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The Reformed Church Is Always Being Reformed Pt 4


In the course of considering this subject we’ve noted that, while Scripture is simple, it is sufficiently deep to keep the church growing in grace throughout her pilgrim journey. Thus, while the Scripture is immutable, our understanding of it is not. This is why the church needs to continuously be reformed, shaped, and molded by the Word of God.

The slogan that forms the title of our series arises from the Protestant Reformation. The Scripture had been stripped of its genuine authority, as church tradition became the standard. Guided by the authority of Scripture, the Reformers maintained a clear distinction between church tradition and the Bible.

Sola Scriptura was the watchword of the Reformation. It does not mean that only Scripture should be consulted but rather that the Scripture alone is the supreme authority by which church tradition, theological formulations and church life is to be assessed. This is born out by history itself. The Reformers worked out their theology with heir contemporaries and consulted theological formulations of the church throughout the ages. Calvin asserted that continually subjecting our perceptions to reform is an acknowledgement that Christ alone is Lord of His church.

In this issue, we will now begin considering other factors that highlight our need for continual reform.

Recognizing Our Need for Reform

The abuses of the medieval church brought the Reformers to the realization that church authority is not perfect. It cannot stand alone. The theological formulations and declarations of the church must be subject to assessment and, if need be, adjusted according to the sure foundation of the Scripture. Aside from this, there are several other factors that accentuate our need for reform.

The Process of Growth

In one sense, the slogan of a continually reforming church is simply an acknowledgment that, in the new birth, the Christian does not emerge from his old way of life full grown. The Scriptures are filled with admonitions and encouragements about the process of maturing in the faith.

Confusion sometimes arises from a failure to recognize the distinction between the already and the not yet. Christ’s work of redemption was so perfect and complete that Paul can speak grammatically of our glorification just as he speaks of our predestination, calling and justification – in the past tense (Romans 8:30). He can say with all assurance that we have been blessed with all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). Paul has no problem telling us that we have been seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). However, the Scripture also explains that, at the moment, we have only received a down payment on what Christ’s great work has accomplished (2 Corinthians1:22). We await the fullness of the inheritance Christ secured for us by His saving work. Indeed, at present we groan, longing for the fulfillment which we have been promised (2 Corinthians 5:2-4). This is the tension between the already and the not yet.

Thus we understand that, when Apostle Paul affirms that we are “complete in Christ” (Colossians 2:10), he does not mean that we are now what we will one day be. His point is that we need nothing other than our Savior to transform us into all that God intends for us to be. He is all we need from start to finish. The term “transform” is used throughout the New Testament in the present tense. It implies a current, ongoing process. If there is any doubt, Paul spells it out clearly when he says we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” Our transformation is a process.

Salvation does not provide the Christian with a radical brain transplant. Despite the glorious language of being complete in Christ, the Apostle Paul never implies that, at the new birth, we suddenly know everything a Christian can know, all at once. He repeatedly speaks of the process of growth. This is what the biblical concepts of “maturing,” “conforming to the image of Christ,” and “renewing the mind” are all about.

Not only are we not given complete knowledge at conversion, the Scripture warns us that Christians are susceptible to error. We may add to this equation what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:9. At present, we only “know in part.” For all these reasons, it should be evident that, during this present age, the church exists in a process of growth.

Renewing the Mind Requires Renovation

The nature of growth is not a neat and simple process whereby more knowledge is simply added to “perfect” knowledge we already have. Even a cursory look at the New Testament should correct such a faulty notion. The church’s growth includes a constant weeding out of erroneous thinking along with the reception of truth. Renewing the mind is not simply a matter of adding new mental furniture and a fresh coat of ideological paint; it is a process of complete renovation! Our old, dead way of thinking must be ripped out and replaced with the new and living mind of Christ. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, more and more areas of erroneous thinking are brought to light. We discover that certain things we once believed are actually incompatible with the truth of the Gospel and must be completely discarded.

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

In the next issue we will bring the conclusion of this series as we consider other factors that make this principle so important to the life of the church.

- Stan McGehee Jr