Today, Lutherans celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. It’s the anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Why should you care? Well, five hundred years ago, a young man risked his very life to restore the truth to you and to all. The biblical teaching that we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ alone had been hidden, gradually, until the teachings of the Church of his day would have been mostly unrecognizable to Christ and the Apostles.
The teachings of Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone, and Christ Alone still need to be taught over and over again today. How do I know? Well, about 467 years after the Lutheran Reformation began, another young man sat in a youth Bible study. The teacher asked, “How are you saved?” No one answered. The young man, thinking someone had to answer, said something like, “Well, I’ve been pretty good, I come to church…” The teacher proceeded to remind the class of what the Bible teaches in Ephesians 2: 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 (Ephesians 2:8-9). That young man, me, has never forgotten those verses or that day.
We need to be constantly reminded of God’s grace, His undeserved love for us. Our natural inclination is to believe that we can somehow save ourselves, or at least contribute to our salvation, or at the very least, decide to believe. But there is nothing we can do, nothing we can contribute, and no decision to believe that we are capable of making on our own. Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, lived the perfect life God demands of each of us. He is the only one who ever has or ever will accomplish this. He was put to death for your sins, for mine—for the sins of all people of all time. Through His sacrifice, the work of our salvation is complete. God assured us of this by raising Jesus to life again. We can only believe this through the Holy Spirit working in our hearts through God’s Word, both heard and through Baptism.
The Reformation continues today. As so many churches turn away from the teachings of the Bible for so many reasons, it is vital that the truth continue to be preached and taught. The message of the Church must be justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as God teaches in His Word: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23-24). Any teaching opposed to this leads us away from Jesus, away from the Bible, and away from eternal life.
Thank God that He sent an imperfect man, Martin Luther, to restore the truth to the church. That truth that the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ, is our only Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil continues to be preached and taught 500 years later.
Rev. Paul Fries