Today is Reformation Day! Each year I celebrate God working through men like Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon and John Calvin to reform His Church. This day has particular significance due to Luther’s nailing the 95 Theses to the church door so that a debate could ensue on the issue of indulgences. That was 1517. Four years later Luther was summoned to appear before the Diet of Worms (a civil and religious trial called to deal with Luther’s heretical writings). It was April, 1521. The atmosphere was charged. Would the pesky German professor bow to the pressures being applied by the Church? Would fear for his life lead him to recant (disavow what he taught in his books)? Not in the least! I will quote his now-famous answer for your reading pleasure on this Reformation Day.
“Since, then, Your Majesty and Lordships demand a simple response, I will give one with neither horns or teeth to this effect. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by clear reason–for I believe neither Pope nor councils alone, since it is certain they have often made mistakes and contradicted each other–my conscience is obedient to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, for it is neither safe nor right to act against one’s conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me! Amen” (this version of Luther’s response is found in Harry Emerson Fosdick’s Martin Luther [Random House, 1956, p. 113, 114]).
Now those are giant footsteps! Sola Scriptura means that the Bible is our final and ultimate authority on doctrine and practice. We must be convinced by the testimony of Scripture. But in order to be convinced by the testimony of Scripture we must know Scripture. Semper Reformanda means that we are “always reforming.” As we learn the Scriptures, we continue to readjust our theology and our application, our doctrine and our practice. The reformers did so. Let’s do the same! Have a great Reformation Day!