Today, Lutherans and protestants celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses. They were not an act of defiance, but an attempt by a faithful servant of the Pope to start an academic debate on a terrible abuse of indulgences by Rome that fell heavily on the Christians he was called to serve. It was at much the nature of Rome’s response (which was basically “shut up; how dare you question us”) as it was Luther’s perseverance in God’s Word that lead to the Reformation as we know it and both the recovery of the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ as well as the fracturing of the organizational unity of the western church.
In all these groups of Christians coming out of the Reformation, the temptation is to say that our job is done—that the Reformation happened (past tense.) For some, that takes the form of their theology having already been definitively declared, whether in the Book of Concord, the Council of Trent, the Westminster Confession, or some other record. For others, its a matter of a sensitivity to division that exceeds their sensitivity to false teaching, and so the calls to set doctrine aside in order to unite on some social issue or another are legion.
But the Reformation never ends any more than it really began in 1517. The entire history of the Church is one of Satan planting errors and God raising up faithful men to oppose those errors and return us to the Faith once and for all delivered to the saints—a task that spans denominations, whether we try to find that Faith in Scripture or in tradition. It is a task that still falls to us today, for false teachings both new and old still threaten to overwhelm and overtake us.
Nearly every major ancient heresy is alive and well: Gnosticism among those who despise their embodied existence; modalism among those who think the god of every religion is just a mask worn by a hidden god; Pelegianism among the droves who still think that salvation is a matter of being a good enough person. The issues that plagued the church 500 years ago are likewise still with us: Rome still offers indulgences; most Evangelicals believe we contribute to our own salvation in some way or another; people search for God’s Word in dreams, visions, and traditions where he never promised to be and neglect his certain Word. And we’ve collected our fair share of new ones as well: theological liberalism, the word-faith movement, feminist neo-paganism, and so forth.
Who will stand against the devil and the world as they confront us today? Who will stand on the Truth of God’s Word even as the whole world rises in condemnation?
Seek the Truth. Contend for it zealously. Suffer the divisions that are always caused as truth is divided from error. Pray to God to aid us all in these darkening times. The Reformation is not over, for our task does not end until we rest in eternity with Christ.