We have gone through the “five solas” in our month-long sermon series marking the sixteenth-century reformation.
The question now is: should we continue to reform?
Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda, the Latin phrase for “the church reformed, always reforming” has been used often to support the idea that we need to keep reforming. The kernel of the idea is true enough: Until we are glorified - until we are fully and perfectly conformed to the exact likeness of Christ - we individually and collectively as the church of Jesus Christ must always be reforming.
True reformation is not about a slavish subscription to one particular set of confessional standards, as if the Reformers or their immediate successors reached a level of doctrinal perfection beyond which further reform is impossible.
John Calvin, one of the great Reformers, was under no illusion that the Reformation had reached its goal in his lifetime -- or that it would get there in a generation or two. He wrote,
Christ "loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish," (Ephesians 5:25-27.) Nevertheless, it is true, that the Lord is daily smoothing its wrinkles and wiping away its spots. Hence it follows that its holiness is not yet perfect. Such, then, is the holiness of the Church: it makes daily progress, but is not yet perfect; it daily advances, but as yet has not reached the goal. (Institutes, 4.1.17)
Here’s the point: the only true and valid reformation occurs as we align our beliefs, our behavior, and our worship with the Word of God. The full, unabbreviated version of the Latin slogan is Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei meaning “The church Reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God.”
God’s Word is the only true standard we have a divine mandate to conform to, and it is the ultimate standard by which we will be judged. Success or failure in ministry, therefore, cannot be evaluated by numerical statistics, financial figures, popularity polls, public opinion, or any of the other factors the world typically associates with “success.” The only real triumph in ministry is to hear Christ say, “Well done.”
May God bless us all.
Pastor Robert Chew