I have come to the conclusion that the phrase Semper Reformanda is a term we protestants, in particular reformed protestants, like to act as if we believe in it without actually applying it. The more accurate slogan is Semper Protestando which means “always protesting.” This was a movement that I wholeheartedly signed up for. I was a protestor of protestors. I was of the stock of Luther, the tribe of Calvin, a reformer of the reformed. I read the right books, attended the right conferences, and named dropped all of the right names. I could tell you who all of the insiders were and who all of the outsiders were. I believed in all things charity to those who believed just like me. I believed all Christians were equal, but some were more equal than others. I faithfully joined the campaign team to keep the perpetual protest going. I continue to maunder on this point because it is an article saying that the emperor has no clothes and the chief emperor is me. This is not going to be a nice snuggery article. It is an article based on my confessions as a recovering sectarian.
The School of Sectarianism
The word sectarian means belonging to a particular sect attached to the tenets and interests of a denomination; as, sectarian principles or prejudices. The word has its genesis in the Greek word “hairetikos” which simply can mean “causing division.” I was reared and cut my teeth in the “Sectarian School of Ministry.” The church I came to faith in and eventually became a pastor at had a very eclectic group of philosophies and distinctives. The senior pastor was a reformed baptist, with a postmillennial eschatology, who still wore the cloak of the fundamental baptist church culture. We were optimistically paranoid about everyone and everything. A few years into the ministry his best friend and now retired pastor joined the church. He is a brilliant man. He was a champion of this Sectarian school and in fact offered additional courses. He embraced all the same tenets I previously mentioned and added own sectarian pillars as well. It was a very precise culture. At the end of the day, the cultural assumption was that we are optimistic that God has a remnant of believers today and that remnant is us. When anyone left the church we pulled out our verse, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). Eventually, I started to think for myself a little bit more and realized I needed to find another school to attend. This earned me the badge as yet another heretic who dropped out of school. At the same time, I think I may have taken some of the baggage with me. It is now time to leave the baggage at the door.
The sectarianism of the protestant church is equally as appalling to the gross idolatry of the catholic church. I have finally realized that protestants continue to protest catholics and in reality, we are not doing much better. As I am writing this post I am planning to head out on vacation in two days. As is customary for me to do when going on vacation on a Sunday I research and find a church to attend. I don’t ever take vacations from the blessings of the Lord’s Day. It has been maddening how difficult it is to find a church with sound teaching, Biblical fellowship, the Lord’s Table, and is not closed due to COVID-19. If I was Catholic I would go to a Catholic church and know exactly what to expect. Not so with protestants. We are always protesting and always dividing. We are forever sectarians. This leaves us with little to no unity.
While this could be discouraging I am not going to allow that seed to take root. I have realized it is time to actually apply Semper Reformanda rather than just pretending to believe in it. The aim is to reform and purify the church, not protest it.
This begins by loving the church like Jesus loves the church. The church is the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-33). Jesus is Solomon and the church is the Shulamite woman. Jesus sought after His bride and through His death resurrected her. God gave the first Adam a bride named Eve. He put Adam into a deep sleep and from his side made Eve for him (Gen. 2:21-25). She was designed to be his helper and the mother to his children. God sent the final Adam Christ into a deep sleep on the cross. As the spear was thrust into His side water and blood flowed out. The water and blood are what gave life to the church. Out of His side the final Eve, the church was made to be His bride. In the resurrection, Jesus woke up from His deep sleep to be united to his Eve, the church. The church is the bride of Christ. Jesus loves His bride and will certainly not tolerate people bemoaning her. If everywhere I went people said terrible things about my wife it would not be long until the hammer was dropped. Jesus certainly must feel the same. It is time to stop abusing Christ’s bride. It is time to stop protesting Christ’s bride. Our aim is to continue to reform and purify her.
The work of reformation and purification is hard work. It begins with us in our individual lives and in the lives of our church. The final stanza of one of my favorite hymns says:
O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival, start the work in me;
Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need;
For blessings now, O Lord, I humbly plead.
We long for revival. We long for reformation. We long for purity. Let us all start with living limpid lives. That means free and clear of anything that darkens.
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