Pastoral Exhortation

16th-Century Protestant Reformation & Martin Luther

Written by Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy Sunday, 27 October 2013

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Celebrated on the last Sunday in October, Reformation Sunday commemorates the 16th-century Protestant Reformation as well as Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517. Year after year, we remember to praise God for the Reformation and the Reformers.

One of the most significant individuals that God raised to spread the flame of Reformation across the world was Martin Luther. Even he himself would not have imagined the great impact he was going to make when he protested against the Roman Catholic’s distortion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Little did he know that the nailing of his 95 Theses to the church door against the Catholic teachings and practices would ultimately lead to the Protestant Reformation that transformed Europe.

Martin Luther studied law and later became an Augustinian monk in the Roman Catholic Church. His study of Scripture soon led him to question the pope’s efforts to sell salvation. He proclaimed that salvation is the free gift of God’s grace. He also vehemently opposed the Catholic Church’s insistence on the authority of the church’s tradition as equal to that of Scripture. He advocated that the Bible, and not the church’s tradition, is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice.

It is believed that Luther’s major contribution to the Protestant theology was the doctrine that it is by faith, and not works, that we are found righteous in the sight of God. In other words, we are not saved by our own righteousness, but Christ’s righteousness imputed on us when we trust Him. Luther called it a justitia alienum, an alien righteousness; a righteousness that belongs properly to somebody else, namely the righteousness of Christ. It is a righteousness that is extra nos, outside of us.

This correct understanding of the Gospel got hold of Luther when he was reading Romans 1:17 – “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” From this Scripture portion and the rest of Romans, Luther understood that there is a righteousness that God in His grace made available in Christ to those who would receive it by faith, not to those who attempt to achieve it by their own works. When a person receives by faith the righteousness made available through Christ, he is reconciled to a holy and righteous God. In applying this truth, Luther said, “When I discovered that, I was born again of the Holy Ghost. And the doors of paradise swung open, and I walked through.”

This great truth of our salvation by faith in Christ, though declared clearly in the Bible and in the writings of the early church fathers, had been largely neglected by the Roman Catholic Church. The medieval bishops and priests proclaimed a different Gospel that speaks of a righteousness attained by one’s meticulous practice of the church’s various rituals. But the truth is that no man’s good works merit God’s favour unto salvation. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone. Our good works result from the salvation that we receive by faith. As Paul declared in Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Martin Luther’s rediscovery of “justification by faith” revived and empowered the church once again to be an effective witness of Jesus Christ to the world. The active protest of Luther and other Reformers inevitably resulted in genuine believers separating themselves from the Roman Catholic Church and forming new congregations outside the ecclesiastical control of Rome. Thus, various Protestant churches started to emerge in various places.

Luther had made more contributions to the reformation of the church. He translated the Bible into German in order to put the Word of God in the hands of all his native people who did not know the original languages of the Bible. Though the Catholic church has translated the Bible into Latin, most people could not understand it. Moreover, Rome had forbidden the people from having the Bible in their vernacular language. In fact, in the Middle Ages, the Bible was chained to the lecterns of the churches. But Luther’s translation of the Bible into German, which gave people access to the pages of the Bible, also influenced other Reformers to translate the Bible into other European languages, and eventually into languages of many other nations and tribes. Our English Bible, the King James Version, first published in 1611, was an outcome of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.

As we thank God for Luther and the Protestant Reformers, let us also dedicate ourselves to learn the Word diligently and preach it with clarity. There are many areas of our lives and ministry that need biblical reformation. May the Spirit of God awaken us unto the truths of His Word that we may be renewed and reformed to impact our churches, society and the world for His glory.

 

 

 

12th Anniversary of Gethsemane Filipino Fellowship

 

In the year 2001, the Lord brought together a few Filipino brethren in our church to form the Filipino Fellowship. It was started with two major focuses: (i) to reach the Filipino community in Singapore with the Gospel of Jesus Christ (ii) to encourage and strengthen the faith of Filipino believers in Gethsemane B-P Church. We thank God that for the last 12 years, these goals have been pursued, and many have come to know the Lord as their Saviour. If we remain faithful and fervent, there shall be greater blessings.

All our preachers in the Philippines had been part of this fellowship while they were undergoing theological training in Singapore. Preacher Dennis Kabingue, who now gives leadership to this ministry, is one of its pioneers. Yet another preacher that the Lord has raised from among our Filipino brethren, who is now preparing to start a new mission work in the Philippines is Donald dela Cruz. You have heard his preaching last Lord’s Day in our worship service. Donald will be conducting a recce to Pangasinan, which is about 5 hours by road to the north of Manila. He will be there for about 10 days (Nov 18–29) to meet up with believers and look for a conducive place to begin a mission church. It is our prayer that sometime in January, next year, a new Gethsemane mission station in Pangasinan can be inaugurated.

Many Filipino believers who have returned to their home towns in the Philippines have requested that we send preachers to begin mission churches. We must pray that the Lord will raise many Filipino preachers to reach all those towns scattered over 7107 islands of that nation. We are thankful that the Lord has enabled us to start Gethsemane Bible Institute in Cebu. This is a very strategically and very timely placed work. Let us pray that God will call many young men to be trained in GBI and to preach the Word in many more locations in the Philippines.

Our Filipino Fellowship can play an important role in reaching out to the Filipinos, not only in their own country, but also Filipinos scattered all over the world. Joseph Ferolino, a Filipino brother who went to Canada, has written to us not too long ago asking us to pray that we can start a mission church where he and his family reside. Joseph is a regular listener to our Bible Witness Web Radio and audio sermons on the church website. May God continue to bless the Gethsemane Filipino Fellowship, that His glorious Gospel may be declared all over the world.