Celebrating 500 Years of Protestant Reformation: Spiritual Renewal as an Ongoing Reformation

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By Rev. Dr. Isaac DurosinJesu Ayanrinola

Introduction

Renewal and revival are prominent themes in the life of the church. As recorded in the scriptures, each time God’s children go astray, their faith usually become cold and their allegiance to God is shifted to other gods, material things, and self-glorification. God has a way of visiting His children by creating opportunities for spiritual renewal. As we celebrate 500 years of Protestant Reformation, this article examines the issue of Spiritual Renewal as an ongoing Reformation. The word renewal in this article is synonymous to revival; which means to revive, to live again. In a sense, it could be a new beginning of obedience to God. Whenever this happens with the power of the Holy Spirit at work, it could lead to visible change that affects lives, doctrine and social structure.

The Old Testament records many instances of renewal moments when God burdened the heart of His consecrated servant whose hearts were right with Him, to speak against the evils of their days as a way of warning His children to return to Him. Some of these revival times occurred during the periods of the Judges; Nehemiah, Ezra, Jonah, and others. Common to all these revivals were the facts that they occurred when morality was at the low ebb and a time of national calamity. Each revival began in the heart of a consecrated and burdened servant of God, there was separation from sin, destruction of idols, and the return of people to worshipping the only true God.  

Reformation as a Renewal

The 16th Century reformation popularly referred to as the Protestant Reformation was led by Martin Luther in Germany, Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland, and John Calvin in France. The reformation was God’s intervention into the affairs of the church to stop the growing abuses which had entrenched into the life of the church. Doctrinal deterioration which started during the medieval period had taken a new form in the 16th Century. Luther, in particular, was concerned that the Church had taken the prerogatives that belonged to God in matters of salvation to herself. The Church was asking sinners to compensate for sin and declaring guilty persons righteous before Her. The reformers believed that salvation by God’s grace plus human’s effort is a false gospel. Therefore, they emphasized five essential doctrines of the reformation which are:

  1. Sola Scripture, The Bible alone is the sole authority for all matters of faith and practice.
  2. Sola Gratia, Salvation by Grace Alone
  3. Sola Fide, Salvation by Faith Alone
  4. Solus Christus, In Christ Alone
  5. Soli Deo Gloria, For the Glory of God Alone.

Agitations for Authentic Transformation

Although the Protestant Reformation which was aimed to correct and improve the ecclesiastical organization was successful, unfortunately, it failed to transform the heart. With time, the reform movements needed to be renewed and revitalized. There were various kinds of rivalry and intense animosity among both the Catholic Church and the far and near. Interestingly, as one subsided, another would begin. One message that was common to all was the transformation of the heart and the life and a deeper walk with God.

Because of the new emphasis on spiritual things, there was also a new commitment to mission and evangelism and many Christians were eager to be involved in carrying out the Great Commission. Unfortunately, by the time Christianity came to Africa, it was not one Church, one Faith, one Baptism but a fragmented church. Each denomination claimed superiority and doctrinal correctness over the other. A plague we have not been able to overcome till today.  

The quest for genuine and lasting revival continues to this day. If revival is broadly defined beyond the traditional understanding of organized one-week, nightly evangelistic meetings to mean a new obedience and awareness of God, then it would not be wrong to define revival as “an extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit producing extraordinary results.” This kind of revival brings about a revival of the New Testament Christianity in the Church of Christ and its related community.

The Lord has been faithful in pouring His Spirit on all flesh that calls on Him. In Africa, we have witnessed some significant movements of renewal and revival. For instance, the East Africa Revival which spread to Uganda, Tanzania, and other neighboring countries; the Pentecostal and Charismatic renewal and the Scripture Union revivals in Nigeria in the 70s. The Peace House, a discipleship based ministry in Gboko, Nigeria, is also laying the foundation of another student revival in Nigeria.

Conditions for permanent Revival

Before we examine the conditions for permanent revival, let us quickly consider why we need revival today. There are several reasons; I would only mention five at this point. We need revival:

  1. When love, commitment, and devotion to God grow cold and there is evidence of increased interest in worldly things than spiritual.
  2. When there is a neglect of prayer or it becomes mechanical, material oriented and manipulated for personal gains than God’s will.
  3. Preaching and teaching of God’s word is no more in the power of the Holy Spirit, becomes entertainment, and worldly spirit is enthroned in the church.
  4. The Bible is no more the sole authority in declaring God’s truth.
  5. When there are controversies, dissensions, jealousy, and hypocrisy in the church among men of the clergy and members.
  6. When people begin to share in God’s glory.

As stated in the beginning of this article, spiritual renewal is an ongoing reformation. The 16th Century experience has repeated itself over and over again when the conditions for such have been met. One of the conditions is to have a holy vessel that will convey a holy message from the Holy God. In the Bible, God spoke through consecrated men and women. That pattern has not changed.  Another condition for revival is prayer and the preaching of the Gospel. It was said that “Billy Graham preached the gospel in Shreveport, Louisiana, liquor sales dropped by 40 percent, and sale of Bible increased by 300 percent.” In Greensboro, North Carolina, the report was that “Several impending divorce were canceled . . . the entire social structure of the city was affected.”

Looking back at the history of renewal and revival in Church history, one wonders why these “fire” could not be sustained. Of course, there are several reasons. One major factor is sin and the antidote is holy living and a daily walk with God. Do we need revival today?  The answer is obvious. However, there is a high price to pay!

 

 

 


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