“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV ‘84)
It was not the blissful sound of ringing church bells but the loud cracks of hammer blows that twice introduced massive changes in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The first and the most important time, hammer blows interrupted the status quo of a church that had all but become completely apostate, when Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. The Old Testament church, lost in human traditions, would soon be reformed by the New Testament church. This was not only a church-changing event, but it changed
The second time hammer blows introduced a great change was about fifteen centuries later on the thirty-first of October, 1517. Then the Lord raised a man by the name of Martin Luther to nail to the doors of the castle church in Wittenberg his protest against the heresies of the church. And although this time the hammer blows did not introduce a change as universal as the first, it again renewed a church which had become grossly untrue to her calling and purpose.
Just one man and a few sheets of paper were all that the Lord needed to cause the reformation of his church. That it was not in the first place Martin Luther but the Lord who caused this change is evident from the enormous speed with which Luther’s ninety-five theses spread throughout Europe. Just think about it: in the early sixteenth century there was no Internet or email, no telephones, no modern mail service, and travel was slow and dangerous. Yet it took only two weeks for the message conveyed by the theses to spread throughout all of Germany, and in two more weeks they had spread all over Europe – even the Pope in Rome had read them – and they were soon translated into all the major European languages.
It was a marvelous event, caused and driven by the King of the church, who had promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against it. A marvelous event it was, but also the beginning of a tremendous struggle. Satan was not about to give up his hold upon a church he had so firmly in his grip. He mobilized his forces, which was the established church of that time together with the state, the Holy Roman Empire, in an attempt to crush all and everything that opposed him.
But all of Satan’s attempts proved to be in vain, in spite of the rivers of blood and tears that he caused. Christ yet reformed his church. And from these same rivers of the martyrs’ blood emerged a church that was purged from its corruption and ready to be a light in the world again. What a marvelous gift is the great Reformation! It is a precious blessing that the Lord has also given to us.
And what a great incentive and responsibility we are now given, to cherish the Reformation by being faithful to the gospel and the Lord’s call to be a light to all those around us. This means being a light, not only by being faithful to the teaching of the Bible, but as God’s “chosen people and royal priesthood,” by declaring the Lord’s praises to all who live around us.
We must do our best to make the gospel look attractive by our loving and caring ways, forgiving and humble attitudes, peaceful and compassionate behaviour in our society. Our fellow workers, fellow students in school or colleges, our neighbours—in short, everyone we come in contact with – must see what it means that we’re a royal priesthood and a holy nation.
It’s true that this is a much different kind of life than the majority of people in our society lead, and that means many people will reject us and the message we communicate with word and deed. But we are “a people belonging to God.” Let us pray every morning again that the Lord will give us the strength to lead that different life, and that he will also bless it, so that we will have the opportunity and courage to give an account of the hope that is within us.
In this way, let us show our thankfulness to the Lord for the great Reformation and for his continued gathering, defending, and preserving of his church. Let us live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse us of doing wrong, they may see our good deeds and glorify God on the day that he visits us.
Rev. Hans Kalkman is retired minister of the Canadian Reformed Church at Calgary, Alberta
Originally published in Clarion, The Canadian Reformed magazine, Volume 61, Volume 21 p. 525, October 12, 2012