Friday, October 31, 2014

Reformation Day

I posted this two years ago today. But because of its significance in the history of Christianity, I decided to post it again.
    "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith'"  (Romans 1:17 NIV).
Most Lutheran and some other Protestant denominations observe "Reformation Day" on October 31. It commemorates Dr. Martin Luther's posting of his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31st, 1517. This act triggered the movement in world history known as the Reformation. While the historical date for the beginning of Reformation is October 31st, it is often celebrated by churches on the last Sunday in October. The Reformation was the great rediscovery of the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church had been plagued by false doctrines, superstition, ignorance, and corruption. Since most ordinary Christians were illiterate and had little knowledge of the Bible, they relied on their clergy for religious instruction and guidance. Tragically however, monks, priests, bishops, and even the popes in Rome taught unbiblical doctrines like purgatory and salvation through good works. Spiritually earnest people tried to justify themselves by charitable works, pilgrimages, and all kinds of religious performances and devotions, but they were left wondering if they had done enough to escape God's anger and punishment.
The truth of the gospel -- the good news that God is loving and merciful, that He offers each and every one of us forgiveness and salvation not because of what we do, but because of what Christ has already done for us -- was largely forgotten by both clergy and laity. The Holy Spirit used an Augustinian monk and university professor named Martin Luther to restore the gospel to its rightful place as the cornerstone doctrine of Christianity.
Our passage was a major factor in convincing Martin Luther that salvation is by grace through faith, not by works, and that any righteousness a Christian has comes from God as a result of his/her faith in Jesus Christ. The quote within the passage: "The righteous will live by faith" is from Habakkuk 2:4.
Luther drafted a series of ninety-five statements in Latin discussing indulgences, good works, repentance, and other topics, and invited interested scholars to debate with him. The publication of the Ninety-five Theses brought Luther international attention and into direct conflict with the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the Holy Roman Emperor. A little over three years later, he was excommunicated by the pope and declared a heretic and outlaw. This was the beginning of the Reformation, the culmination of which was the writing of the Augsburg Confession of 1530, the first official Lutheran statement of faith.
Martin Luther and his colleagues came to understand that if we sinners had to earn salvation by our own merits and good works, we would be lost and completely without hope. But through the working of the Holy Spirit, the reformers rediscovered the gospel -- the wonderful news that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again to redeem and justify us. As Luther wrote in his explanation of the Second Article of the Apostle’s Creed.
    “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true."
On Reformation Day, we glorify God for what He accomplished in 16th century Germany through His servant, Dr. Martin Luther -- the recovery of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We also earnestly pray that God will keep all of us faithful to the true gospel and help us to joyfully declare it to the world. This verse from a beautiful captures the theme of the Reformation celebration:
By grace God's Son, our only Savior,
Came down to earth to bear our sin.
Was it because of your own merit
That Jesus died your soul to win?
No, it was grace, and grace alone,
That brought Him from His heav'nly throne.
I hope this brief summary on the Reformation will stimulate you do study further this most important movement in the history of Christendom. Have a wonderful day as you celebrate God's love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness!

Love, Jerry & Dotse


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