By Who’s Authority?
Today (October 31, 2017), marks the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation. The Reformation is a schism in the life of the Church initiated by Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk and professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg, Germany. The Reformation began when Luther’s 95 Theses were nailed to the church doors, the common bulletin board for announcing various news in those days.
Luther’s 95 Theses are a list of propositions he compiled in response to what Luther viewed as the abusive, misguided practices of the Roman Catholic Church in those days. This free proclamation of contrary ideas eventually led to Luther’s expulsion from the Church and the formation of the Protestant branch of Christianity.
Through his fastidious study of God’s Word, Luther fueled a fire for the Gospel and developed a theology far different from his Roman Catholic cohorts. Salvation, Luther contended, was not something that could be bought or granted by human authority, but was found by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Salvation was a work of God in us, not a reward for our work by God to us. We bring nothing to the salvation equation except our sinfulness. God, through the precious shed blood of His son, Jesus Christ, completed the atonement of our sins for us. We must simply believe by faith.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
Will the celebration of Luther’s bold proclamation reignite the fires of our faith? Will we renew our passion for the one, true Gospel?
The Reformation centered on authority. Specifically—who’s authority?
The question of authority comes into play when we ask “How does a person get into Heaven?”
As we discussed earlier, salvation is not something we earn but rather something we are given by God. Salvation is a blessing that we receive through God’s grace and mercy.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (NIV)
Who, then, has the authority to say how we get into Heaven?
God and God alone.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 (NIV)
Our World Needs the Gospel
This seems to be as challenging of a concept as it appeared to be in Luther’s day 500 years ago. In our current modern age, we continually witness everything good and true challenged, mocked, and rejected. Moral licentiousness reigns premier over all things, casting a dark shadow on a world intended to be filled with light. Our culture repeatedly rejects the notion that there can only be one way to Heaven and that God sets the entrance requirements. If it feels good, do it. No matter the consequence. That seems to be the motto of the world. Character, honesty, integrity appear in scarce supply. If it feels good, do it. At least that’s what the Enemy would have us believe.
But the Enemy’s lies are not true. Man’s misguided intentions aren’t true either.
The Gospel, as it was in Luther’s day, remains true. Our world desperately needs the Gospel. Maybe today’s remembrance and celebration of the Reformation will reignite the fires of our soul and renew our desire for the one, true God.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:5 (NIV)
Our struggle—surely mine and likely yours—is with authority. Who’s will shall be done in my life? Am I willing to surrender all and submit to the authority of the Lord Almighty? Or… will I continue to try to drive my life? God has bought me with the precious blood of His Son, Jesus. I am His. Therefore, my choice is clear—to pick up my cross daily and go where He says go and do what He says do and live how He says live. It’s no easy task. It isn’t meant to be. In Scripture, suffering typically precedes glory.
The point of Martin Luther’s theses is this: the righteous shall live by faith. We are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone. There is no other name by which we can be saved and all who call on His name shall be saved. We don’t have do anything. Christ has already done everything for us.
So what about works? We do good works not to be saved, but because we have been saved. Doing good and living right are expressions of our gratitude for the grace God has showered on us. Nothing more, nothing less.
We love, because He first loved us.
We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 (NIV)
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