Nov 11

Completing the Reformation

Completing the Reformation


That is not the way you learned Christ! 21 For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.                                                                                                                                                         Ephesians 4:21-24 NRSV


My teacher, Dr. Dennis F. Kinlaw, recently gone to glory, liked to tell the story of something one of his teachers at Princeton University, Professor Emile Cailliet, had said. As Dr. Kinlaw told it, Cailliet, a French Protestant, said that Luther only recovered half of the gospel in the Reformation. Yes, he did recover the truth that we are justified (declared innocent before God) by grace through faith alone. That was a huge step forward (by going back!). But it wasn’t far enough.


According to Cailliet, the second half of the gospel had to wait for 200 years after Luther to be recovered. It was recovered through the ministry of John Wesley, when that great evangelist came to realize that we are not only brought into a redeemed relationship with God by grace through faith, we are also enabled to live righteous lives by grace through faith. As Cailliet saw it, Luther only took his rediscovery of the power of grace half way to the truth.


I think Cailliet was absolutely right; to say that we can have a redeemed relationship with God, but that God cannot enable us to live his life in the world is not very good news. But it is great good news that the grace of God is able to “save to the uttermost.” This is what the hymn writer was talking about when he wrote, “Be of sin the double cure: save from wrath and make me pure.” Salvation involves both deliverance from condemnation and empowerment to live God’s life from day to day.


This is why I prefer not to use the older language of “saved and sanctified.” That language suggests that being “saved” (justified) is all that is really necessary, but that some super-Christians might wish to take a further step. No! To genuinely experience God’s “salvation” is to be brought into such a clean relationship with God that his Holy Spirit can reproduce God’s character in us. That is salvation; not a state but a “walk,” a new “way of life”  (see the scripture above).

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