The church has fought for justification by faith, and we should fight for verification by love. Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Catholic Church. He was foundational in the development of the doctrine of justification by faith. He along with other sought to reform the church with the Word of God.
The Word of God Luther stood for states God’s people will be identified by their love for one another (John 13:35). Where were Maritn Luther and John Chrysostom’s love for the Jewish believers? Where was the love for Jonathan Edward’s Christian slaves? Where was James P. Boyce’s love for believers who were people of color? We would agree that these monumental figures in Christian history had faith and hope. However, they were lacking in the most vital characteristic, which is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Jodocus van Lodenstein first mentioned this phrase 157 years after Luther’s 95 theses in a devotional. It means the church is “always [in need of] being reformed” (Horton, M., 2009). He is not encouraging the church to allow the culture to dictate how the church should function. Lodenstein probably is attempting to say “since we now have a church reformed in the externals of doctrine, worship, and government, let us always be working to ensure that our hearts and lives are being reformed by the Word and Spirit of God.” Christians must guard our hearts because we are inclined to the sins of “formalism”, “indifferentism” and “conformism” (Godfrey, W., 2017).
500 Years Later
Five hundred years later the church is still in need of reform. Protestants are fully convinced we are justified by faith, but we are not known by our love for one another. We have flaws in our ecclesiology. The holy catholic church (that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places) and communion of the saints is not on display. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Beloved, we have fallen prey to formalism. We have become so concerned with traditions and it has pushed us further apart. We have made statements akin to “we would ask them to come to our church, but they just don’t worship like us.” Our minds should not be concerned about worship styles but biblical worship. Cultural preferences must submit to sola scriptura. Our love for one another should overcome our formalism, indifferentism, and conformism.
Echoes of the Past
I write this blog on the shoulders of men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Huldrych Zwingli – men who loved the church enough to call the bride of Christ to repentance. They called the church back to the word of God. Luther’s infamous quote is, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” This was his proclamation that he was standing firmly on the Word of God.
Beloved, I stand on the shoulders of these men and say repent. Repent because the church can do better and the Bible demands it. The church is too important to the world to be divided. We are the salt and light of the world. The church is brighter and saltier together. Christ has made us alive together (Ephesians 2:5). The body of Christ shouldn’t function like casual acquaintances but as a family. We have the gospel. It is not owned by a particular ethnic group, but by all of God’s people. Seek to display the catholicity of the body of Christ. Seek to be verified by the love we have for one another.
1 Corinthians 13 Kind of Love
- Love is patient and kind with white and black believers (v4)
- Love is not arrogant about which church or culture is better (v4)
- Love doesn’t rejoice in the wrongdoing of the past or present (v6)
- Love rejoices in the truth no matter what ethnic group presents it (v6)
- Love bears the burdens of minority and majority Christians.
- Love believes the best about minority and majority Christians.
- Love endures being called a liberal, bigot, losing positions, and racist. (v7)
Church, we are always in need of reform. I submit we are in need of reconciliation. Reconciliation is the way the church can be known by our love for one another. Beloved, don’t let traditions get in the way as the Catholic church did. Plant your feet firmly in the word that demands reconciliation and say like Martin Luther “Here I stand, and I can do no other.”
What Does Semper Reformanda Mean? by W. Robert Godfrey
Semper Reformanda by Michael Horton