Every generation needs a reformation

Fredy Winkler

This year marks 500 years since Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, which is remembered as the event that sparked the Reformation.

There is also a certain event in the Bible that could be called a reformation. In the Second Book of Kings, chapters 22 and 23, King Josiah led a reformation after the apparently forgotten Book of the Law was found in the temple. When the secretary, Shaphan, read the Book of the Law aloud, the king tore his robes in dismay because he recognized that they, as a people, had strayed far from the commandments of God. Josiah then introduced a reformation and conversion from evil ways like no other in the history of the people of Israel.

In Luther’s case, it was also the study of Scripture that opened his eyes to the disgraceful circumstances of those times. One of his watchwords became “Sola scriptura—the Scriptures alone.” The Bible alone must be the foundation and the standard of our faith and our lives. Actually, in a certain sense, every generation needs a reformation. The times and the circumstances of life are constantly changing. The circumstances of our times, however, cannot change our faith. Instead, whatever the times bring should be examined in light of the eternal Word of God. Thus, we can say that every generation needs to look back to the Word of God to determine what is right and reform themselves accordingly.

Straying from the Word of God always has political consequences. Through his reforms, Josiah was able to appease God and delay the wrath that had come upon the whole people through the godlessness of the former kings. But God’s judgment still fell on Judah after his reign ended, because the godlessness under his grandfather, Manasseh, was so great that the judgment could no longer be changed. Shortly after the death of Josiah, God’s judgment fell on Judah when Nebuchadnezzar captured the people and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.

Straying from God and His Word always has political consequences. Although the institutions of church and government should be kept separate, no government can exist for long without the just laws of God. Seeking social justice, without heeding the highest commandments from God, has always ended in a fiasco. That was demonstrated in the French and communist revolutions. In both revolutions, the Jews, among others, played important roles. They believed that they could bring salvation to the world. But without heeding the Word of God, such ventures will never be successful. Social justice without regard for God’s justice and truth will always fail.

It’s interesting how Jews throughout the world have always participated in revolutionary movements, yet never brought about their own religious reformation, meaning any return to the Scriptures alone. Among Jews the Scriptures, especially the Torah, are highly revered. Looking deeper, however, one quickly sees that the after-biblical writings have proliferated over biblical Scriptures, to the point that the Scriptures are only useful for their liturgical meaning. From this perspective, a reformation among the Jews would be very desirable.

Thankful that we have the Bible, the Word of God, as the foundation for our faith and our lives, Shalom!

News From Israel - 06/2017

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