Today is October 31st…. which normally is focused on “All Hallows Eve” AKA “Halloween and I’m not here to really discuss the pros and cons of dressing in a costume to beg for candy, trick or treating, fall festival alternatives, or the history of these celebrations.
Today is another and more important date in history. It should be known (and for the church…I believe it should be remembered) as Reformation Day. A date that has it’s meaning from an action that took place 500 years ago…but we will get to that shortly.
Many incredible transitions in history had primed the pump for this moment. And this day of significance is generally pointing to a man named Martin Luther, a German monk turned theological scholar & priest in Wittenburg, Germany.
Now Luther was a man that came from ordinary circumstances but seems an unlikely candidate for what he accomplished. He was a man that had utter fearfulness of God and was greatly confused about what it meant and what it took to be righteous. He considered it to be a futile task and although he was a monk, he had a distaste for God. Sensing the strong articulate mind of Luther, his superiors encouraged him to explore the Scripture further and to attend theological education so that He might come to know the love of God and love Him in return.
It was following this time that Luther was studying Romans. Let us look at an account from Luther’s writings…
I had certainly wanted to understand Paul in his letter to the Romans. But what prevented me from doing so was not so much cold feet as that one phrase in the first chapter: “the righteousness of God is revealed in it.” For I hated that phrase, “the righteousness of God,” which I had been taught to understand as the righteousness by which God is righteous, and punishes unrighteous sinners.
Although I lived a blameless life as a monk, I felt that I was a sinner with an uneasy conscience before God. I also could not believe that I had pleased Him with my works. Far from loving that righteous God who punished sinners, I actually hated Him.
…I was in desperation to know what Paul meant in this passage. At last, as I meditated day and night on the relation of the words “the righteousness of God is revealed in it, as it is written, the righteous person shall live by faith,” I began to understand that “righteousness of God” as that by which the righteous person lives by the gift of God (faith); and this sentence, “the righteousness of God is revealed, to refer to a passive righteousness, by which the merciful God justifies us by faith as it is written, “the righteous person lives by faith.”
This immediately made me feel as though I had been born again, and as though I had entered through open gates into paradise itself. From that moment, I saw the whole face of Scripture in a new light.
…And now, where I had once hated the phrase, “the righteousness of God,” I began to love and extol it as the sweetest of phrases, so that this passage in Paul became the very gate of paradise to me. (Luther: Preface to Latin Works)
So back again to October 31st, 1517… The Roman Catholic church of the day had began the selling of “indulgences” as a way of funding the building projects of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. These indulgences were a way for people to contribute and receive a “get out of jail card” from purgatory for themselves or for a loved one. Luther had sent a letter to understand and debate the basis of this tradition used by the Roman church. He saw the inconsistency of this practice when held up to the authority & revelation of Scripture. Luther saw the abuse and neglect of the Scripture as well as the oppression still held over those who did not trust the Gospel of God’s provided righteousness through Christ alone.
This became known as the 95 Theses (Disputation on the Power & Efficacy of Indulgences) which was later nailed to the doors of the All Saints Church in Wittenburg. The movement that carried forth from this moment ignited what became known as the Reformation.
This Reformation of the Church has generally revolved around what are known as the “Five Solas.” These are five principles that share the conviction of what authentic faith really looks like biblically.
Sola Scriptura“Scripture Alone”
This pillar emphasizes the Bible alone as the source of authority for the Christian life and for the revelation of who God is, what God does, and what God says.
- This authority then rejects the whims of men who change with the winds of time or any presupposed sacred traditions as the ultimate hope & rulers over our lives. Only God’s Word has that authority. Thus the Bible is our constant timely & timeless authority. We have sure footing because of the firm foundation of Scripture that both upholds, transforms, & redirects our lives. For only the Bible is “inspired by God” (2 Peter 1:20—21) & “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16—17). It is the acknowledgement of the foundation of Scripture that fueled the translation of the Bible from Greek & Hebrew to German, English, French, & other languages rather than just Latin. This was so that the Scriptures could be taught to the common man rather than only scholars.
Sola Fide“Faith Alone”
This pillar emphasizes the biblical truth that salvation is a free gift, provided by God Himself and proclaimed through the gospel.
- This rejects the notions that one has the ability to earn salvation or to purchase this through some great contribution. This means that any good works, charitable giving, or baptism & such sacraments (while meaningful & good) are not what is required for salvation. Sola fide means that salvation is a free gift to all who accept & receive it by faith (dependence & trust in the Lord). It is not based on any human effort or good deeds (Ephesians 2:8—9).
Sola Gratia“Grace Alone”
This pillar emphasizes that grace is the reason for our salvation. In other words, salvation comes from what God has done rather than what we can do.
- This is so that we would not even confuse the act of faith as a work of our own. Ephesians 2:8—9 teaches us emphatically that faith is a response to the promise, provision, and presence of grace.
Solus Christus“Through Christ Alone”
This pillar emphasizes the supreme & sufficient role of Jesus Christ in salvation.
- This rejects the necessity of earthly priests to be in the roles of intercessors / mediators between God and the common man. It is Jesus who has the sole role as our “high priest” & who intercedes on our behalf based on the work of the sacrificial work of the cross (Hebrews 4:!5) and overcoming of the grave. He is the only high priest we need and the most gracious available for He is able to sympathize with our weakness yet stand in His perfection. Jesus is the complete and only sufficient provision of access to God…being that He is both fully man & fully God. They declare that salvation is found in and through no one else but Jesus Christ. No moral achievement or religious exercise of man can earn righteousness…it is only Christ who both saves and sustains.
Soli Deo Gloria“Glory To God Alone”
This pillar ultimately emphasizes the glory of God as the goal of all creation. As humans are special creatures created by the Creator & can be made righteous based on faith in who Jesus is, what Jesus does, and what Jesus says, we are all called to focus on Scripture, accept salvation by grace through faith, magnify Christ, and live for God’s glory.
- This brings a rejection that our life is meant to be about pleasing others (or exalting them) or guarding our own interests as the ultimate aim. Our goal is to glorify the Lord with everything. To love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to exalt Jesus with our love, lips, and lives. The destination & purpose of every disciple is to live a live that declares the Glory of God in every word and deed.
One man took a step of faith to trust God and the authority of His words… and the wake of that legacy still moves on today. The same is possible for disciples today to live by Authentic Faith… believing and declaring that Jesus is all He says He is and that Jesus will do all that He says He will do.
By His Grace. Through His Gospel. For His Glory.
Sola Scriptura. Sola Fide. Sola Gratia. Solus Christus. Soli Deo Gloria.
By Scripture Alone. By Faith Alone. By Grace Alone. Through Christ Alone. To The Glory of God Alone.
#FollowJesus #beHis #GraceGospelGlory #ReformationDay #Reformation500