The Reformation Observed

Acts 15:1–21, Ephesians 2:1–10, 2 Timothy 3:10–17

Today marks 502 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the doors of Wittenberg Castle Church. Without question, Martin Luther was a key figure in the reformation of Western Christendom. Others, too, made many of the critiques that Luther did. They did it earlier and were excommunicated or “repented”. Some believe that Martin Luther would have not been as successful without the printing press. Some also believe that without Luther, the printing press may not have been as immediately successful as it was. Be that as it may, 1 person and 1 tool changed the face of European politics and religion. One of the biggest failures of the Reformation was that, in many ways, it created an atmosphere where religion became subservient to faith, and often (sadly) colluded with the powers-that-be to do horrible wrongs.
What happened during the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1–21) was a reformation of sorts. As a result of the council, Gentiles (i.e., non-Jews) did not have to live under the rules and traditions of the Jews (mostly). What should be noticeable in this is that nowhere does is spare the Jews from following the Law or Traditions. The letter from the Council was to be sent to Gentiles. Think about that. The Gentiles were free from the weight, but the Jews were not.

Now, to be clear, this remained a tension for quite some time, and even our Messianic Jew brothers and sisters observe some of the traditions of old. Yet, even the most “rigid” Jews do not observe all the Law today (think of the ritual animal sacrifices). Much to do with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, there was a forced reformation as the Temple was gone (and the tent “made” by Moses was long gone, too).

Reformation is normal. It should also be embraced. That is not to say all reform should be accepted. All reform should be tested against the Scriptures. When Paul talks to Timothy about all of Scripture, we have to keep this in mind. Scripture is our test. Also, just because it doesn’t say it in Scripture, doesn’t mean it is good or bad. That takes discernment.

The Western Church has been in a long decline. It is becoming more noticeable now. Many people are calling for revival (which is good), but only thing of the revivals of a certain era which no longer are feasible. This is bad. For we have even put revival into a box it doesn’t fit. Revival and Reformation are essential to the long term health of the church. The church should always be reviving and reforming.

1) What do you think are essentials to the church? Can you find justification in Scripture?

2) If you found that essential and justification, what do you think about the form? Is the form truly core to the essential, or is it just a way to convey or live out the essential?

3) How do you see your church reviving itself? How do you see your church reforming itself? If you see neither or are missing one, what do you think your responsibility is?