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Why the Reformation Still Matters

When your last hour comes, I won’t be with you, neither the Pope; if then you don’t know the foundation of your hope and merely say: I believe what the councils, the Pope, and our fathers believed, the devil will answer: Yes, but what if they erred? Then he has won and will drag you into hell. Therefore we must ourselves know what we believe, namely, what God has said and not what the Pope or the councils decree or say. For you dare not trust in men, but must trust in the bare Word of God.

–Martin Luther (St L. IX:1235 f.) quoted in Christian Dogmatics by Francis Pieper

If the laymen read the Scriptures, the preachers would have to study so that they would not be reproved and overcome [from Scripture by the laymen].

–Martin Luther quoted in Christian Dogmatics by Francis Pieper

October 31st is Reformation Day in our church. The founding constitution for the German Evangelical Salem Church in Scott Township (our church) says, The pastor “is to preach a Reformation service every year, either before or after October 31, when this day does not fall on a Sunday” (Article 8, paragraph 3).

Why did the founders of this church think it so important to remember the Reformation? I believe they realized the ongoing relevance of the Reformation. It is a continual temptation for some human being—a pastor, a Bible scholar, a denominational bureaucrat—to assume the place of authority in another person’s life. They do this because they assume ordinary people can’t make informed decisions. They take this very paternalistic approach in the name of being pastoral.

A calendar my mother got for me has this statement which, for me, sums it up: “Luther was a pioneer in advocating the still radical idea that people are perfectly capable of doing their own thinking and reaching their own conclusions.”

We recognize the need of informed consent when it comes to medical decisions. How much greater then the need to be informed when it comes to spiritual decisions. This means studying the Bible for ourselves and demanding that those who teach us prove their teachings by the Bible.

This is what the Reformation was all about. I believe the current system of churches in America is the logical outcome of the Reformation and that it is not a bad thing. People are reading the Bible for themselves and determining which church most closely aligns with their understanding of Scripture. This is how it should be, and this is what keeps Christianity in this country so much more vital than in Europe with its state churches receiving state support.

On this anniversary of the Reformation why not renew your commitment to Bible reading? Determine to follow the logic of the sermons to see if they’re in tune with Scripture and trust Scripture over me or anybody else.

Reformation Day Blessings to you all!

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