Some Personal Reflections on the Protestant Reformation

Some Personal Reflections on the Protestant Reformation

Written by Darrell B. Harrison |
Friday, November 5, 2021

I believe it to be no disservice to the memory and legacy of Lemuel Haynes to say that the words of W. H. Morse are applicable also in describing what the Reformation accomplished—and is still accomplishing—in that it “revealed the Lord” to many from whom he had beforehand been hidden because of heretical teachings. But praise be to God that, as the apostle Paul declared in 2 Corinthians 3:16, “whenever a person turns the Lord, the veil is taken away” (NASB).

I am a first-generation Reformed Christian. Having been raised in the ecclesiastical tradition commonly referred to as the Black Church, terms such as reformed theology and doctrines of grace were never mentioned. Nor were such names as John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, or Jonathan Edwards referenced or cited. Puritans theologians such Thomas Watson, John Owen, and John Bunyan were equally absent from the preaching I sat under. And the only Martin Luther that I ever knew was the noted civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, interestingly, had his birth name (Michael) changed to Martin by his father in honor of the great sixteenth-century German reformer.1

Notwithstanding the supernatural role the sovereignty of God played in providentially exposing me to Reformed theology in 2009, it was faithful men like John MacArthur and the late R. C. Sproul who were instrumental in my coming to embrace Reformed theology. But of the five Solas that comprise the doctrines of grace—Sola Gratia (grace alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Sola Fide (faith alone), Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (glory of God alone)—it was the doctrine of Sola Gratia that was especially life-changing for me as God used that doctrine to free me from the erroneous doctrine of salvation by works that I had been taught for many years, a doctrine Charles H. Spurgeon described as “criminal.”2

As an historic event, the Protestant Reformation may very well have been ignited on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the church doors in Wittenberg, Germany. But today, more than five centuries later, the Reformation has become much more to me than a date in history. For me, the Protestant Reformation isn’t simply an occasion to be marked annually on a calendar, but is something very personal, because it is the Reformation that led to my own spiritual reformation; it was the doctrines of grace that God used to remove a veil of ignorance that had for decades blinded me to the truth.

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