Looking back on all that had been done for the reformation of the church over the course of his ministry, Martin Luther had this to say:
“I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”
In the fuller quotation, he also humbly calls himself a “poor stinking bag of maggots” – but that is beside my point.
What I want us to consider this Reformation Sunday is this – what gave life to the Reformation? What renewed the church in Europe? Was it the genius of man? Was it mere politics or statecraft?
No, not at all. The Reformation was simply the result of the Word being freed to run wild and hit the hearts of men. This is because the Word is efficacious. The Word gives life. As Scripture testifies of itself, the Word is living and powerful (Rom. 1:16), able to save souls (Jas. 1:21), at work in those who believe (1 Thess. 2:13), and will not return void (Isa. 55:11).
Isaiah said that the Word of God is like water which gives life to the earth (Isa. 55:10), David likened it to a lamp casting light upon the path (Ps. 119:105), Jeremiah compared it to a hammer that shatters rock (Jer. 23:29), and Paul called it the sword of the Spirit, able to pierce the innermost man (Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12).
It was the Word spoken through Ezekiel that called the dry bones to life (Ezek. 37). And it was the Word spoken through the incarnate Word that called forth Lazarus from the tomb (Jn. 11:43).
This is simply what the Word of God does. Ever since the beginning – when God spoke and light came forth (Gen. 1:3). And so on this Reformation Sunday, we are reminded of our need to keep the Word at the center of our lives. Let all that you do be according to the Word, and there, in families and in a community where the Word is received and believed, the Spirit of God promises to be at work again.
Shawn Paterson – October 29, 2023