Church China: The Invaluable Inheritance of the Reformation

Editor’s note: Church China is one of the most widely read Christian publications in mainland China and is an excellent glimpse into the life and discussions of the urban Chinese house church. Its bi-monthly magazine focuses on different topics concerning the church and theology and is widely read among house church pastors and lay leaders. This article has been translated and republished with permission. If you read Mandarin, you can access the original article here.

Next year, 2017, is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Is the Reformation only a dusty historical event or does it still influence us? The answer to this question reflects the state of the Church in China today.

“Do you mean that our attitude about the Reformation indicates the spiritual state of the church in China today?”

Yes, it does! We must not forget how the term “Protestant church” originated. The term came from reformers protesting against the Roman Catholic church, pleading for a return to the Bible and the gospel. Do we truly understand our identity and our heritage? Do we cherish and hold fast to the truth that once the reformers treasured and gave their lives for? Does the church in China today stand firm on the gospel reveled by the Bible concerning the conviction of sin, justification by faith, and eternal life and death? Is this the gospel by which we call to sinners to repentance and point the way for people through the historical death and resurrection of Christ? Is our church life and ministry guided and shaped by this gospel?

If we are deficient in these areas, then it must be related to an ignorance of the Reformation. If we realize we have shortcomings, then we must return to the Reformation to recalibrate our direction. Therefore, amid the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, there is immeasurable significance for the church to revisit and commemorate this movement.

First, as part of the catholic church we belong to the historical church, all part of the body of Christ. The Reformation is an important source for us. The rediscovery of the gospel during the Reformation is the foundation on which the churches in China today continue to reform, taking root and building.

Second, we are more ignorant of the Reformation than we are aware of.

Third, the inheritance of the Reformation is more rich and precious than we can imagine.

Fourth, as we learn more, we discover that in many ways we have deviated from the course of the Reformation. Returning to the Reformation will prompt us and give us guidance.

Church China would like to make every endeavor to contribute to this.  Our aim is not to exalt the Reformation, but rather to remind us how God once used the Reformation to lead us to his dynamic and holy Word and the gospel it reveals.

…By God’s grace, through retrospection and discussion, we may rediscover the invaluable inheritance of the Reformation. Let dust-laden history shine once more and speak to today’s church. Let the same God, same Christ, same gospel that once moved the reformers of the past move us today through the Holy Spirit. Let us see how the gospel of the Lord that once inspired them can also motivate us to change, hold fast, and proclaim, just as our resurrected Lord directed his disciples through the Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mat. 28:18-20)