19 Nov 2022
We have looked at the essence of the Reformation (which took place some 505 years ago). Among other things, we have noted the ‘birth of protestantism’, the affirmations of ‘by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for God’s glory alone. We also noted ‘sola Scriptura’, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
However, what may not be so well remembered is the Reformation debate: this debate was traditionally noted between Erasmus and Luther; it is actually the debate on whether the Christian message tells man how, with God’s help, he may save himself, or whether Christianity declares that it is God in Christ who saves us, and God alone; it is in fact the Reformed view versus the medieval view.
The Reformed view, one of the essentials of the Reformation, is that unless God freely works out our whole salvation, we cannot be saved at all. We are justified not on the ground of any merit of our own (for we have none) but through God’s own gift of righteousness, freely bestowed on us in virtue of Christ’s obedience and sacrifice and received through faith alone; our very faith depends not on any natural ability to trust God (again we have none) but on God’s calling – His supernatural work by the Holy Spirit of creating in us a response to the word of the gospel. In other words, God in grace gives not only righteousness but also faith to receive it; first to last, salvation is of the Lord; sinners are unable to supply either works or faith from their own natural resources.
Conviction of this understanding is especially significant currently, for the doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone’ is again under threat – the very truth of this teaching is being ‘challenged’ from various quarters – but we need not go into this at this point, but it is actually emerging aggressively in various forms.
God sincerely offers salvation to all, but all of us are so settled in our sins that we will not respond unless assisted to do so. Grace is absolutely necessary; there is no basis for God’s choice of some to eternal life other than His own sovereign will. There is nothing in the individual which persuades God to grant salvation. Understanding and appreciating this deeply as born again Christians would nurture a deep sense of gratitude and humility towards God (which leads to worship, praise and service),accompanied by perseverance in the faith, with a sure hope in God and His promises, and a certainty of our eternal future, for He is faithful and true!