“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…”
(Philippians 3:8–9 ESV)
In every age or generation there is darkness in this world. But also there is always light that shines in the darkness. The apostle John tells us that the Christ has come into the world as the Light which the darkness of the world has not and will not overcome. There are times when the darkness seems dominant in the world. The reason for this is because the gospel light has dimmed by the Church. The people of God are called the light of the world because of the light of Christ and His gospel in us. But we are often guilty of hiding that Light under a bushel instead of setting it upon the hill for all to see. The work of Reformation is therefore always a recovery of the Light of Christ in the gospel. At the heart of this recovery is always a recovery of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Every reformation in the Bible is about tearing down idolatrous worship and practices and recovering the ways God has established to worship Him and do ministry. Renewing Biblical worship has at the root of it the doctrine of justification by faith alone. This was at the heart of the sacrificial system and was eclipsed or marginalized or supplanted when pagan worship was established on the high places. The gracious, unmerited declaration of sinners being righteous through faith in the blood and righteousness of Christ is the essence of the gospel. The gospel of God’s grace to sinners in Christ Jesus puts the glory where it rightly belongs — upon God and not man.
This doctrine is not something relegated to the time period of what we call the Reformation (1500-1700) but is the ongoing battle in the Church in every year and every day! The world is always trying to conform us to its image and press us in its mold. The work of reforming and conforming to the image of Christ according to Scripture by the power of the Holy Spirit is not only of utmost importance but is a matter of daily plodding and fighting.
The apostle Paul sounded the alarm over this doctrine when he wrote to the Christians in the church in Galatia. He was shocked that some of them had so quickly turned away from the One who called them by the gospel. They had so quickly turned away from the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Gal. 1:6). But that led Paul to go hard after those who would distort the truth and profane the gospel message of justification by faith in Christ. He would say that there is no other gospel. All else is a distortion of the gospel once delivered to the saints (Gal. 1:7-9). Christ passed down this gospel to Paul and if anyone, including angels, proclaim another gospel, then they are considered “anathema” or cursed. The apostle was surely known for being a man who promoted peace in the churches. He called out people by name and ordered them to simply stop fighting. He hated division in the Church of Jesus. He called for the children of God to live at peace with not only the family of God but even with all men if possible. But Paul hated something more than division in the Church. He drew a hard line in the sand when it came to the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ. This was a hill to die on. This was a hill worth fighting for. Such a fight is the fight of reformation. This is why men and women and children lose their lives at the hand of the wicked. This is why Jesus tells us to count the cost of following Him. To believe and proclaim the message that guilty sinners are forgiven by God and declared just and forgiven by grace through faith in Christ alone without any works of their own will be a message the wicked, whether in the Church or in the world, will hate and mock and fight tooth and nail. The darkness will always oppose the light of the gospel. The darkness will always seem to outnumber those who are walking in the Light of the gospel. But greater is He who is with us than those that are against us. Let us never be ashamed of the gospel and let us forever boast that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone according to Scripture alone — all for the glory of God alone.
Soli Deo Gloria!