The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred year old, two-hundred proof Grace – bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the Gospel – after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps – suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started.
– Robert Capon
as quoted by Tchividian, Tullian; One Way Love: Inexaustible Grace for an Exhausted World; David Cook Publishers; copyright 2013; Kindle Edition; Location 97
With the Reformation, Luther revived Augustine’s insights. The kingdom of Christ advances exclusively through the Spiritual sword: the Word of God. It is embraced by faith, rather than being coercively imposed by force. In earthly affairs, unbelievers often excel believers. We build temporal cities by our works, but receive the kingdom of Christ through preaching and sacrament.
Horton, Michael; The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; Copyright 2009; page 251
The Reformation focused on the question, How is a person justified? Clearly justification involves a legal judgment by God, a declaration by him that we are just. Then the burning question becomes this: On what basis or grounds does God ever declare anyone just? Must we first become just inherently before God will make such a declaration? Or does he declare us just before we are in ourselves actually just? John Calvin answered the question this way:
A man is said to be justified in the sight of God when in the judgment of God he is deemed righteous, and is accepted on account of his righteousness; for as iniquity is abominable to God, so neither can the sinner find grace in his sight, so far as he is and so long as he is regarded as a sinner. Hence, wherever sin is, there also are the wrath and vengeance of God. He, on the other hand, is justified who is regarded not as a sinner, but as righteous, and as such stands acquitted at the judgment seat of God, where all sinners are condemned…Thus we simply interpret justification, as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favour as we were righteous; and we say that this justification consists in the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.
– John Calvin
as quoted by Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 60-61
God has granted American Christianity no Reformation. He has given it strong revivalist preachers, churchmen and theologians, but no Reformation of the church of Jesus Christ by the Word of God…Aerican theology and the American church as a whole have never been able to understand the meaning of “criticism” by the Word of God and all that signifies. Right to the last they do not understand that God’s “criticism” touches even religion, the Christianity of the church and the sanctification of Christians, and that God has founded his church beyond religion and beyond ethics…In American theology, Christianity is still essentially religion and ethics…Because of this the person and work of Christ must, for theology, sink into the background and in the long run remain misunderstood, because it is not recognized as the sole ground of radical judgment and radical forgiveness.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
as quote by Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p.
“Justification by grace through faith” is the theologian’s learned phrase for what Chesterton once called “the furious love of God.” He is not moody or capricious; He knows no seasons of change. He has a single relentless stance toward us: He loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods – the gods of human manufacturing – despise sinners, but the father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. But of course this is almost too incredible for us to accept. Nevertheless, the central affirmation of the Reformation stands through no merit of ours, but by His mercy we have been restored to a right relationship with god through the life, death and resurrection of His beloved Son. This is the Good News, the gospel of grace.
– Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, copyright 1990, 2000, page 22
The Reformation made the gospel, not ecclesiastical organizations, the test of the true church. Yet the Reformers, particularly in the Calvinistic churches sought biblical standards for the organization of the church.
Three marks were defined in distinguishing a true church of Christ: true preaching of the Word; proper observance of the sacraments; faithful exercise of church discipline.
– Edmund Clowney, The Church: Contours in Christian Theology, copyright 1988, page 101