Garnishing Sepulchers

October 31 has come and gone for another year.

For some that date will always be associated with Halloween. It calls to mind candy and costumes and cavorting around town. It means mobs of little football players and Disney princesses knocking on doors and squeaking, “Trick or treat.”

For others that date is known as Reformation Day. It has less to do with chocolate as it does with the church, less to do with bonbons as it does with the Bible.

October 31, 2016, marked the 499th anniversary of the Reformation of the church in the 16th century. Nearly five centuries ago, a then-obscure Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther posted 95 Theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. Far from looking to start a reformation, Luther was merely interested in initiating a debate with his colleagues about certain points of doctrine. But Luther’s modest intentions became, in the providence of God, the spark of the Reformation fire. Through the subsequent labors of Luther and fellow reformers such as John Calvin the church was restored to her foundations on the Word of God.

Those who trace their spiritual heritage back to the Reformation remember October 31 as Reformation Day.

But for those of us who claim the name Reformed, there is a question: “Are we truly thankful for the work of God in the Reformation? Or do we pay mere lip service to the name Reformed?”

In Matthew 23 Jesus excoriates the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, raining upon them woe after woe. In v. 29 he says, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous.” In other words, he says, “You are hypocrites because you sing the praises of the prophets but don’t hold to a word that they taught!”

Is this true of us who claim the name Reformed? Are we guilty of hypocrisy, building the tomb of Luther and garnishing the sepulcher of Calvin, when in reality we want nothing to do with what they actually taught? Do we claim to be children of the Reformation when in reality we are ignorant of what they actually restored to the church?

If so, then we are guilty of as gross a form of hypocrisy as that of the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day!

If we claim the name Reformed and celebrate the Great Reformation, then we ought to know the truths of Scripture that were restored to the church at that time. And knowing them, we ought to confess them. And confessing them, we ought to defend them. And then what lives in our hearts and is confessed with our mouths must characterize our lives.

And this all because we love these truths of the Bible. Far from being a cold, superficial confession of what our forefathers clung to before us, there is a warmth and fervor and zeal for them living in our hearts.

Faith of our fathers only? May it never be!

Faith of our fathers, living still? May God grant it!

And in our generations after us!

Till Jesus comes!

_______________________

This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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