The Reformation Gospel and the Mission of God
a presentation by Mark Tatlock
God’s Word presents the gospel as having a global agenda. There is a worldview at the center of every culture, which forms the value system of a people. Government, law, marriage, and education are all shaped by these values. This is represented in their sense of aesthetics. Christians too often focus on changing the aesthetics, rather than targeting the heart with truth that leads to repentance. It is the beliefs of the heart that must be changed. The gospel must be taken cross-culturally, addressing the false religious beliefs formed by tradition, such as the traditions of the Catholic Church, which supplanted Scripture, necessitating the Reformation. There are ultimately only two worldviews, one that is God-centered, and one that is man-centered, whether religious or secular. Man-centered views lack assurance of redemption, and always depend on human effort. When man rejects God, he always puts something in His place. Ultimately that something is self, whatever idols may be employed. This was the issue in Luther’s day, and it is still the issue now. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone is the heart of the gospel. Biblical Christianity is the only religion to present the truth of how to be right with God. God is not distant, but sent His son to die for us, demonstrating that He is loving, compassionate, wise, and just. This sets apart the true God. Therefore, we have the greatest news to tell, that the holy and perfect God is merciful and gracious, pursuing those He has chosen to salvation.
Luther first began to see hope in his study of Romans 5. Christ provides this hope. Romans 5:6 tells us that Christ died for us, before we were saved, having no righteousness or merit. Man knows he cannot satisfy God’s standard, though he denies it. We were helpless sinners when Christ paid our debt. We are utterly undeserving, so there is no way we could save ourselves, thereby answering the question of false religion: human effort can in no way merit salvation. Only Christ’s sacrifice saves. The inability of man and the exclusivity and sufficiency of Christ is a stumbling block to the normal mindset of man. Righteousness comes by faith, and faith necessitates the preaching of the gospel. It is the believer’s ministry to be ambassadors of Christ, telling of how man can be reconciled to God. Paul’s letter to the Galatians reveals that works righteousness had tried to creep into the church even in his day, through the Judaizers. These people taught that circumcision, a work, was necessary for salvation. Abraham was justified by faith, not by any works he had done. Those who are of faith, not works, are saved along with Abraham, even Gentiles, as promised. A people from all over the world has always been God’s intention. This had been forgotten by the Jews by the time Christ came. Christ purposefully pointed to Gentiles in the Old Testament who had true faith, unlike His own people, who disbelieved. He affirmed a gospel that was for Jew and Gentile. This is clearest in the great comission: Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations. The Reformation brought the gospel forward, bringing about modern missions. This message brings about reformation in whoever accepts it, in people and nations. The power is in God’s testimony in Scripture, of which we are to be ambassadors. The Word produces transformation.