Why am I a Protestant?
Will Graham gives us ten reasons why he is a Protestant.
01 NOVEMBER 2015 · 09:10 CET
It wasn’t until my conversion in 2002 when I started to understand something of the beauty and depth of the Protestant faith. Martin Luther became one of my new heroes and I immediately began to read everything I could find written by or about him.
Now, more than a decade later, I keep celebrating the great Reformation initiated by my dear German ‘friend’ way back in the sixteenth century (1517 to be precise) and rejoicing in the liberating principles that characterize an authentically Protestant confession.
My aim in this article is to give you all ten reasons why I am a Protestant. I hope it bless you all and leads you to rejoice in the Lord with me!
1.- I’m a Protestant because I believe in the supremacy of Scripture
Protestantism teaches that Holy Scripture is to be the authoritative norm for our faith and practice. The Word of God is far more important than any theologian, council, papal decree, ecclesiastical tradition, confession of faith or catechism. When the first Reformers started preaching and teaching throughout Europe, they wanted to go back to the sources of Christianity (ad fontes) to recover the marrow of the Scriptures which had been lost throughout the Medieval Age. In this spirit Luther proclaimed before the Diet of Worms (1524), “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason… I cannot and will not recant anything”.
2.- I’m a Protestant because I believe that salvation comes by the pure grace of God
I didn’t do anything to deserve salvation: neither good works nor pilgrimages nor long prayers nor a personal decision. Nothing whatsoever! Salvation found me because it pleased the heavenly Father to choose me according to His inexplicable grace (Ephesians 1:4). The early Protestants gloried in the salvation made effectual by Almighty God. During many years, the key note of the Protestant movement was: “Salvation is of the Lord!”
3.- I’m a Protestant because I believe in justification by faith
Where Roman Catholicism points out that good works are necessary for a soul to be justified, Protestantism made it clear that Paul had taught that salvation is only via a gift of God called faith. This, however, doesn’t mean that believers don’t have to do good works.
The difference is that such good works don’t save anyone. Good works are the fruit of a thankful heart which is overwhelmed at the bliss of the salvation which has already been given. The Protestant, then, believes that he/ she is declared ‘just’ or ‘righteous’ before God due to his/ her faith in the Son of God: nothing more, nothing less. A faith, of course, which is by God’s free grace (Ephesians 2:8)
4.- I’m a Protestant because I believe Jesus is the Head of the Church
Instead of appealing to Mary as co-redeemer or to the Pope as the Head of the Church, our Protestant forefathers underlined one truth time and time again: the universal Church has but one Head: the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18). Even before the Reformation, there were preachers such as John Wycliffe in England and John Huss in Czech Republic sharing the same doctrine.
In the words of Huss, “Neither the Pope nor the Cardinals are the Head of the universal Church. Only Christ is her Head”. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until Luther came along that this truth was spread with renewed vigour around the European continent.
5.- I’m a Protestant because I believe God deserves all the glory
The main problem that the Reformers found in Catholic Theology was that it robbed God of His glory. Since God deserves all the glory, a church system based upon the meritorious works of the deceased saints, virgins and run of the mill believers ends up dealing a death blow to the splendour of the apostolic Gospel of God’s free grace revealed in Jesus Christ. That’s why the Protestant Reformers were always apt to proclaim: Soli Deo gloria, that is, to God alone be the glory! Never, never, never to man!
6.- I’m a Protestant because I believe in the centrality of the pulpit
The Reformers changed the format of the churches where they called upon the name of the Lord. Rather than having a crucifix, the virgin and the communion table taking up the central spot on the platform, they decided to put the pulpit there. Why did they stick the pulpit in the middle? Because the pulpit symbolizes that the axis of the church is the voice of the all powerful One, namely, the Word of God. To this day, many Protestant churches still have an open Bible upon or just below the pulpit for this selfsame reason.
The centre of the church is neither for Mary nor the communion table nor the musical instruments, but the precious Word of God, the treasure of all treasures. Thanks to the efforts of the Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli in Zurich, expository preaching was birthed. Protestantism cast aside Catholic homilies in order to get back to powerful sermons taken straight from the text of Scripture.
7.- I’m a Protestant because I believe I have direct access to God in Christ
The Reformers never invoked the names of saints or virgins to intercede before the throne of God for them. They knew that they had direct access to the Lord due to the impeccable and expiatory work of the blessed Son of God. One of the Scriptural verses most widely quoted by all of the early Reformers and Puritans was 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus”.
8.- I’m a Protestant because I believe in the priesthood of all believers
Protestantism never accepted the Catholic division between clergy and laity as if one office were more ‘holy’ than the other. Every child of God was as equally as anointed as the next one to serve God in whatsoever sphere of life to which the Lord had called him/ her.
One didn’t have to be a full-time minister in order to be blessed by God. On one occasion Luther remarked, “A shoemaker who makes shoes for the glory of God is a holy minister of the Gospel”. By this he meant that one doesn’t have to be preaching from the pulpit to be used by God. There is no such thing as a ‘secular’ sphere. If we walk in Christ everything we do is holy –whether we be hairdressers, teachers or journalists.
9.- I’m a Protestant because almost all of my heroes are Protestants
As well as Luther and Zwingli, almost all of my heroes are Protestants. In the sixteenth century I recall the colossal John Calvin; in the seventeenth century, we have the British Puritans who strengthened my soul so much whilst I studied at Queen’s University in Belfast (those who most impacted me were Richard Baxter, John Owen, Stephen Charnock and my favourite Puritan of all, Thomas Watson); from the eighteenth century, I love George Whitefield –who was probably the most singularly gifted preacher since the days of the apostles- Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley; from the nineteenth century, J.C. Ryle and the unforgettable Charles Spurgeon in London; and then last century, I rejoice in the legacy in the prince of British Evangelicalism Martyn Lloyd-Jones alongside J.I. Packer and the late ex-First Minister of Northern Ireland, Ian Paisley.
What did all those men have in common? Answer: an untameable passion for the Scriptures and a living zeal for the glory of the Lord of hosts. They were all rock-solid Protestants.
10.- I’m a Protestant because the fruits of Protestantism are amazing
To date, Protestantism continues to be recognized for stimulating a powerful work ethic. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, the majority of the world’s least corrupt countries have got Protestant roots. Given that Protestants have always believed in original sin and humankind’s depravity, they demanded transparency at the socio-political level and established public mechanisms to safeguard society from institutionalized corruption. Last century, Professor G. Wisse reminded us that, “In all the countries of the Western world, citizens enjoy freedom of thought and free elections.
Before the Reformation, things were not so. But thanks to the Reformation, a new form of State came into being which we now know. It is not a perfect theocratic system, but it is one wherein religious liberty was bestowed upon every one”. Spiritually speaking, Protestantism has also sent an avalanche of missionaries into the world proclaiming the greatness of the God of the Gospel as well as building an endless number of orphanages, hospitals, universities and charitable organizations on a global scale.
So, these are just a few of the reasons why I’m happy to be a Protestant. Today I’ll leave you all with a few verses from my most beloved Protestant hymn of all time: Rock of Ages, composed by the well-known Augustus Toplady:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
Let the water and the blood,
From thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfil thy law’s commands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to thy fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.