There were two wanton mee stalls facing each other in one nearby food center. One stall would start after 10 am and a long queue would form quickly. The other stall seldom has a queue. The favorite stall had since folded up and the proprietress now works for another stall in the same center. The remaining wanton mee stall continues without benefitting from the absence of the competitor. It has not reviewed to improve its food and service to increase its clientele.
We designate today as Reformation Sunday. What is a “reformation”? Some brief nuances are: (1) to put into a new and improved form or condition; (2) to restore to a former good state, or bring from bad to good; (3) to amend or correct. When we turn to the Reformation, Martin Luther, a former Roman Catholic priest comes to mind. He sparked off the Movement when he nailed the Ninety-Five Theses opposing the Catholic Church on the church door at Wittenberg, Germany on 31 October 1517. At that time, the Medieval Church had developed unbiblical doctrines and practices. The papacy’s authority increased and was usurping biblical authority. The theology by then swayed away from the sovereignty of God to include works as an important part in salvation and sanctification. Early reformers challenged the papacy’s universal power, the corruption and the extravagance of the Church. Luther was God’s instrument to bear fruit to the Reformation. Before Luther, there were other reformers in Church history. They included John Wycliffe and Jan Hus who opposed the papal claim to universal power. They were persecuted by the Church for seeking reformation.
Reformation Needed Today
In the Institutes of the Christian Religion book 4, chapter 1.17, John Calvin makes reference to Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV):
25 . . . Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Calvin asserted that the Church is holy but her holiness is incomplete. The Lord is at work daily, smoothing out wrinkles and cleansing spots. One pastor said: “The Christian life should be one of consistent reformation. As we walk daily with Christ, we have the privileges of getting to know Him better, becoming more like Him, and helping others do the same. This was Paul’s goal.” The call to keep reforming is right, but we need to watch the direction that it is heading for. Instead of leaving the bad and heading for the good, the opposite can happen. Some western churches today question the authority of Scripture, deny God’s sovereign existence and exalt humanism. They need a reformation to return to God-centered theology and abandon the self-centered morality. Their current resulting decadent morality and spirituality tell it all.
Old Testament Reformation – Nehemiah
Nehemiah chapter 13 (the last chapter) tells us what he had to put up with. The Jews had witnessed God’s faithfulness in returning them to the land. Nehemiah led the people in rebuilding the walls and the Book of Moses was read to them. Before he returned to the king, Nehemiah put in place the priests and officials to carry out their assignments. During his absence, the priests and officials fell into sin. An Ammonite was lodging in the Temple, the Levites were not given their due portions and had returned to work in the fields. When Nehemiah requested leave from the king and returned to Jerusalem, he was angry to face the sinful situations. He had to institute another round of reform, correcting the situation and restoring it to the former good state. The Jews had forgotten the shame of exile as punishment for turning away from God, and the present joyous return was God’s faithfulness to His covenant with Israel’s forefathers. These did not guarantee Israel’s full return to God. The reading of the Book of Moses was no safeguard too. Israel needed godly men and women raised by God to steer the nation to righteousness; till God’s perfect and ultimate Servant, Jesus Christ comes to rule.
Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church (PSPC)
PSPC celebrated 170th anniversary with a grand celebration last year. As we journey forward we need to be on guard. Subtle deviation can creep in. It can be in the form of seemingly acceptable programmes. In Greg Ogden’s Discipleship Essentials topic 24, it contains a warning. Reiterating Paul’s strategy of ministry versus the church’s, the author cites Paul’s prioritized strategy as: disciples à fellowship à program. Paul proclaimed the Gospel and those who responded would become object of his investment and formed into a community of believers. From this the ministry foundation is to grow. Today, we need to guard against the reverse: organization à program à disciples – thinking that making disciples must be done through programmes. He has much to say.
The Reformation Movement has been attributed to Martin Luther, but there were many preceding reformers seeking to uphold the authority of the Bible. The current state of many churches in the West is a warning. Their past spiritual revivals could not keep the spiritual fire burning through the subsequent generations because the discipleship of the spiritually-awakened had not been followed up in the church. The subsequent generations could not catch the spiritual fire. PSPC needs to be alert and always willing to be “re-formed” according to the Word of God, the call of the Spirit and be God-centered, Christ-centric, Spirit-led, and Word-based in all our ministries.
Rev Chiam Cheng Kiat