Marking 500 years since the Reformation

Roman Catholicism regards the Reformation as the cause of an unnecessary schism. However, since the papacy was corrupt and unscriptural, the Reformation had to raise its voice against the See of Rome

Former German Catholic friar Martin Luther was famously excommunicated as a heretic by Pope Leo X by Papal bull in 1520
Former German Catholic friar Martin Luther was famously excommunicated as a heretic by Pope Leo X by Papal bull in 1520

The forthcoming 31st of October marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the greatest Christian movement since apostolic times. 

The Reformation, a tremendous revival of biblical and New Testament theology, officially began in 1517 when Martin Luther challenged the Roman Church on the matter of indulgences. While Luther had no idea of the impact this would have on German society and the world, this event changed the course of history. Next to the introduction of Christianity, it definitely was the greatest event in history. It marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization.

Roman Catholicism regards the Reformation as the cause of an unnecessary schism. However, since the papacy was corrupt and unscriptural, and the doctrine of Rome so far removed from biblical moorings, the Reformation had to raise its voice against the See of Rome, and against the authority of the church and of churchmen in religious matters, combined with an assertion of the exclusive authority of the Bible, and of the right of all men to examine and interpret it for themselves. 

Salvation is located not in the church, an organization, but in the person of Jesus Christ. He actually secured and procured the salvation of all his people, without the mediation of priests. The principle became known as solo Christo, by Christ alone. 

The Reformers believed that salvation was caused totally by God’s grace, from beginning to end. Man is not saved by works but by God’s grace in Christ. No man deserves salvation, and if he is saved it is because of God’s unconditional grace. To that end they spoke much of sola gratia, by grace alone. 

Faith alone is consistent with God’s grace in calling to salvation. Thus the Reformers taught that salvation was appropriated sola fide, by faith alone, not by faith and good works and sacraments. As expressed later in the Westminster Larger Catechism, “Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he forgives all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons as righteous in his sight, not because of anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only because of the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, imputed by God to them, and received by faith alone.” For Martin Luther and the other Reformers, this was the doctrine by which a church stands or falls.

The underlying, foundational doctrine of the Reformers was that God’s glory was the ultimate purpose of all things. Soli Deo gloria was their cry – unto God’s glory alone. They held tenaciously to the doctrines of God’s sovereignty in predestination and the efficacious call of God in salvation, and saw how these contributed ultimately to God’s glory rather than to man’s or to the church’s. The Reformers taught the utter necessity of a new birth, wrought in man by the Holy Spirit. 

The Reformers also believed and taught that Roman Catholicism was heretical and apostate. Roman Catholicism was a religion of works, but Protestantism was the true Christian religion based on God’s grace appropriated by faith.

The Reformation laid down once and for all the right and obligation of the individual conscience, and the right to follow the dictates of that individual conscience. Many men who talk lightly and glibly about “liberty” neither know nor realize that they owe their liberty to this momentous event.

Sadly, the Reformation did not reach our country. However, the Holy Bible is easily available nowadays. That was the starting-point of the Reformation, and it could also lead to a new beginning to many Maltese people even today, as they come to know the unsearchable riches that are in Christ Jesus. 

Paul Mizzi, Trinity Evangelical Church, Msida

Feeling unsafe in Birkirkara

I wish to bring attention to the fact that as of late, in the Fleur-de-Lys area, namely in the main road (where a lot of pensioners live) there have been many incidents of stalking and mugging, as well as several people being asked for money by shady individuals during day and night.

One can hardly feel safe just walking or going out, especially during the evening or night. Just a week ago, one woman had her purse snatched from her hand in broad daylight. This was not an isolated incident. Several others were reported at the Birkirkara police station, but others didn’t even bother to report. Shop owners in the area are also complaining of individuals pestering them and asking for money.

From my personal experience, my 80-year-old mother, living there alone, has been asked twice in a week for money, with one person even following her to her house. The following night the same person went to her house ringing the doorbell, asking for money at 9:30pm when she was alone.

A report has been submitted to Birkirkara police and officers told us that they are aware of the bad situation, having had several reports, but being understaffed, they cannot monitor or patrol the area at least in the evening or during the night. Several other complaints have been submitted to the local council too.

Residents in this area are feeling helpless. Most are avoiding to go out in very early or very late hours, fearing mugging or forced entry at their home. This is a ticking time-bomb with the possibility of some elderly person being seriously mugged, beaten or even killed. I cannot jump to conclusions, but since the refuge home opened at Fleur-de-Lys Road near the Juventus club, these incidents are occurring daily. I support those helping needy persons but responsible persons in charge of this home should consider the negative impact it is having and acknowledge their responsibility of those they are taking care of.

Ray Saliba, Birkirkara

St Paul’s advice

The impression is being given that a more liberal society is being created. This may be partly true in the political sphere but in the moral order, looser morals have become the order of the day.

This is imperceptible to the man-in-the-street and die-hard supporters of the ruling party who regard their representatives’ proposals and political decisions as gospel truth.

If St Paul were to write a letter to Mgr Ch. Scicluna, the present Archbishop, he would repeat the same advice he gave to Timothy, in his second letter.

“For there will come a time (the time is now) when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but having itching ears, will keep up to themselves teachers according to their own lusts, and they will turn away their hearing from the truth and turn aside rather to fables. But do though be watchful in all things. Bear tribulation patiently, work as a preacher of the gospel, fulfill thy ministry.” (Timothy 2-4:3-5)

John Azzopardi, Zabbar