We’ve introduced a change to our usual format for the Saturday seminars just for this year, to give focus to the monumental, world changing event that was The Protestant Reformation.
At this year’s South Island conference, Rob Harrod (Grace Baptist Church, Christchurch) will present a two-part seminar on “The Road to the Reformation”, exploring the circumstances that led to it, and why was it necessary. This will help us to think about the issues facing the church in our day and the continual need for reformation.
Rob has kindly agreed to answer a few questions about his seminar.
1. Briefly share with us how you became a Christian.
I was brought up in a non-Christian home with little contact with biblical Christianity during my school years. I had a very vague belief in the existence of a God and no real interest to find out more. Just before my eighteenth birthday I was approached by two Christian students at Sydney University who shared the gospel with me. By God’s grace I left that conversation with the clear knowledge that I was a sinner who had broken God’s law, that Christianity was far more than a moral code but centred on a relationship with God, and that my only hope was to trust in Christ alone to save me. At that time God graciously drew me to Himself in repentance and faith.
2. Why do you think what you’re teaching on is an important topic?
I believe that what I will be teaching on this year at the Stand for the Gospel conference is important because, although the subject centres on a period of church history, it clearly has a gospel focus, and the gospel is the power of God for salvation. It is the story of how the biblical gospel was recovered after centuries of confusion, ignorance, superstition and error. The Reformation in the 16th century was one of the most significant events in the last 2000 years of church history. The professing church had been increasingly straying from the biblical pattern for a thousand years! Many at the time felt that true Christianity had disappeared from the face of the earth and despaired of any possibility of any real return to the Scriptures. Then God stepped in! By looking at the background to the Reformation we can better appreciate how the Reformation was light after darkness.
3. What do you hope will be filling people’s minds and hearts as they walk away from your seminar?
My hope is that God will be filling the hearts and minds of people with the glory of God, the power of God, and the mercy and grace of God. The Reformation was clearly a remarkable work of God. And my hope is that we will be reminded that this work of reformation is not over; and that Christians and churches will see that the task of the church in every generation is to be semper reformanda, ‘always reforming.’
4. Is there any passage of Scripture that sums up what you’ll be sharing?
Titus 2:10 reminds us of the calling of every believer and church to so live and minister that “in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.” With this aim in view, Psalm 119:59-60 calls us to be watching all our ways, and when we find something that does not glorify God and adorn the gospel we are to speedily reform our ways to God’s ways: “When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.”
5. How has what you’re going to speak on affected your own life?
One of the continuing ways that this subject is affecting my life is as an ongoing reminder of the power of the gospel of God (Romans 1:16) and the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) to transform lives and situations. When things are tough and challenging, and situations seem hopeless, that is never an excuse to ditch God’s Word and ways to ‘try something else’! It is a call for faithfulness and trust in God’s Word to accomplish His purposes. As Martin Luther put it, in relation to the Reformation, “I simply taught, preached and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing … the Word did it all.” We are so prone to trust in ourselves and our resources, this subject powerfully reminds us to trust in Him alone.
6. Can you recommend any books, articles, websites, or materials on this topic?
There is, of course, a mountain of good material on this subject. Here are some suggestions of things that could be read on this topic.
- Firstly, for great primary historical material, written by a key Reformation figure in the ‘heat of the battle’ reflecting on the early decades of the Reformation, John Calvin’s Necessity of Reforming the Church provides a great diagnosis of what was wrong at that time and what needed to be changed.
- Stuart Coulton’s Hitting the Holy Road (IVP, 2011) provides a great, readable introduction to this topic.
- Alan Kreider’s article in Christianity Today: Protest and renewal: Reformers before the Reformation.
- Stephen Nichols, ‘Morning Stars: what was God doing before the Reformation?’ [Reformation Bible College YouTube video]
- Philip Schaff, Reformers before the Reformation’, chapter 5 of one of his volumes on the History of the Church
7. What would you say to someone who is trying to decide whether or not to come to STAND conference?
I would encourage any believer to see the Stand conference as a great opportunity to be refreshed and further equipped for service by hearing some of the core Biblical truths recovered at the time of the Reformation being ably and faithfully preached from the heart by our brother Conrad Mbewe. As the apostle Peter emphasised, we all need to be constantly reminded of the great doctrines and duties of our Faith, that we may stand firm in the grace of God (2 Peter 1:12-15). This will also be a good opportunity to further stir up one another to love and good works as we fellowship with believers from different places.
Join Rob and others in enlarging your view of Jesus and knowing Him more. For more details and to register for STAND 2017, visit: http://www.standforthegospel.org/conference/stand-2017/.