Tomorrow is Reformation Day, the day we remember and celebrate the work of Martin Luther and others to expose non-Biblical theology and practices of the church in the 1500s. It is an important day to be grateful for the fact that we have God’s Word available to us and for the gospel of grace that His Word shows us.
My Lutheran Book of Prayer includes Luther’s prayer for the Reformation Festival, as he called it, and I wanted to share that prayer because it remains a good prayer for the church today, 400+ years after the Reformation.
Lord God, who after long ages of darkness delivered the Church from the bondage of error, we thank You for those faithful witnesses through whom You restored the Gospel of Christ to men, and we praise You that this blessed light has been preserved for us to this present age. We thank You for making known among us the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, our only Mediator. Defend Your Church against all her foes. Seek and save the lost and all who have gone astray. Preserve among us the pure Word and the holy Sacraments, turn our hearts from false and pernicious doctrine. Direct and strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may abide in the confession of Your Word all the days of our lives and in the end, by Your grace, obtain everlasting life. This I pray in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We cannot become complacent about the teachings of our churches. We must continue to pray that Jesus defend His church against those who would set aside His Word and lead God’s children astray. We must rely on the direction and strength of His Holy Spirit to help us stand firm on the truth of scripture. We must cling to grace and lift high the cross of Christ as the only means of salvation.
The Reformation was an important stage in the history of the Church, but that doesn’t mean we can sit back on our laurels and not remain vigilant. False and pernicious doctrines still creep in from time to time. We need to guard our hearts against them.
We need to guard against the doctrine of the progressive Christian movement that says that other religions are just other paths to God and that Jesus is not the only way. We need to guard against the doctrine of legalism that says we need to follow all the rules in order to be saved, essentially requiring that we save ourselves. We need to guard against doctrine and theology that says the Bible is not the inspired and inerrant Word of God.
There are many warnings in the New Testament about false teachers within the Church. Heresies were not new when Martin Luther and the other reformers fought against them in the 1500s, and they will always be something we must guard against until the Day of Christ Jesus. The Apostle Peter warned:
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 2 Peter 2:1-3.
When asked to recant his faith in Christ and the Gospel, Luther said, “Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” Let us stand firm as Luther did and not follow the shameful ways of false teachers. This I pray in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.