Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Justified by Faith in Christ
Happy Reformation Day! I hadn't heard of this holiday until recently, but I have learned that it has been celebrated by parts of the Lutheran and Reformed church for generations. It was on October 31st 1517 that Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, is said to have nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Luther never intended to split or even to leave his church. He was however angered about the use of indulgences, certificates sold by the church that claimed to release people from punishment in both this life and purgatory. He saw it as a money-making scheme and wanted to provoke debate on the real Biblical message on forgiveness.

Luther wrote in the thirty-sixth thesis, "Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters." The Bible teaches that a sinner is saved by grace, not by works. Paul writes to the Ephesians that "by grace you have been saved through faith."

In a way, we would sometimes prefer if it was the other way round. It somehow seems fairer that way. Good people do more and get more. I have one Muslim friend whose biggest objection to Christianity is that it doesn't depend on what you do and that it doesn't seem fair that "all you need to do is believe in Jesus." Of course, we forget the great gulf that exists between us and God for "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:21-28). Thankfully however, we as Christians worship a God who offers grace to us, restitution through Christ's sacrifice in bearing our sins on the cross.

Luther's actions set off what we now know as the Reformation, as a new movement came about, returning to the Bible to see what God's word said, testing the church traditions and doctrines and the papal decrees against it. The church split, forming slightly different Protestant groups across Europe, but there were five main doctrines, known as the Five Solas, common to them.

Sola Gratia - Salvation only comes by God's grace and not through any righteousness of our own. Ephesians 2:8-9

Sola Fide - Salvation comes from faith alone and not from good works. Galations 2:15-16

Sola Scriptura - The Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and the only authoritative revelation of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Solus Christus - Christ is the only mediator between man and God, and the only way to salvation. John 14:6

Soli Deo Gloria - All of salvation is solely as a result of God, so all glory should be due to him. In the same way, everything we do as believers should all be the glory of God. Revelation 5:13

The Reformation also led to the Bible being translated from the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic into local languages, rather than just the Latin of the educated elite. Luther is known to have been influenced by the lives of John Wycliffe and Jan Hus many years before. Wycliffe translated the Bible into English, and was excommunicated from the church for it. His name is continued today by an organisation that seeks to translate the Bible into every known language. Jan Hus, influenced by Wycliffe, preached in and translated parts of the Bible into Bohemian (Czech), and because of this was condemned as a heretic by the church and burned on a stake.

The Westminster Confession of Faith went on to state that "because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope." We look forward to the day when every nation can read God's saving word in their own language, and, more so, we look forward to the day when we are in heaven and see "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb" (Revelation 7:9).

Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified...I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Galations 2:16,21

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  posted at 06:51  

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