Lest we forget – Remembering the 1517 Reformation

Dear BPCWAians, Beginning 2013, every last Sunday of October, we commemorate the 1517 Protestant Reformation. In 2017, many churches around the world celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. But why do we continue to do this every year? Is it simply because it’s our church’s “tradition” to do so? I want to take some time to help us understand just 2 of the many reasons why it is important for us as a church to continue to keep remembering the Reformation annually.

Be reminded that God exercises His Sovereignty to protect His true church. Just a little over 1,500 years after Christ’s death, God’s church had degenerated into something that bore little resemblance to the New Testament church that He had set up. The Roman Catholic Church had become the Church, claiming to be the true Church succeeding from Apostle Peter. In the society that then was, the church dominated both the religious and cultural realm. In fact, with the teaching that there was no salvation outside of the Roman Catholic Church, even politicians often had to do obeisance to the priests. With the power that the Church wielded, it would seem like  nothing could topple them. But what is impossible with man, is always possible with God. As if mocking the very powers that exalted themselves against Him, God used a man from within the Roman Catholic Church to begin a movement that led to the Reformation. And even the very timing of the other events had already been carefully timed to set in motion the very wheels of change around the world. The Reformation could not be stopped, though the enemies tried fierce and strong to undo it. As Christ had promised, the gates of hell shall not prevail against His church (Matt 16:18). With the powers that be at that time, even Martin Luther never thought that what he did would shake the very established Church. Only God could have brought such a change, so swiftly, so broadly, so precisely. As reminded in the book of Revelation, we at BPCWA must take each step with the consciousness that we are in His Church. What we do in His Church, what decisions we make for His Church is overseen by the Alpha and Omega that upholds or extinguishes the candlesticks of His church (Rev 1). Christ can and does execute His judgement to protect His church. Individual churches can be extinguished, but God’s Truth abideth still in His Church.

Be reminded that standing for and defending the truth comes at a cost. This is an important lesson especially for today when many Protestants think that the Reformation was a mistake in the church’s history that should be erased, and are now calling for a reunification with Rome. Simply because we live in a country where Christians are generally accepted, we can become “soft”. We shy away at the slightest persecution. Situational ethics and pragmatism give us an easy way out of standing for the Truth and in God’s ways. We affirm our creeds in church… and when we are out of sight of the church and her worshippers, we will compromise our beliefs to be accepted by the world and avoid being different because of our beliefs. We live for ourselves, and flinch when we need to bear the reproach of Christ. When we look back on the Reformers,  they were intelligent men  of great learning. They could have “kept quiet” and continued to silence their own consciences and “not rock the boat”. Many could have avoided persecution and had a comfortable life instead. But they chose to make a stand for the Truth. Some would dedicate hours in diligent translations of the Bible in a time when computers were not available. Others would be brought before governments and judges. Others would pay with their lives – and even after they were dead have their enemies excavate their graves to burn their remains as a heretic. Many of “these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise” (Heb 11:39). We must remember that these ones did what they did simply out of love for God’s Truth and desire that others around them too would know the Truth. Their concerns were not just for their own and their family’s well being. Having known the truth that set them free, they were bound by a debt of gratitude so great that they would give of their lives that others too may know this Truth. Certainly, their labour in their life for God’s Truth would have been marked with a joyful entry into heaven’s portals when their work in this life was over. How firmly will we stand for the truth when it brings reproach upon ourselves? When it causes a loss to us? When there’s a painful emotional, physical or financial cost to be borne, will we waver? Is separation from false movements, and friendships with other churches that associate themselves with such movements, deemed to be “too severe”, simply because it will cost you friendships and relationships that you value more than truth?

We may remember the Reformation in our generation. But as a church, our future generations must know and remember too. The truth is not just for us to know. The truth that we hold in our hands is for us to pass on. And our children cannot pass on what they do not know. And our children will not know unless they are taught and continually reminded about it. That is why I have ensured that our primary level children going through Sunday School will also be taught about this event at their classes today. We remember the Reformation because we love our Lord and His Truth.

“for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:9).

Yours in our Lord’s service