In 2015 I was invited to speak at the Bournemouth and Poole Bible Convention – which starts today. The organisers wanted the Reformation to be the major focus of the Convention in 2017 because this year marks the 500th anniversary of the nailing of 95 theses by Martin Luther to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg in 1517. No movement starts with just one act, but this has justifiably become the iconic start of the Reformation.
But the Convention organisers were also keen to retain their normal emphasis on expository Bible ministry. So they wanted me to talk about the Reformation and preach the Bible. My initial reaction was to think they were asking me to do two different things. Perhaps I should force them to choose. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that looking at the Scriptures would be a great way to think about what the Reformation stood for and stands far. After all, letting God speak through his word was at the heart of the Reformation project.
So was conceived the idea of a three-way conversation between Paul in first-century Galatia, the Reformation in sixteenth-century Europe and us today. We would explore how the central ideas of the Reformation were rooted in the Scriptures and how those ideas continue to be relevant to us today.
It was also clear from the beginning that my central theme would be joy. That was the issue in Galatia. The church had lost its joy. Paul asks them, ‘Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then?’ (Galatians 4:15 NLT). I also wanted to show how the Reformation was not some arcane theological dispute. It, too, was about rediscovering joy by rediscovering the gospel. And that message is as important today as it was then. It’s all too easy for Christian service to be dreary and dutiful.
So this book is two things which are really one thing: a simple introduction to the message of the Reformation and an invitation to rediscover the joy of knowing God through faith alone in Christ alone.