Matthew R. Perry

The Reformation’s Motto Should Be Ours As Well

In Church Life, Sermons on July 16, 2007 at 5:48 am

(You may listen to this sermon in its entirety by clicking on the link in the sidebar: “Reformed, Yet Always Reforming” from Nehemiah 13.”

One of the most important times in church history is a period known as the Protestant Reformation. One of the mottos during that time was: “Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda est secundu Verbum Dei” which means “The church reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God.” The church will have great spiritual victories and see times of great spiritual commitment to God and His Word — but the church must never believe that they have arrived. During the Reformation, they recaptured the nature of the true Gospel, the true order of the church, and sought to govern each and every thing they did in their times of worship as well as their personal lives according to what the Word of God proscribed.

In Nehemiah, we have seen a great reformation accompanied by celebrations and revivals. Nehemiah 8 gave evidence to how the Word had moved them. In fact in Nehemiah 8:6, we read that “all the people answered, “Amen, amen, lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:6, ESV). In verse 9 we read that they wept as they heard the words of the law. In verse 13, they came together to study the Word. Worship! Conviction! Study! These show how at that point, they their thinking was transformed and reformed under the authority of God’s Word.

They made covenants concerning the family, the Sabbath, the obligation in paying the temple tax as well as providing the Temple with other resources for its continued ministry. They also promised to be faithful in paying the tithe as an act of worship and to help those who had responsibility over this Temple ministry.

Yet, in no time we see in Nehemiah 13 that the issues to which they had covenanted not to do and the Word to which they have covenanted to do — apparently, they forgot these issues. What may capture you is not simply that they committed these sins, but what may shock you is how Nehemiah dealt with the sins of the people and we should deal with ourselves so that we stay sharp in the Lord. And just as the people of God in Nehemiah’s day were prone to forget about the lessons they learned during their Reformation, so are we. We must be reformed and see the value of the Word of God — but always reforming our ways according to the mandates and dictates of the Word of God.

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  1. Nehemiah 13:5-10 deals with the sins of the priests –not the people. The priests had stolen the Levite’s portions of the the tithe so the Levites went home and the temple closed. Isn’t it strange how often modern preachers steal from their congregations and the churches go under!
    And I think that Nehemiah 13 is the context of Malachi 3:8-10 because Nehemiah 10:37-39 clearly teaches that only the Levites and priests were told to bring some tithes up from the Levitical cities to the Temple storehouse.

  2. I appreciate you taking time to look at this blog, Dr. Kelley.

    Many would disagree with you. Dr. John MacArthur supports the fact that, “By neglecting the tithe, the people failed to support the Levites. Consequently, the Levites had to abandon their responsibilities in the house of God and perform field labor in order to survive” (MacArthur, Nehemiah: Experiencing the Good Hand of God, Word, 2001, p. 117).

    Charles Fensham in his commentary on Nehemiah notes the same thing (Ezra and Nehemiah, Eerdmans, 1982, p. 262) as do James Montgomery Boice (Nehemiah, Baker, 1990, p.139) as well as Derek Kidner (Ezra & Nehemiah, IVP, 1979, pp. 129-130).

    Plus, it stands to reason that in these verses, Nehemiah urges the people of Judah to begin bringing the tithe. If the priests had stolen the Levite’s portions (which is not mentioned in the text, but simply implied by you in a cross-reference to Nehemiah 10), then why would Nehemiah take issue with the people and make them make up for what the Levites had allegedly stolen? They should have taken issue with the priests. Nowhere is it mentioned that the priests are to be the ones to bring these things from the Levitical cities.

    The issue is with the people. I appreciate your comments, truly.

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