As we celebrate Reformation Sunday, it’s an excellent time for us to remember the three great principles of the Reformation:
ONE: God’s Word of Authority – God spoke and continues to speak to us through the words of the Bible. For the Reformers, the Word of God was a living Word speaking to them in their own situation. “Sola Scriptura” or “by scripture alone” meant for the reformers that beliefs and church practice couldn’t be justified if they were other than, outside of, or apart from the Word of God as encountered in dialogue with Scripture. The Roman Church also accepted the authority of Scripture but set up alongside and equal to it the authority of Church Tradition, the decisions and writings of the Popes, and church authorities. Among members of the Roman Catholic congregations, however, the Bible was hardly ever read.
TWO: By Grace Alone – The second great principle of the Reformation was salvation by the free and undeserved grace of Jesus Christ, or “justification by faith only.” We are saved not by what we do or accomplish. We have been saved by the action of God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While the Catholic Church also believed in salvation by Christ, equal stress was laid on the merit of good works. The Reformers did not disapprove of good works but denied their value as a condition of salvation.
THREE: The Priesthood of All Believers – The third great Reformation principle argued that there was no precedent in the early church of the priest as mediator between the believer and God. This doctrine meant that there were no longer two levels of Christian: priestly and lay. As there was one gospel and one justification by faith, there was one status before God common to all men and women, clergy and laity. The Reformers held that God called all people no matter their occupation to love and serve God in the work they were called to do; as farmers, teachers, servants, pastors, etc.
How do you see these three great principles of the Reformation at work today in our own lives and in the life of our church?
Your friend and fellow Reformer,
Rev. Steve Savides