October 31 marks the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther is said to have nailed his 95 Theses to the door at the church in Wittenberg.
But more than just a day to commemorate an important historical event, we need to ask ourselves how the reality of the Reformation affects our everyday lives and worldview.
Two great principles that came out of the Reformation were Protestantism, and Republicanism (the idea of a representative form of government).
As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe that America is important in prophecy. We believe that the nation described as a lamb-like beast in Revelation 13 is the United States. Our nation could never have existed without the Reformation; it was the freeing of men’s thoughts to go to Christ alone that allowed them to see freedom in civil government.
Protestantism, as important as it is, was not the goal of the Reformation but rather the result of it. And the Reformation was not the goal Martin Luther had in mind when he nailed his 95 Theses to the church door. The movement that led to religious freedom for millions of people was, rather, merely the result of lifting up Jesus Christ. The result of the belief that salvation is through Christ alone. The result of the belief that no merit from man adds to or takes away from the plan of salvation. The result of the belief that it is Christ alone who changes hearts, Christ alone who relieves guilt, Christ alone who sanctifies lives.
Ellen White, in chapter 25 of The Great Controversy, says that at the end of time every principle of Protestantism and Republicanism would be refuted (p.441). We see this happening in our nation and, yes, even in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The 500-year anniversary of the Reformation affords us an opportunity to remember who we are.
Throughout this year, the Iowa-Missouri Conference has placed a great emphasis on three major pillars of the Reformation:
- Christ alone (as stated above)
- Sola Scriptura (no individual, no committee and no organization is infallible)
- The priesthood of all believers (Christ is the only head of the church)
Only with a correct understanding of these principles can we experience unity in the church. Policy will never create it. Hierarchy will never create it. Only the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit will create and sustain it.
As Adventists, we must be at the forefront in promoting Protestant principles, of turning away from any hint of hierarchy. We must reject any tendency, individually or corporately, to interject ourselves between an individual and Christ. We must fully understand what it means—in the church—to have a representative form of government. No man has authority over the conscience of another. The power is in the pew. People elect our leaders as servants, not as kings.
The most powerful force on earth is an individual committed to Christ, taking their stand on the word of God, with the freedom of conscience to act and move as God leads daily in their life.