The Five Omnias
of the Reformation
You have undoubtedly heard of the Five Solas of the Reformation. Whether it’s been on websites, in sermons or magazines, and maybe even at a conference or two, you’ve rejoiced in the celebrated truths.
As you reflect, you may recall that the Solas are by-and-large distinctive and exclusive in character. After all, the Reformers were systematically demarking orthodox landscape by the old landmarks. We’ve come to appreciate their immense sacrifice for the Five Solas--Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone and To God Alone Be Glory. These shape the architecture for the church’s pentagon, its bulwark, particularly in well-grounded soteriology that was threatened to extinction by the Roman Catholic Church.
We venture to say that the Five Solas ought to drive us to the Five Omnias of the Reformation. You know the Latin word, omni, from words like “omni-directional,” i.e. something that receives or transmits signals in all directions. The Five Omnias embody Five Alls. One could say that “Solas” and “Omnias” are two sides of the same coin. Though it would take quite a library to begin to explain each, let me dare a few lines to show how marvelously the Omnias spring from the Solas.
1 Omnis Scriptura (2 Tim. 3:16)
What this first Omnia means is that the Bible is more than our only source of inerrant revelation. Note well, that all Scripture is profitable for teaching and training in righteousness. For precisely this reason, among the Reformers, the Old Testament appears new again; the lectionary is discarded for living, expository preaching; and all of Scripture—Genesis to Revelation—is recognized as the thrilling history of God’s redemptive activity from Creation to Consummation, centered upon the atonement.
When it comes to the Reformation, a new era dawns with all Scripture. That’s why Reformed exegesis focuses not so much on pet texts, as it does on every text in terms of the entire Bible. And Omnis Scriptura is our guide whether or not it is comfortable for us or correct by culture’s standards. You can be sure that every verse provides relevant data for a Christian’s GPS.
Since Scripture covers all history, we also cherish its drama as indubitable testimony that God is directing every moment for the eternal embrace of his people. And what about those things men of the world happen to “discover” in God’s providence? Such must conform not in part but to all of his Word. For with the Reformation, the church retrieves nothing but the truth.
2 Omnes Gentes (Matt. 28:19)
Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus issued the church “The Great Commission,” to go into all the world, “teaching them everything I have commanded you.” “World” here in theological Latin is from gentes, i.e., world or nations. Christ is the Word, the Logos; all of God’s Word revealed must penetrate Omnes Gentes, all nations. You know the term, “Gentiles.” Paul says the gospel is not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles— literally, tribes and families, way beyond the Jewish camp—the world.
Remember, God made the covenant promise that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through Abraham’s seed. Omnes Gentes means the Body of Christ may never take a break from going all out.
This gem of the Reformation immediately sparkles in Reformed businessmen (merchants) traveling far and wide—even to the New World—for commerce. Their countless, dangerous voyages at the time of the Reformation and into the Dutch Golden Age proved invaluable for distributing the rediscovered treasure for transforming civilizations. Also, they were blessed with means to finance full-time missionary labors. Reformation capital enthusiastically embarks on world missions.
3 Omnis Omnia (I Cor. 10:31)
Speaking of cultural transformation, Paul preached that in Christ all things were created and that God has placed all things under his feet. No surprise then, that whatsoever we do, must be done in praise to his name. Precious is the thought that all of life is sacred, that every square inch falls under Christ’s reign.
So, if we are to strum the five-string guitar of the Solas, we’d better march to the beat of our Master’s drum in claiming every sphere as belonging to him. Salvation is through faith alone, but a living faith geared for unfathomable impact. But was this not God’s plan from the beginning? The Spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters, and storming Pentecost with wind and fire, now has his eye on the Omnis Omnia—All Things, All Spheres—in his path.
For the Reformation, the Great Commission breathed new life into the Cultural Mandate to fill the earth and subdue it for Christ’s sake. Now, even bells on horses and clanging cooking pots begin to ring out a new tune as holy unto the Lord. So, rejected was the medieval dichotomy between sacred and secular. Sure, on the one hand, the Reformers transformed the church and its worship. But, on the other hand, they also established Christian education, hospitals, poverty relief, free enterprise, political engagement and even sanitary sewer systems—all in service to Christ who rules over all.
So the Reformers literally paved the way for building a Christian society from the ground up. In other words, the Reformation launched Christian worldview. Not for building a utopia on earth, mind you, but for preparing the elect for the life to come.
4 Omnia Membra (1 Cor. 12:12)
Essential for activating the Five Solas was the Reformation’s insistence on the priesthood of all believers. The Apostle states more than once that every member of Christ’s church, from the cradle to the grave, has a valued role to play for all Scripture to get to all nations into every sphere of life. With no single body-part more essential than the rest, the church needs eyes and ears as well as arms and legs.
This monumental Omnia disallows anyone to sit in the bleachers only to applaud religious professionals. Now, all members sing, all members serve. The Apostolic strategy is to grow a covenant community fully engaged. With that in mind, is it any wonder the Reformation placed such a high premium on Preaching the Word, catechizing the youth and life-long learning for adults? Not to mention translating Scripture into the language of the people?
They viewed intentional faith formation as celestial equipping for life reformation. No one left behind because Omnia Membra—All Members—are enlisted for active duty. As you can see, the Reformation mobilizes a powerful, democratic movement within divinely designed order.
5 Omnis Corda (Mark 12:30)
All said, along with the global, volcanic eruption of the Five Solas, the Reformation never missed a beat on the heart of the matter. Jesus said we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart. The wisdom of Proverbs cries out, “My son, give me thy heart.” Calvin’s famous motto: “I offer my heart to Thee, Lord, promptly and sincerely.” You need only think of the Calvinist Sursum Corda, “Let us lift up our hearts on high in heaven where Jesus is . . . .” So says our venerable Lord’s Supper form, straight from the heart of Geneva, Heidelberg and Dordrecht.
Rejecting condemnable papal idolatry as mere, outward ritual, our Reformation heroes appropriated by grace deep down a comprehensive Christianity that is anchored in the heart. When Christ knocks on the door of yours, he’s not begging for a room to rent; he enters to take ownership of the entire estate. Our Savior didn’t shed his blood, send his Spirit, and graciously soften your hard heart, only to leave some corners cold and uninhabitable. There, the King of the Universe shall be enthroned in all his royal majesty.
For all Scripture, to reach all nations, in all spheres, with all members, those Reformers had certain knowledge and assured confidence that the Hound of Heaven would never rest until he’s flooded the hearts of his own with his irresistible love. With the Reformation, the Bride welcomes the Bridegroom into her innermost chambers.
Omnis Deus: What? One More All?
Paul lifts off as he writes of “the one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:6). For a fleeting moment I thought, “Is not this one more Omnia? Are there perhaps six ‘Alls’ of the Reformation, rather than five? Can you see it now? Omnis Deus gushes magnificently in and through all the Omnias. Is this not a glorious doxology for those five, briefly explained?
For this knee-bending compendium presents a heaven’s-eye view of all—from life to death, time to eternity, things visible to invisible. Because yes, it’s all about God; nothing really about us. No wonder the Latin root omni distinguishes divine, incommunicable attributes as in omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. By no accident, the absolute Sovereignty of God is the crown jewel of Calvinism.
You might say, All for One and One for All. Here is why the Five Alls flow so freely from the Five Alones, which conclude with “To God Alone, Be Glory.” So what do the Five Omnias entail? All Scripture, All Nations, All Spheres, All Members and All your Heart. And with two words, you can describe the entire Reformed enterprise: All God.
To sum up: the Reformation was not only exclusive, but also inclusive; not only about closely defined distinctives but also broadly applied directives; we are not only to guard carefully the citadels by the old landmarks, but also vigorously to plant the Kingdom flag in ever-expanding territories of our lives. While the Solas ground the church in her priceless soteriology, the Omnias galvanize her for palatial eschatology. This is our testimony until the Lord of the Harvest arrives—the All in All—for all his own.
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