Reformation Starts within the Soul

When I read about the Reformation I am always drawn to consider Philpot’s words. He said that the Reformation started in the soul of a sinner, in the soul of Martin Luther.

“Luther was not so much a Reformer as the Reformation; in other words, that the abuses, the errors, the burdens against which he testified by voice and pen with such amazing energy and power, were errors and burdens under which his own soul had well near sunk in despair; and that the truths which he preached with such force and feeling had been brought into his heart by the power of God, whose mighty instrument he was. Thus as error after error was opened up in his soul by the testimony of the Spirit in the word of truth and in his conscience, he denounced them in “thoughts that breathe and words that burn;” and similarly, as one blessed truth after another was revealed to his heart and applied to his soul, he declared it with voice, and pen dipped in the dew of heaven.

He did not come forth as a theologian fully furnished with a scheme of doctrines, or as a warrior armed at all points, but advanced slowly, as himself a learner, from one position to another, gradually feeling his way onward; taking up, therefore, no ground on which he had not been clearly set down, and which he could not firmly maintain from the express testimony of God.”

And how much we need to remember this; how much I need the errors in my soul to be opened up one by one by the Spirit. How much I need one blessed truth after another to be revealed to my heart and applied to my soul. How much I still need to learn.

This is the heart of the Reformation, the grace of God enlightening the eyes of sinners, and transforming them by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.

Philpot reminds us that,

“this gradual progress of his mind involved him at times in contradictions and inconsistencies, not to say mistakes and errors, which his enemies have availed themselves of to sully and tarnish one of the noblest characters, both naturally and spiritually, that the world has ever seen. It is the distinguishing feature of low, base minds to fix their eyes on the blemishes of those noble characters, whose excellencies they cannot understand for want of similar noble feelings in themselves. Any one can censure, criticize, and find fault; but any one cannot admire, value, or rightly appreciate, for to do so requires a sympathy with that which deserves admiration. Envy and jealousy may prompt the detracting remark; but humility and a genuine approval of what is excellent for its own sake will alone draw forth the admiring expression. Admiration, or what a popular writer of the present day calls “hero-worship,” should not indeed blind us to the faults of great men.”

If Reformation starts within the soul of men, then we will always be in need of a reformation until we will be glorified.

Philpot closes his article by encouraging his readers to read three books:

1. The Book of Providence; and this he reads to good purpose, when he sees written down line by line the providential dealings of God with him, and a ray of Divine light gilds every line.

2. The Word of God; and this he reads to profit, when the blessed Spirit applies it with power to his soul.

3. The Book of his own heart; and this he studies with advantage, when he reads in the new man of grace the blessed dealings of God with his soul, and in the old man of sin and death, enough to fill him with shame and confusion of face, and make him loathe and abhor himself in dust and ashes.

As we remember and take time to commemorate the Reformation, let us take time to see within our own hearts and see where is it that we need a reformation.


More on the Reformation:

Recovering Reformation Day
A Singing Faith: The Reformation and Music
Abandon the Reformation, Abandon the Gospel

>The Holiness of God – Chapter Five-


Chapter Five. The Insanity of Luther
“Let God be God”
Martin Luther

I really enjoyed this chapter in which Dr. Sproul takes us to Germany, where the seems-insane-monk, Martin  Luther, lived.

Are we surprised that people call us seem-insane-Christians today? We should not. The world abhors those who pursue the Holiness of God. And I have learned through this book that if we are to call ourselves Christians, we should, then, long to pursue God’s holiness.

Isaiah, Peter, the disciples, Martin Luther, all started their journey to heaven at the same place: on their knees before a Holy God.

Today so many are being deceived by the teachings of men; now it seems that you don’t have to be undone before the Holy One to start your journey to heaven; it seems that you all need to do is try to do your best, just as the rich man that approached Jesus.

“And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” Luke 18:12-24

He thought he could come whenever he wanted, standing on his own merits, before the Holy One. Little he knew. I like the way Sproul says it:

“Imagine the arrogance or the ignorance of the man”

But there is always, at least, “one thing” that impedes us to approach the Holy One.

“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.” Luke 18: 22- 24

I want to examine my heart, how do I approach the Holy One? How do I come before Him? Yes, I know, I am a Reformed Christian, I love doctrine, the Five Solas, and TULIP, but truly, how do I approach God? I am proud that I am not walking as others, “enjoying the bliss of ignorance”?

Dr. Sproul compares the response of this rich man with Luther’s response  like this:

“When Jesus met another young man centuries later, He did not have to go through an elaborate object lesson to help the man understand his sin. He never said to Luther, “One thing you lack.” Luther already knew he the demands of a pure holy God, and it was driving him crazy”

We don’t need to go crazy, but we certainly need to be undone.

Isn’t this the right place to start?

Read what other have to say about this great chapter at Challies, where we are Reading the Classics Together.

Today I am thankful for the Reformation in History and the reformation in my own history; without it, I would be walking today away from Jesus, deceived by my own acts of “righteousness”.

The Holiness of God -Chapter Four-
The Holiness of God -Chapter Three-

>Thoughts on Reformation Day


Stained Glass at the Wittenberg Church. We took this picture in 2006

Happy Reformation Day to all my brothers and sisters in Christ!

Today I want to share these notes taken from Practical Wisdom for Calvinists, I pray that you will be encouraged by them as I was.

1. Because all of us were Arminian in our thinking at once, let us “be patient with our brethren and recognize that both ethical and theological maturity takes time. In fact, there are some truths that, for whatever reason, we may not yet be ready to receive – as Jesus told His own disciples, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12).”

2. Let us love all saints, even our Arminian brethren. Spurgeon said:

We give our hand to every man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ, be he what he may or who he may. The doctrine of election, like the great act of election itself, is intended to divide, not between Israel and Israel, but between Israel and the Egyptians – not between saint and saint, but between saints and the children of the world. A man may be evidently of God’s chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe the doctrine of final perseverance. We do hope that the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We do not set their fallacies down to any willful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus (New Park Street Pulpit [London: Passmore & Alabaster, Vol.6] p.303).”

3. Most Arminians “are not rejecting genuine Calvinism, but distortions of it. One’s heart may be right, while one’s head may be wrong”.  

4. “Calvinism is not the Gospel.  One is not saved by a proper understanding of election, Divine sovereignty, or the extent of the atonement. These issues, no doubt, are important, but they are not the core of the Gospel; they indirectly relate to the Gospel (as do many other Biblical teachings), but are not the essence of it. The puritan, John Bradford, stated: “Let a man go to the grammar school of faith and repentance, before he goes to the university of election and predestination.” In the same way that it is wrong to detract from the Gospel message, so it is wrong to add to the Gospel message one’s particular theology. Once again, this is not to deny that the five-points of Calvinism are not important matters; but simply to point out that the minute one makes mandatory for salvation a correct understanding of election, effectual calling, or the extent of the atonement (regardless of how true they might be), they are guilty of adding to the Gospel. This is usually the error of young, zealous Calvinists (although not always), but to use the words of James, “My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (James 3:10)”

Please, I encourage you to read the rest of this article here.

 Soli Deo Gloria!

>Tha Law and Grace -a Painting by Cranach


Lucas Cranach the Elder: Law and Grace, Gotha version, 1529

Have you seen this painting by Lucas Cranach, The Artist of the Reformation, before?

It is a sermon concerning the Law and Grace, it is full of the gospel’s message. I love to look at it and find all that is in it.

Gene Veith asks this question:

“What is Cranach showing artistically about both the Law and the Gospel?”

Some interesting articles to which Veith points are these:

An article about the Luther-Cranach collaborations.

“See page 4 of this 18-page article, The Allegory of Salvation and Sin, for an analysis of the Gotha panel (shown in Dr. Veith’s post). See page 5 for the similar Prague panel.”

Many things pop out to me, but one that strikes my heart is the person of Adam, running away. That is the response of men in sin, always fleeing from God, always in a desperate state trying to hide from the Omnipotent God. Men without the grace of God never seek God; they cannot, they do not want God.

None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
  “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
  “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Romans 3 :10- 18 ESV

Only God can call us to repentance, only because of Jesus’ fulfillment of the law we can come and taste and see the goodness of God.

What are your thoughts on this painting? What do you see?

One of my favorite books by Veith is this, I recommend it a lot!

State of the Arts: From Bezalel to Mapplethorpe (Turning Point Christian Worldview Series)
Related posts, from here and there:

Thank you for Brave Christians
Celebrate our Heritage

You don’t want to miss, Hollie, another passionate Reformed woman, who will be publishing some very interesting articles during October. Her series is called “Remembering the Reformers”; She has already written about Patrick Hamilton, and William Tyndale. Engage in the conversation; let us honor the Reformers with her!