our 125th birthday as a church. In coming days, we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
The two celebrations coalesced for me as I remembered what Dr. George Long, beloved pastor of LMPC from 1964-86, wrote in the front of his Bible: “This book has kept me from being lost. May I never, in any sense, lose it.”
When Scripture is neglected or placed on equal footing with tradition or cultural expectation, we lose it. In essence, the Protestant Reformation, led by Martin Luther, kept us from being lost by re-establishing the primacy of Scripture in the church. At the trial before the church authorities in 1521, Luther was asked, “Will you renounce what you have written?” In response to the question, Luther responded, “Unless I am persuaded by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, then I will not recant because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do nothing else. God help me. Amen.”
Change for change’s sake without reference to the authority of Scripture will leave us lost.”
We too can do nothing else in our own day but submit to Scripture’s prevailing authority in the church and in our lives. Oftentimes, in reference to the Reformation’s legacy, I hear people say that we should be ‘always reforming’ based upon the Latin phrase semper reformanda. To that, I say an emphatic no. What a sad paraphrase of the full Latin phrase that calls us to live out the Reformation in our own day–ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbi Dei. This means “the church is Reformed and always [in need of] being reformed according to the Word of God.”
Change for change’s sake without reference to the authority of Scripture will leave us lost. This is certainly the temptation of our day. We are pressured to change in light of powerful cultural movements and secular progressivism. As the Reformers would attest, standing underneath the authority of Scripture will come at a cost, but it is our only path to life. As Peter replied to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
In order to save ourselves from the poverty and pity of the kingdom of self, let us always reform our thoughts, words, and deeds according to the Word of God. Everything must submit to the truth of Scripture. Thankfully, three significant changes – the Reformation’s doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, the providential development of the printing press, and the translation work of John Wycliffe – all placed the beloved Scriptures in our hands.
In dependence on God’s Spirit and together in the church, let us not lose the Scriptures in the days ahead. Perhaps, then and only then, a new Reformation may come into our world. For as Peter writes in his second letter: “We have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”