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The Essence of Reformation – Week 14 / March 31st
“…the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience- concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all having obtained eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:8-12
Reformation is that work of the Holy Spirit whereby God’s purpose in the world is enhanced or improved.
In the context of the passage above we have biblical reformation in that the purpose of God is advanced only because of a foundation or truth that has become obsolete. One “good thing” is replaced with a “better thing.” So, as an example, the temple ritual or sacrificial service was replaced by Jesus’ death.
Historical reformation is that work of the Holy Spirit whereby the “better thing” is constantly renewed to the Church. Jesus is the “good things to come…..” Luther’s famous reformation of the 16th century is the supreme example of historical reformation. The “good thing” of justification by faith was brought back to the people of God, indeed at a very high price in that countless Christians were burned at the stake for believing that salvation was only experienced by exercising faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
The Azusa Street outpouring of the Holy Spirit was another example of historical reformation in that by this revival in 1906 the truth of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was restored to the people of God and great Pentecostal movements are the evidence and abiding fruit of it. The Restoration movement in England in the 19th century brought back to the Church the truth about Israel and her coming re-gathering to Canaan in the purpose of God.
Since Jesus is God’s last word to the world, reformation will always restore the nature of His voice, work and person to the Church. (Hebrews 1:1-2) This is at the very heart of the Holy Spirit’s work in bringing restoration and reformation to us. He must be at the center of the Church’s life and practice and He must therefore be the head of the Church and enjoy preeminence in everything (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 4:15-16). For this to happen, reformation will only take place when:
1. We have a high view of scripture
Scripture is the life, ministry and person of Jesus reflected in words. For this reason it is and has to be fully inspired and without error (2Timothy 3:16; 1Peter 1:19-21) and an attack against it is an attack against Jesus! The word of God is absolute truth and Jesus affirmed this when He said, “Thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) For this reason, as Paul exhorted Timothy, there should be in all our churches the public reading of scripture (1Timothy 4:13). It is worth noting that the reformation brought about by Josiah, the king of Judah, was sparked by the rediscovery and the reading of God’s word (2Chronicles 34: 14, 19-21).
2. We have a high view of the cross
The meaning of Jesus’ finished work on the cross is at the very heart of the biblical revelation. When this meaning is lost to us we are in need of reformation. It is also worth noting that the reformation work of Ezra and Nehemiah began with the rebuilding of the altar. This altar is a picture of Christ’s atoning work. (Ezra 3:1-3) Luther’s message of faith was based solely upon the merits of Christ’s spilt blood and Paul made the cross the central plank of his preaching. (1Corinthians 1:17; 1Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14) We would do well to do the same.
Finally, for Jesus to be at the center of the Church’s life and bring us reformation:
3. We must have a high view of his work in the Church.
This work is pictured by the gates that Nehemiah repaired when he embarked on his reformation work as recorded in chapter three of the book of the Bible bearing his name. So, reformation means repairing:
(A) The Sheep Gate (3:1)
The local church must be properly constituted and brought into the life and power of the Holy Spirit. The Sheep must be cared for! (Acts 20:28)
(B) The Fish Gate (3:3)
The local church must be mobilized to reach the lost.
(C). The Old Gate (3:6)
The local church must be built on the foundations of the Apostles and Prophets but also on the traditions handed down to it by great spiritual leaders. The people should be encouraged to read the stories of great reformers through history.
(D). The Valley Gate (3:13)
The local church should exemplify a way of living that separates it from the world. The New Testament church was called the “people of the way” Acts 9:2.
(E). The Refuse Gate (3:14)
The local church should live in inward holiness and purity (2 Corinthians 7:1).
(F). The Fountain Gate (3:15)
The local church must be filled with the Spirit and walking in His power.
(G) The Water Gate (3:26)
Every Christian should be able to rightly divide the word of God.
(H) The Horse Gate (3:28)
The local church should be taught “the how’s and why’s” of spiritual warfare. The horse is an animal of war and we are definitely at war with an unseen enemy that seeks to constantly neutralize and harass us (Ephesians 6:10-20).
(I) The East Gate (3:29)
Nothing keeps the local church healthy like a good understanding of Jesus’ soon coming. This is the blessed hope of the church and the early church lived its life in the light of it. We should do the same! (Titus 2:11-13)
(J) The Inspection Gate (3:31)
Every believer will one day appear before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of his or her life on earth or, as the Bible puts it, to be scrutinized for “the things done in the body.” This being so we should live out our days close to God, in prayer and in faithfulness (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Given this vital work of repairing the gates, it is clear that we need a reformation that will restore much of what we have lost over the years. May the Lord enable us to experience it.
©Malcolm Hedding Ministries