Soli Deo Gloria: The Timeless Impact of the 16th-Century Reformation on Society 

22nd Sunday after Pentecost - 10/29/2023 | Revelation 14:6-7 ESV

The Influence of the 16th-century Reformation

In the quietude of history, the resonating clang of Martin Luther's hammer striking the Castle Church door with his 95 theses still reverberates 506 years later. While the modern age often downplays the profound influence of the 16th-century Reformation, it's essential to recognize the seismic shifts catalyzed by Luther and his fellow reformers for those who cherish historical truths.

The Reformation's Ripple Effect

The Reformation, deeply rooted in theology and the Church, expanded its influence far beyond its ecclesiastical origins. It catalyzed significant social transformation, leading to the decline of monarchies and the rise of republics and parliamentary governments. 

As it unfolded, the Reformation also breathed life into the aspirations of the working class, empowering them to demand equality with the privileged and noble classes. Moreover, it set the stage for unprecedented growth in philosophy, medicine, and scientific exploration, liberating these domains from dogmatic proclamations and traditions and ushering in a new era of rationalism, empiricism, and even scientism.

The Reformation's Core Mission

It's vital to understand that the primary objective of the Reformation was not societal transformation. It was a fervent battle to preserve and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Luther and his comrades sounded a clarion call within the Church, alerting the faithful to the spiritual peril posed by unbiblical practices, manmade doctrines, and the widespread propagation of heretical teachings.

A Modern Resonance

Fast forward to the 21st century, and we hear the clarion call once again. This time, the adversary isn't the papal hierarchy but postmodernism—a worldview that asserts there are no absolutes, no transcendent truths guiding our existence. 

In the postmodern landscape, individuals are free to cherry-pick, create, or reject narratives as they see fit. Paradoxically, postmodernists champion this worldview while remaining dogmatic, close-minded, and even arrogant.

Postmodernism's Impact on the Church

The Church, deeply rooted in this world, feels the tremors of postmodernism's influence. The presentation of the true Gospel, which hinges on the exclusive nature of Jesus as "the way, the truth, and the life," is systematically eroded by various factions within Christianity. As the Apostle Paul once warned against the false teachers of Galatia, it is evident that they are propagating "another gospel," one that deviates significantly from the genuine message.

The Five Solas: Our Guiding Light 

To navigate these turbulent waters, we can turn to the Reformation's battle cries, the five Solas. The first three Solas emphasize the supremacy of the inspired teachings found in the Holy Bible. The first three foundational Solas set the framework of the Gospel.

The Gospel is clear: sinners are saved: 

  • "Sola Christus" through Christ alone.
  • "Sola Gratia" by grace alone.
  • "Sola Fide" through faith alone.
  • "Sola Scriptura" by Scripture alone.
  • "Soli Deo Gloria" for the glory of God alone. 

The last two Solas complement this foundation. They affirm that the true Gospel is anchored in "Sola Scriptura," Scripture alone, and is ultimately for the glory of God alone, "Soli Deo Gloria."

Scripture's Enduring Significance

To fully grasp the lasting significance of the Reformation and its impact, we turn to the scripture readings designated for Reformation Sunday. In the epistle from Romans 3:19-28, we are reminded of the core message: no sinner can self-justify through moral character or good deeds. 

The law of God holds every soul accountable, and our feeble attempts at self-justification are futile. Instead, we find salvation solely by His grace as a gift, a redemption offered through Christ Jesus, and grasped through faith.

Meanwhile, the Holy Gospel reading from John 8:31-36 illuminates the importance of "Sola Scriptura." Abiding in the Word of Jesus signifies genuine discipleship, granting access to the liberating truth. These verses emphasize that the source of the true Gospel is the scripture alone.

Discerning the Genuine Gospel

Narrowing our focus to the first reading from Revelation 14:6-7, we find the key to discerning the genuine Gospel from the spurious ones. The litmus test lies in "Soli Deo Gloria," giving God alone the glory. All doctrine, all teaching, and all practice within the Church must culminate in offering God exclusive glory.

The gravity of this discernment cannot be overstated, for it has eternal implications. In a world veiled in postmodernism and facing its judgment, the one eternal Gospel proclaims that salvation is exclusively in Jesus Christ. 

He, in His sinless perfection, stands as the only worthy sacrifice, propitiating our sins and securing our redemption. Thus, "Soli Deo Gloria" becomes the cornerstone of the true Gospel, offering God the glory He alone deserves.

Upholding the Reformation's Legacy

As we navigate the challenges of the 21st century, let us remember the echoes of the Reformation and the timeless call to guard the Gospel with vigilance. Our mission is to preserve the purity of the true Gospel, ensuring that it remains untainted and true to the glory of God.

This, my friends, is the Reformation we seek—an unwavering commitment to the Gospel, joyously and righteously proclaimed to every corner of the earth, offering glory to God alone. In the name of Jesus and to His glory, we say, amen.

More 2023 Pentecost Sermons

Crossroads of Faith and Civic Duty

The Key to God's Kingdom Revealed

Victory through Loss

Enduring Struggle with Authority

Navigating American Citizenship


Sermons from Trinity Lutheran Church in Miles City, MT