In terms of modern Reformation: We don’t need outside forces to be susceptible to error — we’re capable of misleading ourselves without help from anyone else. As long as error exists and has influence, “reformation” will be relevant for God’s people. Many Protestants today still use the word “Reformed” to identify with the tradition of historical Protestant faith and practice. But the term bears more significance and more fundamental roots than that. Christ’s church as a body is called to be continually reformed (Ephesians 5:26-27), just as the body’s individual members are called to be continually reformed (Romans 12:2). The fact is, no living person is fully “Reformed” no matter what communion he belongs to — true church, cult system, or apostate church — and the only standard by which to measure how “Reformed” we are is the Ultimate Standard — Christ Himself (II Corinthians 10:12, Philippians 3:14). Like the burning bush that miraculously maintained in the midst of Moses (Exodus 3), God’s people are perpetually refined in His fiery presence, yet never consumed.
Sola gratia, sola fide, solus christus, sola scriptura, soli deo gloria — salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone — is just as pertinent now as it was when it encapsulated the Protestant Reformation. This formula is crucial — literally, the crux — for the newest convert as well as the most seasoned saint. In 1674, during the Dutch Second Reformation, Jodocus van Lodenstein probably coined the phrase ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda — “the church reformed and always reforming.” Some time later, the phrase secundum verbum dei, “according to the Word of God,” was appended to make the statement more clear. The final phrase is, “The church reformed and always being reformed according to the Word of God.” Throughout the ages, God’s people continue to be re-oriented to these basic truths, because the gospel that saved us is the same gospel that must preserve us until the end.
According to statistical research published in 2014 by Ligonier Ministries, evangelical Christians lack solidarity on some fundamental aspects of the Christian faith, such as the presence of sin in humanity, the existence of heaven and hell, and pluralism. Review the research summary and detailed report at www.ligonier.org/thestateoftheology.
“It’s easy for us to get stuck in the 16th century and celebrate the Reformation,” the Rev. Burk Parsons remarked on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014, while teaching at St. Andrew’s Chapel. “But we must remember that the Reformation itself is a celebration of nothing other than the gospel of grace that saved us … the 16th century should only serve to point us to the 1st century … If we were to in our own strength confide, our striving would indeed be losing. We have the right man on our side. Bend your knee to Christ, for He is your only right standing before God.”
Elsewhere, Parsons has written, “At the time of the Reformation, the word sola became a necessary qualifier in order to guard the simple truths that Scripture is our only infallible authority for faith and life, and that we are justified, or declared righteous, by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, and all for the glory of God alone. And, make no mistake, we are not justified by believing the solas but by believing in Christ, and we guard these solas not merely for the sake of an event that took place five hundred years ago in Europe, but for the sake of the event that took place two thousand years ago on a hill outside Jerusalem.” (Tabletalk, Nov. 2012, pg. 2)