Monday, October 31, 2022

Remembering Reformation (Psalm 120)

"Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue" (Ps. 120:2).

Though Halloween sadly has eclipsed the celebration of “Reformation Day,” some Protestants still remember. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther gathered his 95 theses, like David’s pebbles before Goliath, and posted them against various doctrines of the Catholic Church. While this does not strictly mark the beginning of the Reformation, it did commence Luther’s struggle to free the church from heretical doctrine. Along with and after Luther a number of Reformers carried forth the banner of Reformation in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

Psalm 120 would have been a frequent refrain on the lips of the Reformers. Their battle had ramifications not only on the lives of people but on their souls. The crux of the Reformation was the truth of the Gospel, the proclamation of justification by faith alone. While the Catholic Church affirmed that we must be justified by faith, it refused to acknowledge that it is by faith alone. It added works in the process of justification, calling anyone who opposed its doctrine antinomian and heretical. Yet the Reformers remained resolute in the face of death and false accusations. The debate was not just simple hair splitting, it sprung from opposed views on the very essence of salvation.

Calvin, facing accusations from Rome for allegiance to the Reformation cause, wrote on Psalm 120, “scarcely a more distressing evil can befall the people of God, than for them to be placed in circumstances which, notwithstanding their living a holy and inoffensive life, they yet cannot escape the calumnies of venomous tongues.… At the present day, in the Church of Rome, religion is dishonored by all manner of disgraceful imputations, faith torn in pieces, light turned into darkness, and the majesty of God exposed to the grossest mockeries, it will certainly be impossible for those who have any feeling of true piety within them to live in the midst of such pollutions without great anguish of spirit.”

The Reformers longed for the church to be reformed, not overthrown. Like David, they must have often felt like outcasts in a foreign land. Yet their legacy lives on and their work remembered on this day as we thank God for the Protestant Reformation.

Read Romans 3 and 4. What does this passage say about justification by faith alone? Are works involved at all in justification? How was Abraham justified? Why can the doctrine of justification by faith alone not be compromised? In your own words (yet biblical), what is the Good News of Christ?