Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reflections on Reformation Sunday

Today was the first time my family has ever had an opportunity to celebrate the wonderful heritage we have in the Protestant Reformation. This morning we worshiped at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, AL. My wife had the privilege of singing in the choir which entered the auditorium in procession behind men carrying six flags bearing watchwords of the Reformation (sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solo Christo, sola Dei gloria, and sola cruce). As they entered the auditorium the congregation triumphantly sang Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." The sermon was a topical message on Sola Cruce - The Cross Alone (1 Cor. 1:18; Rom. 3:25; 1 John 1:7; and Rom. 8:1). Praise the Lord for the cross of Jesus! On that cross Jesus appeased God's wrath against my sins, restored me to a place of friendship with God, cleansed my heart from the guilt and stain of my sins--all in my place.

For the evening service, the local PCA churches gathered together at Eastwood Presbyterian Church (Montgomery, AL) for a joint Reformation Day worship service. What a joy it was to see this large sanctuary filled with families from all across the area who had come to celebrate the gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

The order of service was based upon John Calvin's Form of Church Prayers (included in Liturgies of the Western Church selected and introduced by Bard Thompson). Six local ministers participated in the different aspects of the service. The unity in the truth and fraternal love displayed by these ministers was commendable. The singing was also hearty and reverent (Psalm 100 and John Calvin's "I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art").

The speaker for the evening was the Rev. Ian Hamilton, pastor of Cambridge Presbyterian Church (Cambridge, England), a congregation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales. Rev. Hamilton is also a trustee of the Banner of Truth Trust. This was a pleasant surprise. I first heard Rev. Hamilton speak at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary's Spring Theology Conference about 6 years ago (summary provided here). I was so blessed by his ministry then that I purchased the recordings of that conference and re-listened to his lectures at least a half-dozen times over the next year.

Rev. Hamilton spoke this evening on the doctrine of justification and it's importance for experiential Christianity. He began by stating two powerful reasons for considering this topic:
  1. When the doctrine of justification disappears from the church, Christianity dies.
  2. This biblical, reformed doctrine is being questioned and restated.
John Calvin spoke of justification as "the main hinge on which religion turns."
Martin Luther spoke of justification as "the head and cornerstone of the church."

In conclusion, Rev. Hamilton stated three reasons for being filled with evangelical rage over those who pervert the doctrine of justification:
  1. The teaching of those who pervert the doctrine of justification dishonors Jesus.
  2. The teaching of those who pervert the doctrine of justification imperils the lives of others.
  3. Christian assurance is based upon the doctrine of justification
In summary, justification is "the cardinal doctrine of experiential Christianity."

(The transcript of a similar message titled "No Other Gospel" has been made available at the Banner of Truth website.)

Having visited the website of Cambridge Presbyterian Church and viewing the recent sermons page, I learned that Rev. Hamilton has been preaching on this grand theme for a number of weeks. I have begun to listen to these sermons, and highly recommend them to you! Rev. Hamilton is in town for the week and will be speaking at Eastwood Monday through Wednesday and then at Trinity next Sunday morning. I will link to the audio of these messages as soon as they are uploaded to the web.

UPDATE: The audio of these sermons and talks is available at the Eastwood Presbyterian Church website (here).