3 Reasons Why the Protestant Reformation Still Matters

Why the Reformation Still Matters

Romans 1:16–17 ESV "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith."

Many of you have heard me talk about the life of Martin Luther. Many people are aware of the major events of his life: The Nailing of the 95 Theses, the Burning of the Papal Bull, the triumphant pronouncement at the Diet of Worms. But less commonly known is the impact our passage today had on the life of Luther. The six words which so confronted Luther, and ultimately led him to a right understanding of man’s justification God were these: The Just Shall Live By Faith

Martin Luther said, “Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that ‘the just shall live by his faith.’ Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith … as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live’ … Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the ‘justice of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul’s became to me a gate to heaven.” (http://truthandtidings.com/2016/01/martin-luther-rom-117/)

Luther’s conviction about how a man is made right with God ignited Protestant Reformation. Through him and other men like Zwingli, Calvin, and even his predecessors Wycliffe and Hus, who had laid much of the foundation stones, led the Church in a new direction – away from the false teachings and the corruption of Rome. 

Sadly, however, we are more than 500 years later, and many have lost the sense of why this all mattered. We live in a day where many protestants could not tell you why they are. Many are protestant by tradition, not by conviction. In the same way many are born Catholic, others are born into baptist or methodist homes, and have no sense of their history or why it matters. I would even go as far as to say for many of them it does not matter. They think of their choice of church as being similar to their favorite sports team — they root for a certain one, but it’s not really important. 

If you have been in this church for any length of time, you know we believe the Reformation mattered — and it still matters. But you may ask “Why”?  Why all this focus? Why be “Reformed?” Can’t we just quit worrying with the past and move on?


  1. Because the Majority of people who call themselves Christian still venerate the Pope.
  2. Because ignorance of the Bible still exists among the people of God.
  3. Because Sola Fide is still the article upon which the church stands or falls.

I want to examine each of these and their historical significance. 

  1. Because the Majority of people who call themselves Christian still venerate the Pope. 

According to the most recent numbers, there are close to 7.5b people. Of those, 31.2% declare some form of Christianity (2.3b). Within that, 53% are Roman Catholic. 35% Protestant, 11% Orthodox, 1% other. (Source)

This means there are about 1.2b Catholics on the planet.  And all of them would pledge allegiance to the Bishop of Rome. I know for many people, the idea of the Pope is just a Catholic novelty. But the very idea of the papacy is a danger to the church. The exaltation of the Pope is one of the most destructive and dangerous teachings in church history. 

He is called by many names:

Pope – Latin Papa; i.e. universal father of the Church. 

Vicar of Christ – Vicar, or vicarious, means one in the place of, or a substitute.

Pontifex Maximus – Pontiff means bridge-builder, and this term means “greatest bridge builder”.

The belief in the Pope is the believe that there is a man with the authority of Christ in the world.

You may ask, “Well, what’s so bad about that?” Because such a man has the ability to twist the minds of people. Just this week, the sitting Pope affirmed same-sex unions. People used to make the joke “Is the pope catholic?”, but it’s getting harder and harder to tell! 

You say, “Who cares what the Pope thinks?” 1.2b people do!!! That is my point. This past week, I went to preach at another church and we passed by numerous Catholic churches. The Supreme Court of the US was at one time majority protestant, now is majority catholic. And Catholics view the Pope as the head of the church. 

The Reformation was a rejection of the papacy.  It is a demonstrable historical fact that every notable protestant theologian of the 16-19th century, regardless of denomination, believed and taught that the papacy was antichrist. http://www.logosapologia.org/the-papacy-as-antichrist-cramner-knox-wesley-spurgeon/

Martin Luther said, “We here are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the true and real Antichrist…personally I declare that I owe the Pope no other obedience than that to Antichrist” (sermon on Aug 18, 1520).

Charles Spurgeon said, “It is the bounden duty of every Christian to pray against Antichrist and as to what Antichrist is no sane man ought to raise a question. If it be not the Popery in the Church of Rome, there is nothing in the world that can be called by that name. . .It wounds Christ, because it robs Christ of His glory, because it puts sacramental efficacy in the place of His atonement and lifts a piece of bread into the place of the Savior and a few drops of water into the place of the Holy Spirit and puts a mere fallible man like ourselves up as the Vicar of Christ on earth. If we pray against it, because it is against Him, we shall love the persons though we hate their errors; we shall love their souls though we loathe and detest their dogmas. And so the breath of our prayers will be sweetened because we turn our faces toward Christ when we pray.”

The fact that most modern Christians venerate the Pope, and the rest think that is “No Big Deal” is proof of why the Reformation still matters. We need to pray that our Catholic brothers and sisters come out from underneath the tyranny of the Roman Pontiff. He is not a loving father — he is a devilish wolf who’s teeth are stained pink with the blood of men’s souls which he has devoured and through his false teaching damned to hell. 

  1. Because ignorance of the Bible still exists among the people of God.

Prior to the reformation, there was great ignorance of the Bible. But in one sense, the people had an excuse. For most, it was not available to read (esp. if you didn’t read Latin). It was not until John Wycliffe (14th Cen.) that there was English. The KJV was not authorized for us until the 17th Cen. (1611)

But this is not a problem for us anymore. We all have access to Bibles, in our own language. We have a wealth of translations which help us understand. We have free access to commentaries, language helps, etc. 

Yet most Christians remain ignorant of the Bible. Christians in times past could not read it for themselves. We can, but choose not to! The ignorance today is purposeful and I would say criminal. There is no reason a Christian today should be ignorant of the word of God.

Yet, survey after survey show that ignorance abounds. For the past few years, Ligonier has done a survey of theology. The results are astounding: 30% of evangelicals reject the deity of Christ. 46% believe that people are good by nature. 22% think that gender identity is a matter of personal choice. Again, this level of biblical ignorance is downright shameful. 

It is the result of a two-fold problem:Preachers have been derelict in their duties to teach the Word and Christians have been unashamedly more interested in pursuing the things of this world than the things of God. 

This is another reason the Reformation still matters. The Reformation was not just about protesting the Roman Church. It was a “Back to the Bible” movement — and that is still needed. This is why we are so committed to teaching the Bible here. Our primary commitment is accurately teaching the Word. This is why we started Sovereign Grace Academy. We teach history, apologetics, hermeneutics, ethics, etc. Wednesdays, we teach systematic theology. 

The Reformation was about pointing men to Scripture and that will NEVER stop being necessary. 

  1. Because Sola Fide is still the article upon which the church stands or falls.

Sola Fide means justification by faith alone (in Christ alone). This takes us back to our passage for today…(from faith to faith). It means “faith from first to last” with nothing else added. 

Dr. R.C. Sproul said, “The doctrine of justification by faith alone is the article upon which the church stands or falls. The article that is so important that [Luther] said, that if we lose it, we lose Christianity. If you don’t have the doctrine of justification by faith alone, you don’t have the gospel, and if you don’t have the gospel, the church has no reason to exist. The church itself ceases to be a church and falls into apostasy because it is the article that answers the question, what must I do to be saved?

This is the question which is answered wrongly by Rome. It is also answered wrongly by the cults, and the false religions. And it is the most important question you could ever ask. 

As man is justified before God, not by works, but by faith alone. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died a substitutionary death. In that, our sins became His and His righteousness became ours. This is the Gospel which Paul says cannot/must not be altered (Gal 1:6-9)

CONCLUSION: I hope you understand why the Reformation mattered, and still does. Moreover, I hope you are Reformed by conviction, not just tradition. Children, don’t just believe these things because your parents do; learn them for yourselves. Adults, especially those here for a long time, don’t just hold to these things because it’s our church position; learn about them for yourself. I promise you, these things still matter! The Church exists for the purpose of Glorifying the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and Rome abandoned the Gospel centuries ago. 

Dr. M. Keith Foskey

Keith Foskey is a pastor, podcaster and humorist. He is one of three elders who pastor at Sovereign Grace Family Church in Jacksonville, Florida. Keith holds to the First London Baptist Confession of Faith (1646).
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