Guest Essay by Peter Hammond
To the Ends of the Earth
Many years ago a Frontline Fellowship Mission team was approaching a remote village in Cuando Cubango province (what the Portuguese refer to as the ends of the earth) in Angola. The team heard the sound of enthusiastic singing. They immediately recognised the tune, even though they could not understand the words.
A Mighty Fortress is Our God
What they were hearing was: Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress is our God), Dr. Martin Luther’s great Battle Hymn of the Reformation in Ovimbundu. This beloved Hymn, based on Psalm 46, is one of the favourite Hymns of the Persecuted Church, and one of the most translated Hymns in history.
Celebrating the Reformation
A large banner was stretched across the road proclaiming 31 October 1517. It was Reformation Day! School children had posters and projects with hand drawings of Reformers, Dr. Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, William Tyndale and John Calvin.
Battle Cries of the Reformation
The great battle cries of the Reformation were boldly displayed: Sola Christus! Sola Scriptura! Sola Gratia! Sola Fide! Soli Deo Gloria! Christ alone is the head of the Church. Scripture alone is our authority. Salvation is by the grace of God alone. Justification is received by Faith alone. Everything is to be done for the Glory of God alone.
The Greatest Gift
These Ovimbundu believers had suffered much. Their church buildings had been destroyed by the communists. They effectively had no Bibles. What was left of the few Bibles and Hymn books that they had possessed were now in tatters. When they received the Scriptures they declared: “This is the greatest gift anyone could ever ask for! The Word of God in my own language!”
We were rebuked by the steadfast devotion of these Ovimbundu believers. Here they were, at what had been described as the ends of the earth, and they were celebrating Reformation Day. Since then we have resolved to celebrate 31 October as the birthday of all Protestant, Evangelical, Bible-Believing churches.
First Things First
The Lord Jesus taught: “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
Peace with God
It was Dr. Martin Luther’s earnest quest for peace with God, and his intensive study of the Scriptures, which led him to challenge the unethical fund raising tactics of the papacy and launch the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther’s love for the Word of God and his dedication to truth, led him to challenge the entire ecclesiastical and political authority of the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire.
Repentance Not Indulgences
On 31 October 1517, Professor Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses onto the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg. The 95 Theses begins with Repentance: “Since our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ says: Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near, He wants the whole life of a believer to be a life of Repentance.” Professor Luther maintained that no sacrament can take away our responsibility to respond to Christ’s command to true repentance, evidenced by outward change, a transformation and renewal of our entire life. Luther emphasised that it is God alone who can forgive sins and indulgences are a fraud.
Captive to the Word
Summoned before the Emperor, Martin Luther declared: “Unless I am convinced by Scripture, or by clear reasoning, that I am in error – for popes and councils have often erred and contradicted themselves – I cannot recant, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. So help me God. Amen.”
In this courageous stand Martin Luther argued for freedom of conscience based upon the authority of Scripture. From these foundational principles flowed constitutional authority: The principle of Lex Rex (The Law is King!) No one is above God’s Law. Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Everyone is under God’s Law. Sola Scriptura eroded the foundations of political and ecclesiastical totalitarianism.
Foundations for Freedom
The Protestant emphasis on the priesthood of all believers and the supreme authority of Scripture led to the concept of representative government and constitutional authority as the supreme law of the land. By emphasising the Biblical doctrine of faith as a gift of God, Martin Luther undermined the Catholic Inquisition and provided the Theological foundations for religious liberty and freedom of conscience.
A Legacy of Liberty
The social implications of this Reformation were enormous. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura led to constitutionalism. The priesthood of all believers led to the concept of representative governments. Religious liberty and freedom of conscience led to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, and all the other outworkings of political and social freedom.
There is no doubt that the Reformation in Europe during the 16th century was one of the most important epochs in the history of the world. The Reformation gave us the Bible – now freely available in our own languages. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is life-changing, history-making and nation-transforming. The Reformers’ teaching on the Depravity of Man, the Covenant and Church Government, influenced many positive political and social developments and advanced liberty throughout the Western world and beyond, establishing checks and balances, the separation of powers and constitutional authority.
Rediscover Your Reformation Roots
All of us are beneficiaries of this tremendous movement for faith and freedom. If you love liberty, you will need to re-examine the history and principles of the Reformation. Visit www.ReformationSA.org for inspirational character studies and articles on the doctrines and events which God used to transform whole nations and bring about the greatest spiritual Revivals ever known.
Resources for Reformation
A wide variety of Reformation resources including dynamic Reformation character studies, lectures and sermons on audio CD and MP3 and The Greatest Century of Reformation book, The Power of Prayer Handbook and Reforming Our Families books, are available from Christian Liberty Books. If you are in the Cape Town area, please join us for our Reformation Day Service at the Huguenot Monument in Franschhoek 12 noon, Wednesday, 31 October.
Christian Liberty Books also has inspiring Reformation films such as: Luther, Martin Luther and William Tyndale – God’s Outlaw, which you could show to your cell group, youth group, school or college.
Social Media for Spiritual Revival
If you want to transform your community, and you are praying for Revival, then contact The Reformation Society for resources you can use to inspire your family, school and congregation with examples of excellence. Please also visit the Reformation 500 Facebook page and www.ReformationSA.org website.
“Will you not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” Psalm 85:6
Evangelist and author Rev. Peter Hammond is the Founder and Director of Frontline Fellowship, the Founder and Chairman of Africa Christian Action, the Director of the Christian Action Network and the Chairman of The Reformation Society.
The original article was published on the Frontline Fellowship website.
© 2013. Used by Permission