Later this fall, our church is hosting an annual event called Reformation Sunday. Taking place on the Lord's Day closest to October 31st (the day in 1517 when Luther posted his 95 Theses), it will be a day filled with preaching, feasting, and enjoying the company of others.
We plan to have an ethnic meal filled with potluck dishes from various nations: England, Scotland (haggis!), Switzerland, and of course Germany (kraut please...). After that, we will put on a spirited version of the Scottish 'Highland Games' led by our youth department in the courtyard.
Since most modern Evangelical churches don't see the relevance of celebrating Reformation Sunday, it got me wondering: what is the value of studying much less celebrating Christian history at all?
What follows are a three brief thoughts on the value of Christian history.
First, Christian history yields great heroes of the faith whom we may emulate. Granted, Christ alone is the highest and greatest hero upon which to model our lives (Hebrews 12:2), Having said that, there are others too who have led notable (if imperfect) lives, filled with astonishing grace.
William Tyndale, for one, is a man who has literally changed my life. Why? Because I wouldn't have the Bible on my desk without him; he selflessly devoted his whole life to translating the Scriptures into English. Condemned as a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church, he was burned at the stake as a "reward" for his undying courage.
Christian history warns us of the many pitfalls of false teaching. Many of the doctrines that we take for granted (such as salvation by faith alone) have been defended in the face of tremendous heresy and apostasy. Luther and others defended the great truths of the Reformation, often at great expense. Many gave their lives--for the truths we take for granted--in order to refute heresy.
It is grievous to see how the modern church has fallen into same heresies our ancestors have already overcome. Legalism and its equally wicked opposite, antinomianism, come to mind in this regard.
Finally, Christian history encourages us to reflect on the slow, but sure advance of the Kingdom of God. How great it is to realize that we are proclaiming the same doctrines that our forefathers upheld! That we are the heirs of such men as Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Calvin, Luther, and Augustine!
Slowly and steadily, the Gospel is advancing around the globe as every tribe and nation is saturated with the good news. Still, there is much work to be done. Much ground to cover.
Yet, whenever I read the works of these men listed above, I am evermore encouraged to see that I believe and confess the same truths as these brothers from other centuries and nations around the globe. By looking back to their footprints, I am also encouraged to look forward to those who fill follow one day in ours.
Yes, Christ will come to redeem His elect remnant! Shall we be numbered among them? I hope so.
-Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.