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The Reformed Church Is Always Being Reformed Pt 5


In the past installments of this series we have noted that, despite the simplicity of the Scripture, it is also sufficiently comprehensive and complex to keep the church ever growing in grace. Since the Scripture is immutable but our understanding of it is not, the church exists in a state of continual reformation.

At the time of the Protestant Reformation, the Scripture had been stripped of its genuine authority with church tradition becoming the standard. The Reformers called for a clear distinction between church tradition and the Bible.

Sola Scriptura, the watchword of the Reformation, does not mean that Scripture alone should be consulted. It simply refers to the fact that Scripture alone is the supreme authority. Church tradition, theological formulations and church life are subject to the ultimate authority of God’s Word. This was the approach that established the Protestant Reformation.

We must recognize our need for reform, continually subjecting our practices and theological formulations to the sure foundation of Scripture. The continual nature of reform is simply another way of acknowledging that God’s people are in a process of growth. The process of renewing the mind is not a mere updating of our thinking but a complete renovation.

As we conclude this series we will consider how our changing world impacts this reformation and the dangers of not recognizing preconceptions in the process.

Our Changing World

The eternal Scriptures were completed over nineteen hundred years ago. Yet, we should recognize that time has not stood still. It must be affirmed that the Word of God is not out of date. The Scripture is alive and vibrant among His covenant people. Yet, just as the expression of God’s Word was different for His people in the wilderness, in the Promised Land, and in exile, our day provides unique circumstances in which the timeless Word of God finds expression. One reason we are in continual need of reform is that the circumstances of our present existence are in flux. The church of earlier ages did not have the need to consider how conformity to the image of Christ might look with respect to things like medical life support systems, global communications, the modern welfare state, or involvement in the modern corporate world. This is the age in which we live and from which we must be reformed.

Frameworks of Preconception

Everyone has some framework of understanding by which they ascertain information. We are also in need of continual reform because these frameworks through which we receive the Word of God must be made subject to the Scripture. We often interpret the Scripture a particular way because of a preconceived framework of understanding that is still in the process renovation through mind renewal. Many Pentecostals and Charismatics see strange and mystical experiences on every page of the Bible. Revivalists often find an altar call everywhere they look in Scripture. In this age of idolatrous individualism many Christians believe that the Scriptures actually promote personal fulfillment, self-esteem, and the pursuit of individual happiness. A significant number of Christians in the 19th century believed there was justification for American slavery in the Scriptures. Without the principle of continual reformation we will never experience true mind renewal according to the Word of God. Transformation through the renewing of the mind is as much a renovation of our perceptive framework as it is a change in the actual content of knowledge.


From its very inception, the Reformed church has recognized that its interpretations, understandings, and applications of Scripture to the life of the church must always be revised as its understanding of the Word of God improved. To ignore the distinction between our understanding of Scripture and the Scripture itself is to imply that the Reformation was a single corrective that forever established the full and complete truth of Scripture. If this is true then the understanding set forth in the tradition of the Reformation should be held with the same veneration with which the medieval church held Roman Catholic tradition. But this would contradict the very essence of the Reformation. Our traditions, perceptions, and understandings are but an interaction with the Word of God. This interaction must be continually subjected to revision as the Holy Spirit continues His work of sanctification in us. The Reformation recognized this dynamic work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church. We are the objects of reform and the Holy Spirit is the agent who transforms us. If we fail to recognize that our traditions and perceptions are not equal to the Scripture, we are guilty of replacing the authority of Roman Catholic Tradition with our own. Eventually, our tradition will also become nothing more than time honored error.

Acknowledging that Christians are in a state of growth underscores the truth of our slogan, the reformed church is always being reformed.

- Stan McGehee Jr