“Semper Reformanda: Always Needing Reformation”
December 10, 2017
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted 95 theses for theological debate in an effort to transform the Roman Catholic Church. He hardly anticipated when he posted and printed those 95 topics that he was lighting the fuse that would create the dynamic explosion that became the Protestant Reformation. He just wanted to move the church back to a theologically true position.
Of those 95 theses, probably the most frequently quoted is the first — “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in saying: ‘Repent ye,’ etc., intended that the whole life of believers should be penitence.” With those words, Luther was calling for the transformation of the church in its theology (the way it defined repentance, grace, and faith) and in its practice (how it taught and led its people to understand salvation).
And Luther was also calling for the transformation of individuals — calling them to trust in Christ alone to transform them from the inside out and not to trust their own ability and actions to please God.
Thus began the Reformation — “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in saying: ‘Repent,’ intended that the whole life of believers should be penitence.” And in a sense, the Reformation had its intended effect and came to an end. The Roman Catholic Church was “reformed” by the departure of the protest-ants and the development of the evangelical church (those who believed the evangel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone).
“But that’s all past history,” say some. It’s over. And while this two-month reflection on it is interesting, it’s just a history lesson that is disconnected from us today. The Reformation is over. Or is it?
Over the past few weeks we have considered the five statements that have been used to describe the primary work of the Reformation — Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Soli Deo Gloria.
But there is one more Reformation statement that is often overlooked that comes from the pen of Jodocus van Lodenstein in 1674: ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda, and is generally abbreviated to semper reformanda. It means, “the church reformed, always reforming,” It was van Lodenstein’s way of affirming that the Reformation was not (and is not) over. There is ever and always a need for reformation in the church and in believers. Because of the influence of the flesh, the tendency is always to move away from biblical truth, and we constantly need (as a body of believers and as individuals) to be moved back to Christ through transformation.
We can summarize this morning’s theme this way:
We always need transformation; God and His grace is always sufficient to transform us.
- What Does Semper Reformanda Mean?
- We always need transformation
- God is the only one who can change us
- Why Was Semper Reformanda Necessary in 1517?
- What Needs Transformation Today?
- The church needs transformation (1 Tim. 3:15)
- I need transformation (1 Tim. 1:18-20)
- Is Semper Reformanda Taught in Scripture? (Romans 12:1-2)
- Stop succumbing to worldly enticements
- Begin renewing your mind
- Pursue obedience to God’s will