This Latin phrase is attributed to a 1674 devotional by Pastor Jodocus van Lodenstein (150 years after Martin Luther took a stand against the Roman Catholic Church.), who was an important figure in a movement known as the Dutch Second Reformation. These writers stated the “Reformation” reformed the doctrine of the church, but God’s people always need further reformation in practice and writings. These Latin words contain the same concept that the apostle Paul was talking to the saints in Corinth about.
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures”...1 Corinthians 15:1-8
What does reformed mean? “Reformed Biblical theology” concerns biblical theology that has been tested against the original meaning scripture. It has been returned to its original more precise and historically relevant meaning. Reform in Theology then is a constant process as God’s word is often distorted by sinful human culture. We as Christians are reformed and always BEING reformed.
Yet this distorts the original meaning. Reformed churches actually belong to a particular Christian tradition with certain definitions of faith and practice. Confessions and catechisms attempt to faithfully represent the systems of doctrine found in Holy Scripture. To be Reformed then is to be biblical; to be biblical is to be Reformed. As with many denominations in our smorgasbord of religion today progressive intentions have changed the definition to “always reforming,” instead of “always being reformed.” If we have decided, WE as the church are always reforming, we leave God out of the equation and reflect the culture more than Christ. This has been the tendency of many churches.
We often forget that doctrinal standards are subordinate to God’s Word. The church was reformed by God’s Word and always will be, now and in the Reformation and post-Reformation time periods. We the Church, The Body of Christ must continually be brought back to God’s Word and the person of the Holy Spirit continues to guide us. Because we have a sin nature and pour world is broken the Body of Christ is always in need of being reformed.
God’s Word is the source of all life therefore our ultimate loyalty is not to the past, present or future, but to the Word above all else. Our Lord reigns sovereignly over His body in all times and places. The church Reformed and always being reformed according to the Word of God — returns us to proper worship as we do not belong to ourselves. The church in every time and generation is created and renewed by the Word of God and not the currently cultural or religious trends.
With that in mind I point to a current trend in our evangelical tradition of white male supremacist ideologies that have for years infiltrated the evangelical church at large and as a result the wide range of atrocities/injustices committed against women and people of color. In the book Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, Calvin University historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez places Evangelist Bill Gothard and Pastor John Piper, (as examples) both “reformed” in a long line of white, alpha-male leaders who sought to perpetuate a militant Christian patriarchy/nationalism. This according to the author led to enthusiastic support, among white evangelicals, for Donald Trump as president. The deviation from anything evangelical is obvious in a spiritual or behavioral sense. Du Mez argues, obedience wasn’t about goodness and grace it was about power and who wielded it.
America as God’s chosen nation traces back to Puritan leader John Winthrop’s 1630 “city on a hill” sermon, which was unnoticed politically until Ronald Reagan promoted it in the latter days of the Cold War. Previous presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama emphasized American exceptionalism as part of our national identity. For many Christians, America’s chosen status was grounded in its morality, specifically sexual ethics, family values, character education, freedom of (Christian) worship, and a powerful foreign policy. Safeguarding that moral high ground required various forms of government action and policy.
There indeed was a time Americans believing this theory that they were God’s second “chosen people.” As the story goes God raised up the USA to be a light to the nations of the world. To help them to toward this divine destiny God gives Americans special treatment. God has then provided Americans with a vast and fruitful culture and extraordinary leaders (Washington and Lincoln for example) at moments of great crisis and need.
The flip side of being a “chosen people” is that if the USA as did ancient Israel, fails to honor God and his commandments, God will discipline us with afflictions, disasters etc. The Civil War, the pandemic etc.
Realistically it can be said that we Americans are or were a chosen people, as I believe that history reflects this among other things, that God intends us to be a light to the nations, and that he will punish us if we push his patience too far. We have evangelized the world, helped and continue to help with aid, food, medicine, etc. to the world. God has blessed us with industry and technology that has changed and benefited the world. But there is no doubt that we like ancient Israel have fallen into idol worship and sin. We are worshiping false gods in the form of a national morality that promotes lies instead of truth, conspiracies, the worship of politics and politicians as the answer to our sins. Our sexual perversion and sins are sold/marketed worldwide, our greed has been allowed to affect the helpless and aged, not to mention the Abortion Genocide that has killed over 60 million people. We have no moral high ground to stand on. When China tells us, we are hypocrites, and we have no right to criticize them they are right!
“Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.” ― Henry Wadsworth Longellow
Our decline and discipline as a nation has started and will only get worse, that is clear. God’s mill is grinding. There have been many exceptional things that defines America and there still is but the idea that will save us from God’s wrath for our sins is folly! As with ancient Israel our only hope is to repent which means to change our behavior and thinking, to focus on God a not our government, or technology, or culture to save us. As the Body of Christ, we must always be reforming. Let us now put aside our sins, repent, pray and honor our Lord!
I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.