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Remembering the spark that started the Reformation

Updated: Nov 21, 2019

How the Reformation started is a good reminder to us all, as we celebrate the Reformation (October 31, 1517).

Here is an excellent article by Dan Phillips on Repentance and mortifying sin, and an excellent discussion in the comment boxes, especially comments by Terry Rayburn (though I cannot tell completely where he is coming from), Dan Phillips, and Mary Elizabeth Tyler (the truth is somewhere in the middle of all that discussion; both sides make some excellent points) :

As John Owen wrote years ago:

Do you mortify;

do you make it your daily work;

be always at it while you live;

cease not a day from this work;

be killing sin or it will be killing you (p. 47, Overcoming Sin and Temptation; Crossway Books: 2006, John Owen, edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor [emphases added]) (Cited and emphasized by Dan Phillips at his article at Pyromaniacs.)

In his article, Dan links to Luther’s 95 Theses, especially the first one.

The first 3 points that Luther makes are especially good. Also, important was no. 6, 8, 27, 32, 81-82, as James Swan reminded us all earlier of the historical context and meaning of the 95 theses and that Luther was still in process at the time of posting them; but that “they got the ball rolling” toward justification by faith alone and the whole Reformation of the church.

Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences Commonly Known as The 95 Theses

by Dr. Martin Luther

1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one’s heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.

We cry out to God, as Augustine said in his Confessions several times, which is what made Pelagius angry:

“O God! “Give me the grace to obey Your commands, and command me to do what You will.!” Confessions, Book 10:29 (twice); 10:31; 10:37

Calvin and others would come a little later and write: “We are justified by faith alone, but that faith does not remain alone.” (John Calvin, The Acts of the Council of Trent, 3:152, cited in R. C. Sproul, Faith Alone, Baker Books, 1995, page 128.) See also, The Westminster Confession of Faith, On Justification, chapter 11, verse 2.

True faith in Christ alone does not stay alone, it results in change, fruit, hatred of sin, deeper levels of repentance, good works, zeal for evangelism and missions, deeper love for God and His word; constant growing and moving and active service, humility, putting to death the deeds of the flesh.