Reformation Day is not only celebrated here in the United States by a number of evangelical denominations, it is also an official holiday in parts of Germany and a couple other countries around the world.
In today’s post, I’d like to focus on a theme that particularly relates to the Protestant Reformation. That theme is captured by the Latin phrase, sola Scriptura. It is expressed in the familiar words of Hebrews 4:12.
Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Because it is empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is a living Book. It actively convicts the human heart, as it pierces to the innermost depths of who we are. It is like a sword—the “sword of the Spirit” as Paul calls it in Ephesians 6:17 — a precise implement in the hands of its divine Author. And when it goes forth it will not return void, for God Himself energizes and empowers it.
The truth of that verse was vividly put on display during the Protestant Reformation — that seismic eruption of spiritual revival that shook Roman Catholicism to its core, causing the collapse of a corrupt religious system and permanently altering the course of Western church history.
We are familiar with the great heroes of the Reformation. Names like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and William Tyndale. And if space permitted, we could review some of the amazing stories from the lives of each of those men — like Luther meeting his wife Katie by smuggling her out of a nunnery in a fish barrel; or Calvin nearly getting run through with a sword on a Sunday morning because he refused to let an excommunicated man partake in the Lord’s Table; or Knox serving for two years as a slave on a French galley ship; or Tyndale being burnt at the stake by Henry VIII after translating the New Testament into English.
In fact, one of the reasons I love teaching church history is that I essentially get paid to tell stories — great stories, powerful accounts about the lives of courageous and faithful men and women who were mightily used by God to accomplish incredible things.
But, as I remind my students, it is important for us to recognize that the ultimate credit for the Reformation does not belong to those men. It was not their courage, cleverness, or creativity that brought revival to Western Europe in the sixteenth century. The Reformation was not the result of any church growth strategies, ingenious marketing schemes, or seeker-driven fads. Not at all.
So what caused the Reformation?
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