October 2021

October 2021

The Reformation: A Blessing to the Whole Christian Church on Earth

I sometimes think about what the world might have been like if the United States had never been founded. There had been successful republics before, such as Ancient Rome (until Caesar Augustus), the Netherlands, Switzerland, and some small city-states, but none on a scale anything like what our Founding Fathers crafted at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Our successful experiment in ordered liberty through representative government, with no need for a hereditary monarchy, proved extremely influential. Even countries that did not adopt our republican form of government nevertheless shifted toward greater liberty and stronger representation for their people. By its very existence, the United States has brought the blessings of liberty to many throughout the world.

I believe something similar has happened through the Lutheran Reformation. Martin Luther, because he was excommunicated early on, failed to bring change directly to the Roman Catholic Church. He had no immediate impact on the Eastern Orthodox Church at all. Luther himself was directly responsible only for the founding and early development of the Lutheran Church. But the movement he started soon spread to other regions of Europe, resulting in the founding of many Protestant churches. The impact of Luther’s Reformation can be felt among Anglicans and Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Dutch Reformed, Baptists and Methodists, and the whole host of Protestant denominations that, in one form or another, strive to draw their teaching and practice from Holy Scripture rather than from the Pope or an authoritative hierarchy.

Nor is Luther’s impact limited to Protestantism. As a result of the Reformation, even the Roman Catholic Church has had to reevaluate its teachings and practices. Thanks to Luther’s efforts, there are many Catholics today who have a much greater knowledge of Holy Scripture than they would otherwise have had. Though the Roman Catholic Church still teaches much that is contrary to Holy Scripture, they have experienced much beneficial change as a result of the Reformation.

The Reformation has even impacted the Eastern Orthodox Church for the better. By being faced with the claims of the Lutheran Church, together with those of other Protestants, the Orthodox have themselves experienced a renaissance of biblical study and a renewed focus on the primacy of Jesus. They haven’t become Lutheran, or anything like it, to be sure, but they have benefited from their interactions with our churches.

In short, the Reformation has brought Jesus Christ and the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to the fore throughout the whole Christian Church on earth.

What would the world be like if there had been no Reformation? I can hardly imagine it. The Pope’s authority and control would be unchallenged in the West. The Scriptures would lie largely unstudied by most. Superstition and works righteousness would reign supreme throughout western Christendom. The grace of God in Jesus Christ would be heavily obscured by the doctrines and traditions of men. Those who awoke to the grave errors of Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy would have nowhere else to turn. The Holy Spirit would still have found a way to nurture living, saving faith within His Church, but by and large, God’s people would still be in bondage.

What blessedness we enjoy, therefore, as a result of the Reformation! Not only we Lutherans, but every Christian in the world can find some significant ways that he has been blessed through what took place surrounding the events of October 31, 1517. May we live in daily gratitude for what God has accomplished for us through the Reformation.

God's Blessings to All!

Pastor Neuendorf