Today, 31st October 2017, is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther pinning his 95 ‘theses’ (topics for discussion) to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. The discussions led to radical changes in the theology and practices of the Christian church which had become distorted through Medieval times. What Martin Luther began is still very relevant today.
The Reformation represents a move to place God as he has revealed himself in Christ at the centre of the church’s life and thought.
Carl R. Trueman ‘Reformation Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
The discussions spread across Europe, helped by the advent of the printing press and the determination of many Reformers to translate the Bible from the Latin language, which the vast majority of people did not understand, into the spoken languages of the people.
Martin Luther, a scholarly monk, had massive struggles with sin and guilt and found the practices of the medieval church did not bring him peace with God. He spent hours in confession, always trying to better his thinking and behaviour in order to earn God’s favour.
As he studied the Bible he came to understand and to preach the Gospel truth that peace with God is found through Jesus. No amount of being ‘good’ and doing ‘good’ will put us right with God. His is the gold standard. The Old Testament is a history of God’s people trying to keep right with God, failing, and using a system of animal and grain sacrifices to visualise their need for cleansing from sin and God’s forgiveness.
What the Reformers re-discovered was the heart of the Gospel. Our right relationship with God can not be earned by good works ‘for all have fallen short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). We need to turn instead to the once for all sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf (Hebrews 7:27). It is by God’s grace that we have salvation through Jesus. Nothing we do can gain us salvation:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
To think that by being ‘good’ we’ll be saved is to disregard the cross and ignore the saving grace of God through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
On this Reformation Day I’d urge you to read a Gospel; Matthew, Mark, Luke or John and find out afresh who Jesus is. Put to one side any misgivings you may have about faulty Churches and hypocritical Christians, instead find out about Jesus.
Happy Reformation Day!