Significant Anniversary (Part 2)
I just went to "The State Fair of Texas" where Teresa & I like to eat our way from one end to the other. Be-cause we split nearly everything, it is almost like eating healthy! One thing we do not split, however, is a Fletcher's Corny Dog (the best corny dog in the world)! This year was the 75th anniversary of its invention. That is significant ... but not nearly as significant as the 500th anniversary of "The Reformation."
In Part 1 of this "blog-series," we looked at the first of five "solas" that were the heart of the Protestant Reformation— "Sola Scriptura" (the Bible is the source and final authority for doctrine). For hundreds of years, church members were told what to believe by "the church" ... but did not know if what they were told was biblical at all because few had access and opportunity to a Bible. The Reformation vitalized the desire to know God's word personally. Protestants (from which Baptists would eventually emerge) would be "a people of the Book."
One of the most important ways that scripture-based doctrine impacted the Reformation was pertaining to salvation, which three of the five "solas" dealt with— "Sola gratia" (grace alone), "Sola fide" (faith alone), and "Solus Christus" (Christ alone). The first two of those are stated clearly by Paul in Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Salvation is a gift of grace and it is received (not earned) by faith alone. It was this truth that wouldn't let Luther stay silent; he was indignant that "the church" had fostered the belief that it had control of who could and could not be saved (they could dispense salvation or withhold it at will).
In Luther's time, things had become extremely corrupted regarding salvation. As mentioned in the Southern Baptist Texan [Oct 2017, p. 12], "Luther's 95 Theses attacked the practice of selling indulgences—written certificates promising forgiveness of sins and release from purgatory. The Pope had authorized the sale of indulgences in order to raise money for the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome." In other words, for a price one could purchase salvation. Whether it was by purchasing with money or by earning it doing extra works, salvation had become a man and church generated commodity.
Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Spirit, said that salvation does not come by our good works and efforts but by grace (a gift of God) which can only be received through the forgiveness of sin which comes by faith, not works. Salvation is God's loving gift (John 3:16) which becomes personal when we believe and trust in Jesus Christ. From the very beginning of the church, the apostles made it clear that salvation was in Christ alone ("Solus Christus"). For instance, recall Acts 4:12 where Peter testified about Jesus— "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
For many of us raised in churches that preach and teach the Bible, these things seem so familiar. But they are not believed, widely, even today. A Pew Research Center survey found that only 46% of U.S. Protestants believe that faith alone is needed to receive salvation. [Southern Baptist Texan Oct 2017 p. 3] (Also, not surprisingly, the same percentage do not believe the Bible provides all the religious guidance that Christians need.) There is something in a lot of people that makes them think more must be required. But what could be added to the loving sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf! What could I do that could add any-thing to what Christ has done? What could have been deficient in what Jesus did? NOTHING!
It is Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone that we are saved.
Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1995