Opening a Keg of Nails

While I was growing up in Tennessee, my family would often entertain fellow church members in our home. Typically, at the end of an evening, as guests were making motions toward getting up for home, my father would entreat “Don’t leave now.  We’ll open up a keg of nails.”  This was his facetious way of saying “Something exciting is about to happen.  You wouldn't want to miss that”.  Rarely, if ever, did this get anyone to stay any longer, which is probably a good thing because I never saw any of these supposed kegs around our house anyway.

Nearly 500 years ago, a man opened such a keg, took a couple of nails out and pinned a list of the failings of his church to its door.  That man was Martin Luther, the German church reformer of the 16th century.  That fateful event took place on October 31st, 1517, which is celebrated by some today as Reformation Day.  Because there began in a serious fashion many important reforms to the church’s doctrine and practice.  Martin was joined by many others over the years.  Some were well known like Tyndale, Zwingli, Calvin, and Wycliffe. Others labored in obscurity, carefully studying for themselves the newly available printed scriptures.  During this time, the reformers coined the Latin phrase semper reformanda, meaning ‘always reforming’.  They recognized that the church, that though it had received the infallible word of God, it exists in an imperfect state.  Its understanding was not yet clear.  Its practices had led many further astray.  While reforms had begun, they knew their work was not finished.

Baptists are the heirs of these reformers, enjoying the legacy of a quest for the truth of God’s word.  It was less than a hundred years later (1609) in the Netherlands that the first identifiable Baptist church was founded. Since that time, the Baptists have unfortunately fragmented several times, sometimes in the name of truth, and sometimes over sin.  One fracture occurred in 1845 in Augusta, Georgia, and the Southern Baptist denomination, to which we belong, was born. 

Just as church members grow in spiritual maturity, and “are being transformed into the same image [of the Lord] from one degree of glory to another” (2. Cor. 3:18), so the churches we make up are also growing, and are being “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2).  While God nor his truth ever change, his church is constantly confronted with new challenges of how to apply his truth, his will, and his heart to the current context in which we live.  Never should we be content to rest where we are, remembering the victories of the past.  Let us not think that the work of reformation is done, but “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Ph. 3:14)

To celebrate Reformation Day yourself, open up a keg of nails, spiritually speaking, and consider how your own walk with the Lord can be reformed.  Challenge yourself, as Martin challenged his church, to believe more truly, to hang “on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4:4)  Martin Luther was never known for his gentleness, but also consider how you might gently urge Southside to continue to pursue semper reformanda, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13).  Do that and “Something exciting is about to happen.  You wouldn't want to miss that.”