Welcome to 500 Years of Lutheran Theology

by Pastoral Assistant Chad Welch

 
This month we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Let us thank God for our roots. We thank God, as members of our Lord’s church, we have “received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, and are rooted and built up by him” 
(Col 2:6-7).
       We also thank God for rooting us in a congregation grounded in the teaching of: Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone and Glory alone. In short, we thank God for our foundation of Christ alone.
For many people, October 31 is a day to dress up in costumes and travel from door to door asking for candy. In some traditions, it is even required that children tell a joke before receiving their candy treasures! For many Christians, especially those of the Lutheran tradition, October 31 is

Reformation Day. On this day we celebrate God’s work through his servant, Martin Luther, to preserve the message of the Gospel as the free gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ through faith alone.

As many of you likely know on October 31, 1517, tradition holds that Martin Luther nailed 95 theses, or disputes, on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany — the location of the university at which he taught. These theses were written against the teachings of indulgences, purgatory and other beliefs and practices of the church that were inconsistent with the clear teaching of the Bible. As a pastor of Wittenberg’s Town Church, Luther was concerned about the large number of believers who no longer came to confession and would justify this with the indulgence they had just bought. Indulgences were slips of paper created and sold by officials of the church, and signed by the pope.

These slips of paper granted God’s forgiveness of sins and reduced time in purgatory for the buyer.

The church was making money selling God’s gift of forgiveness of sins. A gift of grace, freely given by God.

Luther’s resistance to the practice of indulgences and others was seen as a threat by the leaders of the church and led many in the Christian church at the time to disagree with him. The church eventually labeled him as a heretic and excommunicated him. As a result, Luther took his reform movement outside of the church in order to preserve the true teachings of Scripture. The Reformation movement, and indeed the whole Christian church, are founded on the following Biblical teachings:

Grace alone:

(Sola Gratia) At the center of the Christian faith is the assurance that salvation is based on the unearned, free gift of God’s grace. Though we are sinners, disobedient children, deserving of God’s wrath and anger, we receive the riches of God’s love and forgiveness.
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Faith alone:

(Sola Fida) God’s gift of grace is received through faith in what Jesus has done for us. Our good works and the good things that we do flow out of having a right relationship with God, but these good things do not have the power to make us right with God. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). This is the teaching that separates Christianity from all other world religions. Other religions point to what we have to do in order to be made right with God. Christianity points to what Jesus has done for us to make us right with God. Through God’s Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, our faith is created and sustained.
 

Scripture alone:

(Sola Scriptura) The Bible is the inspired Word of God. It alone is the source for what we believe and what we practice in the Christian church. All other gifts that God has given to us and to the church such as tradition, experience, and human reasons, function to serve our understanding of the Holy Scriptures. Moreover, the Scriptures are used to judge the validity of these things, not the other way around.

 

Glory to God alone:

(Soli Deo Gloria) Glory belongs to God alone. God’s glory is the central motivation for salvation, not improving the lives of people, though that is a wonderful by-product. God is not a means to an end — he is the means and the end. The goal of all of life is to give glory to God alone: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).

 

Christ alone:

(Solus Christus) Our basis and assurance of salvation is the person of Jesus, the Christ. His life, death and resurrection. Christianity is both inclusive and exclusive. The Gospel writer John tells us that, “God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6).

 

During the month of October, I encourage you to take some time to remember Reformation Day and the core teachings of our Lutheran faith that were preserved by God through Martin Luther. Be comforted by the fact that God continues to work through particular people in particular places to turn people from sin and error so that they too may seek safety in the rock of Jesus the Christ alone. Take comfort in the truth that God continues to bless each of us, freely giving us gifts of grace through God’s Word and Sacraments. As Luther said in one of his famous hymns, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God:  “For us fights the valiant one, whom God alone elected. Ask you, who is this? Jesus Christ it is, of sabbath Lord. And there’s none other God; he holds the field forever.”

Enjoy the events this month as we celebrate the work of Luther and our Lutheran heritage. Attend a Calvary College class, come to a Luther movie, join others in fellowship for a Reformation dinner. Each week Pastor Earl, Rev. Dr. Winston Persaud and I will preach on a different “Sola.” I hope to see you all in worship.