Reformation Day (Opgmerkt #111) H.P. de Roos

In the past, that is to say before 1944, much attention was paid to the thirty first day of October. I recall going to church in the evening to remember the reformation of 1517. Later this commemoration became obsolete. Although there are still some get-togethers, these are mostly in reformational societies. It was not considered a Christian feast day and often the opportunities were not there to have a separate church service. The memorial was moved to the Sunday in the prayer of the worship service. But when we look back now we perceive an impressive sequence of events in which Christ freed His church anew from human restraint and led it to the freedom for which He had liberated us. The dates are thus put together: 1834-1886-1944-2003. Yes also 2003 although within the present generation of church goers there are many who speak of it scornfully.

Should we then neglect to remember Christ’s work of reformation in His church? Or is it to our detriment and shame that God has to intervene so often? But if we don’t do it then who will? Psalm 78 tells us that: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us, we will not hide from their children, telling to the generations to come, the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works he has done. (NKJV)

That testimony may not be silenced as long as Revelation 11 is not fulfilled. They are the wonderful works of God!

Let us bring back an article from 50 years ago. It is one of those well known ‘Groningen Letters’ from A. Zijlstra (1874-1968), that always started with ‘Amice fraters’ (friend and brother) and ended: ‘with heartfelt greetings and prayers your affectionate Marnix’. In De Reformatie of May 12 he wrote the following concerning the consequences of the Liberation:

“There were those who said: we have to see the demand of the Lord in all of life, even if it is so painful when we must break with much of what we have become dearly attached to. The abusive accusation of being schismatic and the judgement that we deserve the concentration camp and at the least unsigned letters filled with spite and libel may not hinder us from fighting the good fight of faith.
Now that I am writing about the reproach “schismatic” I cannot but bring up the arguments of Luther before the Diet of Worms.
 I read once again the beautiful story which refers to that by Merle d’Aubigne  in his “Historie de la Reformation du seizieme siècle”. (History of the Reformation in the 16th century)
Luther stood before the mighty emperor, in whose realm the sun did not set, and beside this prince the greatest in the Roman Catholic Church. He spoke in anticipation of the charge that he had caused division and warfare in the church: “ I have certainly weighed the dangers that I have exposed myself to, but far from being afraid it is my great joy to see that the word of God then as well as now is a source of division and disorder. That is the character and goal of that Word.
I did not come, says the Lord Jesus, to bring peace on earth, but the sword.” (Math. 10:34)
And then immediately turning to the emperor, he said: “I remind you of the fate of Pharaoh, the king of Babylon, and the princes of Israel who while they meant to be very wise in reality worked out their own destruction”.
The ministers of the Word, who in careful neutrality consider it wisdom in their preaching to avoid the struggle of the church for all of life because in such a way peace can be maintained should remember these words spoken in such dangerous circumstance very seriously

How much congruity can be perceived in the history of the reformations? Every where the tiresome loosening of strong ties, the enduring of libel and abusive language, followed by the careful neutrality of the opponents to prevent the creation of more breaks: can be seen to the present day. They intend to be wise but they work ruin. Even the liberation of 2003 gives incontestable proof of that.

I want to say more than what is mentioned above, that I wanted to publish in the Reformanda  tomorrow.but it was already placed last week  by the editorial board. Because Prof. B. Holwerda has said wonderful things about church reform in the past. He did this with an explanation on the relationship between Sara and Hagar to which the apostle Paul attached an allegory in his letter to the Galatians. After having explained that Hagar did not become free by giving Abraham a son, but remained in slavery just as her child did, Holwerda wrote:

“Sara,  the women who also worked for Abraham and who gave herself completely to him, also bore him a son, doing so out of the covenant that he made with her; Sara does all this completely out of thankfulness. Her child does not make her free but her freedom makes her children free. Her position is not defined by her work because her works are determined by her position.
These are things that also have a different significance; these are two covenants. Because Hagar is the legal Judaism which does not live by faith in the covenant of grace but pursues her freedom by unbelieving works.
Only the New Testament church which faithfully accepts the covenant promises, who is not justified by her works but through grace, may be called Sara. She does not seek to come into the covenant through works but proceeds from the covenant to good works.
But Judaism repeatedly resurfaces, even to our present time. There is a typical diffidence for the covenant; there is opposition against ‘covenantal’ preaching here and there. With many there is seeking after assurance of faith in religiosity and a fear of the question: do you believe in the covenant promises signed and sealed in your baptism? But that is the spirit of Hagar who is very religious but never becomes free. The righteousness that is of faith says the Jerusalem that is above is free. So we, justified by faith, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Church reformation is something other than being against the pope: it is living and working out of faith.
Church reformation indeed, but we are not only thinking on the errors of Rome. Every “church” is confronted with the question: who is Sara? May our Lord convert every follower of Hagar. (B. Holwerda, Pro Ecclesia, Nov. 1, 1944. From: De wijsheid die behoudt.)

It is now sixty years since Holwerda wrote this. We still see a fear of covenantal preaching everywhere, the seeking of the assurance of faith in all kinds of religiosity, promoting baptism based on your own faith rather than on the grounds of God’s promises. Who is like “Sara” today?

Let us be comforted by the Word, which was quoted by Luther almost 490 years ago: “I am not come to bring peace on earth but the sword”. (Math. 10:34)

To thankfully remember God’s work throughout the ages and to teach it to our children.