The word “Reformed” means “a return from wrong to right.” It refers to the 16th century Protestant Reformation, which began on October 31, 1517, when a German monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses on Indulgences to the bulletin board on the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. This marks the beginning of the church’s return to the Bible as the supreme authority and its gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Reformation was not an attempt to start a new church but to reform the church that the Lord Jesus Christ had established since His ascension into heaven in the year 33. The reformers maintained that the Roman Catholic Church, by its rejection of the true gospel (Galatians 1:6-9), had cut themselves off from the true church.
The Reformation spread through Germany, Switzerland, France, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden; and eventually led to the founding of the United States of America – which at first was 98 percent Protestant. “The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church). “Most of the economic, political and personal freedom and prosperity that people enjoy today is rooted in the Reformation. Before it, people were enslaved to an all-powerful Church with a false teaching about salvation, and were at the mercy of government that ruled mostly according to the laws of men than of God. The basic biblical principles were: 1) The primary authority of God’s word in the Bible, 2) Justification of sinners only through faith in Christ, and 3) The priesthood of all believers no matter what their office or occupation in this world” (Rev. Robert Grossmann, The Protestant Reformation and World History).
The Reformed Faith is committed to the basic teachings of Christianity held in common by all faithful churches: the divine inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, the Trinity, the virgin birth of Christ, His true deity and true humanity in one person, Christ’s atoning death on the cross for sinners, His bodily resurrection, His ascension into heaven, His visible return from heaven, justification by faith alone, and the necessity of being born again.
But the Reformed Faith seeks to go beyond the basics – beyond the doctrines necessary for salvation – because the Bible says to be faithful to all that Scripture teaches (Hebrews 6:1-2). There is more to the Christian life than just salvation from hell. God wants us to glorify Him in every area of life, out of thankfulness for salvation (1 Corinthians 10:31). Jesus commanded His disciples to “observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). The apostle Paul declared “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
The Reformed Faith is summarized by five basic truths:
Scripture alone: the Bible (God’s inspired Word) alone is the ultimate authority for faith and life (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Grace alone: eternal life is a gift of God’s grace alone, not earned by any works (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Faith alone: believers are justified by faith alone (Romans 3:28), which leads the believer to do good works out of thankfulness for salvation (Ephesians 2:10).
Christ alone: believers are saved from sin because of Christ alone – because He paid the penalty for all our sins, leaving no penalty for us to pay (John 19:30; Acts 20:28)
Glory to God alone: God alone deserves all the glory and credit for our salvation. Jesus said to His followers, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16).
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