Stories of our Reformation-era forebears captivate the imagination. The heroism, conviction, earnestness, and vigor of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bucer, Bullinger, Knox, Ursinus, and the like are nothing short of inspiring. But these men and their efforts would be nothing without God and the divine instructions they received from His Word.
In the sixteenth century, there was a great recovery of God’s Word and gospel in Europe. What had become a flickering – even sputtering flame – became once again a blazing fire of truth that has spread throughout the world. While we would do well to reflect on the influence of technological advances, personalities, and great geopolitical events of yesteryear, we must not neglect the driving principles of the Reformation as a working out of divine grace.
Over the next four weeks, the GRN Executive Council will present seven brief articles on “Principles of Reformation” not only to commemorate the past, but to cast a biblical vision for the future of the Reformed church and Christian witness around the world. In this series, we will consider together the fundamental principle, goal, and motivation of the church’s reformation, and apply God’s Word to our doctrine, worship, church, and hearts as we prayerfully pursue a more thoroughgoing reformation in our congregations, lives, and communities.
As we begin this series of blog posts, we must remind ourselves that the church belongs to God and her biblical reformation is His work by His Spirit. Our friends in other branches and traditions of the church universal sometimes criticize us Reformed believers for being cold and unfamiliar with the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and ministries. We sometimes play into the caricature by jokingly referring to ourselves as the “frozen chosen.” But if we are theological heirs of John Calvin, then we should rather be warm-hearted and lively “pneumatic Christians,” as my friend Dr. Ian Hamilton puts it so well. Indeed, we would do well to call to mind how B. B. Warfield dignified the Genevan Reformer as “the theologian of the Holy Spirit.”
In our consideration of the Principles of Reformation, “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (Heb. 10:23), and “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (1 Ptr. 3:15). And let us do this in total – even utter – reliance upon the Spirit of God who works out of us that which He works into us by the twin evangelical graces of faith and repentance (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:12, 13). John Owen is reputed to have said, “Without the Holy Spirit we may as well burn our Bibles.” If we are to see reformation according to God’s Word, we must experience true spiritual revival and continual renewal leading to both understanding of divine truth and holiness of life.
In closing, consider how the Apostle Paul – writing under inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God – brings these various spiritual dynamics into a cohesive whole as he addresses the church in Thessalonica. “We know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:4, 5). Soli Deo Gloria!
 Ian Hamilton, “Heart-Warming Calvinism,” Ligonier, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/heart-warming-calvinism.
 See B. B. Warfield, Calvin and Augustine (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1956), 484-87.
 Ian Hamilton, “Without the Holy Spirit We May as Well Burn our Bibles,” Banner of Truth, https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2009/without-the-holy-spirit-we-may-as-well-burn-our-bibles/