Reform: Doctrine to Hold? or Action to Take?

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Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” – God (Isaiah 6:8)

At the heart of the Reformation was the acceptance of Scripture as God’s word. Acceptance in the sense that it was embraced, believed, and acted upon. Martin Luther (the 16th century Protestant reformer) first experienced reformation in his own life then took this inward work, public, to the front door of the Catholic Church to right the wrongs and the abuses of this corrupt system. He is labeled a “reformer.”

I say “labeled” because this was not something Luther and the rest of the church’ patriarchs placed on themselves. More importantly, they were not called reformers or reformed based on a set of doctrinal distinctions they held. The label was conferred upon them (maybe even forced) because they did the work.

This differs drastically from the contemporary cultural context. Today, there is belief in doctrine that makes people of reformed camps, but the truth isn’t translating. More specifically, many believe what the reformers taught, but few do what the reformers did. We may spout off every theological intricacy and implication of what Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli believed, but until we put hammer and nails in hand we will never build what they erected. They gave to the church, by God’s grace, transformation.

I commend my generation on their grasps of solid Bible doctrine. It’s an amazing thing to see and hear about. People all over the world are embracing the teachings i.e. total depravity, predestination, election, particular atonement, and perseverance of the saints. That’s good! Now what?

What we need to be leery of is huddling in our own corners to pontificate about these beliefs. These doctrines must become convictions. Right is the person who stated, “You don’t hold convictions. Convictions are what hold you.” I believe this was the driving force behind the reformation. The Holy Spirit illuminated the Scriptures to His people at that time, which spawned convictions that would not allow truth to remain at the head level. The truth went to their feet it seems automatically.

To answer my questions, reform is a doctrine that we hold and it is an action we should take. Put it this way. Reform is an adjective, noun, and a verb. Reform doctrine should be embraced. After all, it’s Bible doctrine in many areas. Embracing reform doctrine identifies you with the reformed community. Therefore, reform is a noun. It is who I am, but let us not forget that reform is also a verb. It is something that must be done.

I remember sitting in seminary chapel one morning with the president of the school standing behind the pulpit admonishing us (the student body), “You claim to be reformers? Go reform something!” Safe to say all you heard was gasps and crickets. It’s easy to sit in our armchairs and read about the exploits of the reformers, get on social media, update our statuses with quotes and engage in arguments about the quotes. Trust me. I’ve regretfully been there and done that, but those who I read about didn’t do that, however.

On the contrary, they read the Scriptures, were inwardly reformed, got up from their desks, and took the truth to the to the existing establishments. They didn’t create a new establishment for those who are like-minded. The reformers had a desire to see what was already in place, change. May God grant us such a heart and passion as those whose doctrine we embrace.

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