What is the goal of reformation?

Sinclair Ferguson & 5 others
3 Min Read

FERGUSON: Both in Calvin and in the Westminster Confession and its subordinate standards the answer to the first question, “What is our chief end?” must be the same as to the question, “What is the goal of Reformation?” The answer is, “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

To be able to do both of these things simultaneously is what I think at the end of the day is going to make an impact on our contemporary world that is so interested in enjoyment. It’s very rare to hear non-Christians say, “See how these Christians enjoy the glory of God.” But once that begins to happen in a church fellowship, then I think it inevitably makes an impact on the society around it in all kinds of different ways.

LAWSON: The quick answer would be Romans 11:36: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

The goal is that this theology would produce this doxology—that the theology of Romans 1–11 and all that’s contained in that would produce God-centered worship and giving glory to God.

So the intrinsic glory of God, the first part of that verse, should produce ascribed glory to God, the second half of that verse. Obviously twenty other things can be said under that.

PARSONS: Absolutely it’s the glory of God, and I think if Dr. Sproul were here he would start with that and finish with that.

I think it’s significant to point out, as the Reformers did in the solas of the Reformation, not to forget that qualifier. In speaking not only of the glory of God but of the Reformation, Christian worship, our lives, we remember that everything we do is for the glory of God and for the glory of God alone. And so in Psalm 115:1, at the outset, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory.”

I think that’s what is so significant. We speak so often of the glory of God, but we don’t speak of it as often as we should, in contradiction to our own glory, our own kingdoms, our own fame—that we are here, that this conference exists, we worship, we serve, we live, we preach, we train up, we make disciples, we evangelize not to get the applause of men, not to get notches on our belt, not to wear a certain badge. We do it for the glory of God and for God’s glory alone.

NICHOLS: I’d agree with all of these. The ultimate and eternal goal of the Reformation is the glory of God. If you were to ask “What is the intermediate goal?” or “What is the immediate goal of the Reformation?” it was to reform the church and to reform the church from top to bottom. It was about preaching, it was about music, it was about education, it was about the centrality of Scripture. It was about missions: Geneva was very interested in missions and sending missionaries to the shores of Brazil in the 1550s.

So the immediate task-at-hand goal of the Reformers was to have all pistons firing on a church that is obedient to her calling and to how she is ordained to function according to the Word of God.

THOMAS: Of course I agree with everything. But when I heard the question my mind went in two directions. First of all it went to my first encounter with R.C. forty years ago in a book, Chosen by God, and a vision of the sovereignty of God. And that surely is at the heart of the Reformation: a sovereign, omnipotent, all-powerful God in whom we may trust. And as Sinclair began his prayer, that all of providence, even this event this afternoon in which we grieve that R.C. is not preaching to us, is in the hands of a sovereign, loving, gracious God.

The other direction that my mind went was to the debate about what’s at the heart of the Reformation: is it justification or is it the doctrine of scripture? And I think that the call is once again upon us, as R.C. has signaled in the last number of years, to believe and preach and proclaim the inerrancy of Scripture, and our confidence in Scripture alone. That the answers to all of our questions lie in the written Word of God.

So five hundred years later we still need that Reformation now as much as then.

GODFREY: These answers, I think, point to something of the breadth and depth and glory of the Reformation. So much can be said.

Since this go-round began with a quotation from a catechism, I’d like to quote from the catechism.

Part of what stands at the heart of the Reformation is vital religion: “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” And my only comfort in life and in death is, “that I am not my own, but belong body and soul ... to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q.1). And I think it’s so important to keep that gospel of Jesus at the center of things.

Lightly edited for readability, this is a transcript of Sinclair Ferguson’s, W. Robert Godfrey’s, Steven Lawson’s, Stephen Nichols’, Burk Parsons’, and Derek Thomas’s answers given at our 2017 National Conference. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.