We all have short attention spans. After an event, we can quickly ignore any beneficial lessons that our Father in heaven wants us to incorporate into our way of life. Reformation Day was last Saturday, and this is a friendly reminder to keep important concepts from the Reformation in your thinking. A watchword is “a word, phrase, or signal given to a guard or the like, used to ascertain whether an unknown person is friendly or hostile… [It is also] a motto, esp. used as a rallying cry or slogan.” When we think of what God has done in the history of the church, there are five important watchwords from the Reformation. We can say that they set forth the essence of Biblical teaching that was learned during that mighty work of the Holy Spirit.
- According to the Scriptures alone
- By grace alone
- Through faith alone
- In Christ alone
- To God alone be the glory
In this post, we will look at the first of these five watchwords. Here is an idea to live by: We must always be thoroughly convinced of the absolute authority of the Old and the New Testament Scriptures.
- Absolute – because it is divinely authored, unqualified, unbending, and final
- Authority – it is objective fact whether or not people accept it; God said it, that settles it
- Alone – adding neither human tradition nor experience to it
The Scriptures tell us how we can be right with God (2 Timothy 3:14-15). Prior to the great revival called the Reformation, most people in Europe professed to be Christians, but most were in a condition of deep spiritual darkness, not knowing how to be right with God. They might have had a zeal for God, but it was not according to knowledge.
The Spirit tells us that a correct knowledge of human need and of our only real hope comes through the Scriptures alone. It is certainly true that God has revealed himself in his creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-20). But it is only in the Bible that we can learn God’s plan of salvation (Psalm 19:7; 119:55). One of the great blessings of the Jewish people was that the true God gave them his word (Romans 3:1-2). Timothy’s mother and grandmother were Jewish, and they taught him God’s word. The Holy Spirit uses the word of God when he gives new birth to people (1 Peter 1:23; cf. John 3:5-8; Titus 3:5).
We must understand that the mere reading or knowledge is insufficient. We must also have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Hearing without faith lacks any value (Heb 4:2). We ought to pray that the Lord would give the gift of faith to people as they hear the word (2 Peter 1:1; cf. Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:29). Practically speaking, pray for five people you know. “Lord, give my friends the gift of faith!”
The Scriptures tell us how the Lord wants us to live (3:16-17). Since there was so much confusion about the way of salvation, it is no wonder that the lives of the religious were so corrupted before the Reformation. The human heart always runs to one of two extremes—legalism or lawlessness.
The Scriptures benefit those who are in Christ. They provide the “blueprints and specifications” for the true Christian way of life. They do this by telling us God’s story in Christ, and our place in it as Christ’s people. Knowledge of the blueprints and spec book is essential in construction, if the building is to please the owner. Positively, teaching tells us what a believer’s life is to look like. It presents the characteristics of Jesus Christ that we are to imitate. Negatively, rebuke tells us what to avoid—if you do these things, you are not showing the pattern of Christ in your life.
They provide material for the actual construction. When Jesus saves us, the Holy Spirit begins the task of renewing our lives. He gets involved in transforming our ideas, thoughts, and attitudes, and he also starts to transform our words and actions. Again, there is a negative and a positive side to what the Spirit does through the word. Negatively, he uses the word to correct us. For example, we might be used to talking with destructive speech (Ephesians 4:25-5:7). As Isaiah realized when he saw the Lord, he was a man of unclean lips among a people of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5). In many ways we were under the control of sinful patterns of thinking and action. Positively, the Spirit uses the word to train us. He tells us that we show the newness of Christ in specific ways.
So then, let’s grasp the purpose or the goal of the Scriptures. The idea is that we might be properly outfitted (1 Peter 1:13-2:3). If you are going to run or walk, you need the right shoes and clothing for comfort and safety. The desired object is that we might do good works (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14). God wants us to bear fruit (John 15:5)! As God’s priests and temple, we are to bless others by acting with God’s kind of goodness. The teachings of the Scriptures and of Reformation theology are not entertainment for our minds. They are to be obeyed and lived (Matthew 28:20).