Martin Luther started a movement. He and all the Reformers knew that the church needed to be in an ongoing reformation. They taught that the church had to be diligent to reform herself to be in accordance with the word of God. They declared that the root cause of Rome’s problem was her view of authority. The Pre-reformation church placed herself above God’s word. The church’s magisterium, her leaders placed themselves as the authority over God’s people.
The root cause of the Protestant Reformation, also referred to as the “Formal Cause” was Sola Scriptura. This Latin phrase, translated as Scripture Alone, means that God’s word, the Bible, has ultimate authority. We who are believers live under the word of God.
The pre-reformation church used its illegitimate authority to manipulate the people with guilt. Looking to Jesus’ words we know that God alone saves. He is the one to fear. Jesus is the one for whom we live.
Fundamental to the formal cause of the Reformation was what is called the material cause. The material cause was the teaching of the Scriptures that justification (God’s sovereign act of free grace) is through faith alone. Justification through faith alone or Sola Fides is the truth revealed by God that eliminates the idea that men can merit God’s favor.
The Reformation was one of the most significant events in history. Yet, the evangelical church seems to have forgotten it. The practices that we see in many churches stand against the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. Methods and programs are suggested as necessary for a “so-called” growing church.
When asked about the Protestant Reformation, most in the church respond with a blank stare. Many have been taught that the Reformation was simply an event in history.
We in the church must stand on the shoulders of the Reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Ulrich Zwingli, Thomas Cranmer and others. We know, as they taught, that the church must always be reforming herself to insure that she is living under the word of God in submission to the headship of Jesus Christ.
Lou Tiscione is pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA).