Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester. Crossway. 224 pages. 2016
The authors write that at the heart the Reformation was a dispute about how we know God and how we can be right with him. Our eternal future was at stake, a choice between heaven and hell. For the Reformers there was no need more pressing than assurance in the face of divine judgment, and there was no act more loving than to proclaim a message of grace that granted eternal life to those who responded with faith. Though many will tell you that the Reformation doesn’t matter or even was a bad idea, the authors tell us otherwise. They state that the Reformation still matters because eternal life still matters. In addition, the Reformation still matters because the debates between Catholics and Protestants have not gone away.
The authors outline some key emphases of the Reformation and explore their contemporary relevance. Subjects covered by the authors include the sacraments, the preaching of the Word, sin, grace, the cross, union with Christ, the Holy Spirit, the church, vocation, Purgatory, indulgences, justification, and the authority of scripture in comparison with the authority of the church and tradition.
Throughout the book, the authors quote liberally from Reformation figures such as Calvin and Luther. They conclude by stating that the only way the Reformation could possibly not still matter would be if beauty, goodness, truth, joy, and human flourishing no longer mattered.
30 Great Quotes from Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester
- We are declared righteous not on the basis of a future gradual process of healing, but on the basis of the finished work of Christ. Justification, then, is not about God making us righteous, but declaring us righteous.
- Nothing matters more than justification by Christ alone through faith alone.
- Justification is not simply a doctrine to demarcate the true church. Nor is it merely a doctrine to be preached to unbelievers. It is the source of comfort and hope in the midst of the struggles of life.
- Scripture alone is our ultimate authority. And in particular it is the supreme authority, in contrast to the authority of the church and its traditions.
- The Reformers said that the voice of God in the Word of God is a sign of his presence.
- In the sacraments we experience the presence of Christ through eating and drinking. Through preaching we experience the presence of Christ through speaking and listening.
- We come to the preaching of the Word as those who need to hear Christ’s voice and encounter his presence.
- Only if I see my plight is so bad that I cannot fix it myself will I find true freedom in Christ, for only then will I stop depending on myself and depend on him.
- The Reformation’s radical view of sin is why we sinners must throw ourselves on God’s grace alone.
- There is no such “thing” as grace; there is only Christ, who is the blessing of God freely given to us.
- Salvation by grace alone is simply another way of saying salvation by Christ alone.
- The theology of the cross stems from Luther’s understanding of righteousness and justification. Luther’s great realization was that God justified sinners. God declares to be just those who are unjust.
- The message we proclaim—the message of Christ crucified—is foolishness and weakness in the sight of the world.
- As far as Calvin saw it, then, there can be no gospel without union with Christ.
- For Calvin and the mainstream Reformers union with Christ was the radical solution we need, given the radical problem of sin.
- But it is good for us to ponder our union with Christ regularly and often. For all too easily I forget that Christ has become my identity, and I think I am what I do.
- The Reformers’ view of the Spirit really permeated everything they fought for. If he is the giver of life, then salvation must be by grace alone. If he, the Spirit of adoption, freely unites us to Christ, salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone—and must be about knowing God with the security of the Son.
- In fact Calvin showed that the Spirit even keeps us from placing any other authority over that of Scripture, so protecting the principle of Scripture alone.
- The Reformers did not agree on everything. And the sacraments were the issue on which they disagreed most.
- It is helpful to think of the sacraments as embodied promises. Their validity lies in the One who makes the promises.
- Initially the Reformers simply wanted to reform the church. They had no intention of founding a new one.
- The invisible church consists of all true Christians. The visible church is the institution on earth and its congregations. The visible church includes both true believers and false.
- The word “calling” or “vocation” was used in the medieval period to describe religious orders and sacred ministry. Luther took the term and reapplied it to the activity of all Christians in whatever context they found themselves.
- In response to God’s Word, Christians see their station as a calling from God. We understand our station to be a call from God to glorify him and serve others. What transforms a station into a calling is faith. By faith we see our daily activities as tasks given to us by God to be done for his glory and for the common good.
- Luther would not have understood the language of “finding your calling.” Your calling is not mysterious or difficult to discern. It is the current circumstances of your life. If you are a mother, then it is being a mother. If you are an office worker, then it is being an office worker. There is a freedom to change, but there is not a mysterious word from God waiting to be discovered to mandate your change. Your responsibility is to serve your neighbor in your current context.
- Identity is found not in success at work; it is given to us in Christ by grace. If we think of calling without God, then work itself becomes an idol or a means of self-justification.
- Luther’s doctrine of vocation placed the work of God firmly in the ordinary. Through our vocation God is revealed even in mundane activities.
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church still affirms belief in purgatory and indulgences. Indeed, when Pope Benedict XVI wrote about the last things, he gave more pages to considering purgatory than to heaven and hell combined.
- To the Reformers purgatory quickly came to symbolize all that was wrong with the Roman Catholic view of salvation.
- Calvin’s logic is simple: purgatory strips Christ of his glory as a merciful and fully sufficient Savior; it also destroys any confident joy in us. No joy, no glory: purgatory went entirely against the grain of Reformation thought, which cared so passionately about those twin prizes.
- Belief in purgatory brings sadness and discomfort. Reformation thought, on the other hand, always sees joy found in the glory of God.