Celebrate the Gospel October 31st
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As I learn more about church history, I am deeply encouraged by the men and women of old who held firmly to the Word of God. Amid the chaos of their time, we see how God providentially intervenes and shines the Gospel forth. Reformation Day is a day in particular that strengthens my faith. On this day, we see how God used the single act of the former monk to theologian, Martin Luther, to spark the Protestant Reformation.
Concerned with the false belief that one could “buy salvation” through the practice of selling indulgences, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther is said to have nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the castle church in Wittenberg. This act sounded the alarm on the false doctrines that had infiltrated the church and called the church to return to the truth found in God’s Word.
For me, Reformation Day is a time when I reflect on the goodness of God’s amazing grace as I remember what it felt like to live under a works-based concept of salvation. For many years, I wrestled with the question of whether I could lose my salvation and if I was good enough. To relieve my concerns, I told myself that the solution was to simply do better and confess my sins. But at the end of the day, I still felt the gripping weight of sin and guilt.
For 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 NIV)
Although I had read this passage numerous times, I vividly recall the moment I truly understood the Gospel. This is the Good News!
It is only by God’s grace that I am saved. My works could never save me. Like those who purchased indulgences during Martin Luther’s time as a means to gain salvation, I was attempting to use good works to do the same. Romans 3:10 says there is no one righteous, not even one. Isaiah 64:6 goes even further by saying that all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Jesus Christ is the only person who walked this earth blamelessly, lived a righteous life, and is therefore the one who stands on our behalf to justify us. Understanding how I am saved changed the trajectory of my life. No longer was I under the weight of the law but free in Jesus Christ!
As Christians, it is vital that we hold true to the doctrine of salvation and demolish any lie or man-made tradition that does not align with it. The Gospel is the power of salvation to all who believe (see Romans 1:16). Martin Luther knew that if one believes salvation is obtained by any other means than by grace through faith, then they don’t have the Gospel. They have another religion. So much so, that even in the face of persecution, he would not recant.
As we observe Reformation Day, let us reflect on the words of Martin Luther when asked to recant his beliefs at the Diet of Worms:
My conscience is a prisoner of God’s Word. I cannot and will not recant, for to disobey one’s conscience is neither just nor safe. God help me. Amen.
My prayer for us today is that we will echo the same.
Scripture is quoted from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Facts about and quote from Martin Luther are taken from "The Story of Christianity, Vol. 2: The Reformation to the Present Day" by Justo L. González.
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