The Five Fingerprints of the Reformation
The arches, loops, and whorls on each finger of a man or women’s hand provide unique and unmistakable indicators of that individual’s identity. You might have an identical twin – another human being who is virtually indistinguishable from you in appearance. The visual resemblance might be so close that even your own parents could be fooled into believing that your twin was you! However, that resemblance doesn’t extend to the tips of your fingers. Your twin’s fingerprints would not match yours, and anyone trained in the art of fingerprint identification would be able to tell which twin was which in seconds.
I call the five foundational truths that Martin Luther and the other Reformers developed “The Five Fingerprints of the Reformation” because they are the five points which unmistakably identify the hand of God in the plan of salvation. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul fretted that “Somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted– you may well put up with it!” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4.) There are those who come to us all the time, preaching “another Jesus” and “a different gospel.” Some of these gospels are much like an identical twin: they look so much like the real gospel that even the pastors of many churches in America have mistaken a “different gospel” for the real thing! When a pastor is deceived by a counterfeit gospel, he unwittingly drags his entire flock, which might number into the thousands, into the darkness with him. That is why it is so essential that you and I be able to identify the real thing! We must become fingerprint experts who are able to quickly and surely identify the true gospel and the true Jesus, in order that we may guide our families and our churches into the way, the truth, and the life. So, just as a bank teller learns to identify counterfeit money by handling only the real thing, we will begin to identify the “other” gospels by learning about the five points of truth that clearly identify the real thing.