It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
I would like to examine two great truths that sprang out of one great day in the history of the Christian church. Today’s article will discuss Our Faith; Friday’s blog will focus on Our Work.
Throughout the day tomorrow, October 31, much of the American culture will be observing Halloween. But there is an entirely different celebration that will take place within the community of the Reformed faith: Reformation Day, which commemorates the courageous actions of an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther. On October 31, 1517, in Wittenberg, Germany, Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church to protest some of the teaching and traditions of the Church of Rome, most notably the selling of indulgences (Rome’s attempt to “sell” salvation). Martin Luther issued a clarion call for a return to the preeminence and superiority of the Bible over church tradition. He later reformed the Latin mass, putting the liturgy (worship service) in the language of the common man so that everyone could understand it and benefit from it. Luther also championed the cause to correct the unbiblical ban on the holy covenant of marriage for the clergy.
The Protestant Reformation had profound impacts on the Christian faith that still impact us today. One of the most important of these is Our Faith, which Martin Luther rescued from the confabulation of church tradition. The Reformation that Luther launched reclaimed the Gospel that was delivered to us by Jesus and the Scriptures: the truth that salvation, from beginning to end, is by God’s grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.
What Luther and the Reformers recovered was the biblical doctrine of salvation, which comes to the sinners through God’s unmerited grace. The Reformers challenged the authority and tradition of the Church of Rome, which insisted that people are saved by faith plus works. Rome had taught that what God began as a gift of His grace, men were to continue and complete through their own efforts, ability, choices, and good works. The Reformers vigorously disputed this heresy, declaring that the grace that saves us is the same grace that sustains us and ultimately the same grace that sanctifies us all the way into glory.
The Reformers rightly asserted that the Bible alone is the revelation of God’s inerrant, infallible truth and pointed to the Scriptures to prove that God is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), who pronounces us “justified” in His sight, having completely forgiven our sins and seeing us as totally righteous through the imputation of the perfect righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This recovery of the good news of the Gospel was revolutionary. The Reformers taught that our good works are not a reason for our salvation, but rather a result of our salvation. Thanks to the courage and wisdom of men like Luther and John Calvin, most Protestant churches today teach that we are not saved by our good works in any way, but rather that we are saved to do good works that God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10) for His glory and for the good of others. The truths of the Gospel empower Christian believers to live out practically what we are already are positionally.
This was earth-shaking stuff in a variety of ways, not the least in the way it shattered the widely-accepted notion that only those within the church were actually serving God and that their works were in some way meritorious. The false teaching of the Church of Rome on this matter had created what is often referred to as a “sacred/secular split.” But the recovery of the priesthood of all believers leveled the playing field in the world of work for all believers. We will look in greater detail at the biblical doctrine of Our Work on Friday.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!