The Corruption of the Reformation

Posted on January 22, 2011


If we would be true to the Lord and to the Reformation heritage we embrace, we must take a strong stand against any ecumenical movement that is willing to compromise the biblical gospel for unity with Roman Catholicism. Rome claims that the sola fide teaching of the Reformation rejected all works of holiness and the need for moral transformation, and that its concept of forensic justification was a legal fiction which was antithetical to scripture. These accusations are false.

While it is true that the Reformers emphasized sola fide in their teaching on salvation it is also clear from their writings that in doing so, they did not exclude the necessity for regeneration, sanctification, adoption, repentance, and conversion. The Reformers did not reject the proper place of works in the overall scheme of salvation. They simply declared that justification was not based on the merit of sacraments or human works but exclusively on a relationship with Christ. Given the historical context in which the Reformers lived and taught and the errors of Rome with which they had to contend, it was necessary to focus on the biblical truth of justification. But as we have stated repeatedly, justification is just one aspect of the overall message of salvation proclaimed by them. Their teaching is an affirmation of and is in conformity with the teaching of scripture on salvation.

It is also important that we stand against the corruption of the Reformation gospel by the antinomian element within evangelicalism which corrupts the biblical meaning of saving faith by denying the necessity for commitment to Christ as Lord for salvation. This directly contradicts the teaching of Christ and scripture. As evangelicals, it is possible to rightly hold orthodox views on justification (in opposition to legalism), only to fall into the heresy of antinomianism. We can espouse scripturally accurate teachings on justification and be guilty of distorting the biblical teaching on saving faith. In so doing, while we claim the theological heritage of the Reformation, in practice we may embrace teachings which deny it.

We must maintain the distinction between justification and sanctification. Justification is based upon an imputed righteousness which completely delivers from the guilt and condemnation of sin. It is the only basis for our salvation. At the same time we must emphasize the necessity for repentance and submission to Christ as Lord in the application of that salvation. What profit is there if we rightly interpret the meaning of justification and pervert the meaning of saving faith? We must preach the whole counsel of God. Without a gospel call that includes repentance from sin and Christ’s call to discipleship, we will be guilty of proclaiming a false or incomplete gospel. The Christ who saves and justifies cannot be appropriated apart from a faith that commits to him.

The Church and our culture are in great need of revival. If we long to see it happen we must stand against the legalism of Rome and the easy-believism of much of evangelicalism and return to the proclamation of the biblical and Reformation gospel. The Reformers preached the gospel. They were bold and uncompromising and witnessed the power of God in great revival. Wherever the true gospel is preached and given its place of primacy and priority, wonderful transformations occur in the lives of individuals. We need a new Reformation today — a return to the biblical gospel message and a commitment to its proclamation in the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s words are as true today as when he first penned them: The Gospel is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes.

(Online source, bold his)
William Webster

(HT: Apprising Ministries)