The Reformation & the Doctrines of Grace

I love this time of year but it’s not because the temperature drops, or the leaves fall. I love it because it gives me an opportunity to revisit the history and theology bound up in the Reformation.  Many years ago, I made it a habit of watching the 1953 movie Martin Luther staring Niall MacGinnis.  This old retelling had a number of scholars working behind the scenes including Jaroslav Pelikan and it was obviously accurate enough to ruffle Roman feathers.  Quebec's film censorship board, which was made up entirely of French-speaking Catholics, banned the movie. Why? Because those Catholics understood that the Reformation was no small matter. Luther's teachings remained as heretical in 1953 as they were in the 16th century and was never released in Quebec's movie theaters. 

In the last several years, I was invited to a presentation by a large church where I live. Over sixty churches showed up, Protestants and Roman Catholics. The main speaker told us that we needed to “get over” the Reformation and start finding unity.  I had a number of thought going through my head that day and not the least of them was Niall MacGinnis playing Martin Luther before the Diet of Worms saying with not a little spittle, "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen." My heart thrills just to read those words. And I was sad the people in that room didn’t know or understand or care about the significance of those words for us today.

Well, that is why I love this time of year. If you are unfamiliar with the doctrines of the Reformation may I suggest the following articles:

Total Depravity

Unconditional Election

Limited Atonement

Irresistible Grace

Perseverance of the Saints

Every year the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals joins with churches around the world to give praise to God for His reformation in the Church! If your church is hosting a special Reformation service or event this month head over to to sign-up and the Alliance will share your information via email and social media. You'll also find some free resources to download there.

There are other great reformation resources that you can order from the Alliance. Check them out.

Now, if you will excuse me, I think it’s time I popped in Martin Luther.

Painting from Anton von Werner, 1877, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA.  He is also Professor of New Testament Studies at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. Jeff is the Senior Editor of Place for Truth ( an online magazine for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. 



Jeffrey Stivason