A Very Significant Anniversary (Part 3)
Can you remember a really important date that was on your calendar ... but you thought it would never arrive? Maybe it was a wedding, the birth of a baby, or Christmas. [Christmas was like that for me when I was a kid but as an adult I'm like, "Oh my gosh! How can Christmas be here again?] Well "Reformation Day 500" (Oct 31, 2017) is finally here.
It was over a year ago that I started hearing about "Reformation Day," the commemoration / celebration of the 500-year anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses (theological and ecclesiological points of contention and for discussion) to the church door in Wittenberg. In the last couple of articles, we have familiarized ourselves with four of five key Bible doctrines that were clarified as a result of the Reformation.
Sola Scriptura It is from the word of God / the Bible alone that we get our doctrine as Christians (and the Church). Tradition and church teachings will always be important but they are secondary to the clear teachings of God's word. The Reformation fueled a return to the Bible.
The next three "solas" relate to salvation—
Solus Christus Christ alone is God's plan / way of salvation. There are not "many ways" to heaven (as so many believe and teach today); there is only One—Jesus Christ. (See John 14:6) Therefore, it is not the Church or any church leader that can dispense or withhold salvation.
Sola gratia It is by God's grace that we are saved. We don't deserve a relationship with God by nature (because we are sinners) and we can't earn it (no matter how good we try to be or how many good works we do). God's grace offers salvation as a free gift. (See Ephesians 2:8-9)
Sola fide It is by faith (again, not by works or merit) that we appropriate God's gift; we must believe it is available and offered, and receive it. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
In this article we must mention the final "sola"—
Soli Deo Gloria "To the glory of God alone" Because salvation is from God alone (not the church, the Pope, etc), it follows that in every way we should glorify (give glory to) God for salvation (not just that we have received it but also by how we live after receiving it). The goal of our transformed lives should be to glorify God in everything that we do (see 1 Corinthians 10:31).
One final note on this idea of giving glory to God. There are many who make the argument that we should glorify God for the Reformation and its lasting impact beyond the church. John Stonestreet's article on Breakpoint Daily (Oct 31, 2017) says, "Our ideas about free inquiry, democracy, education, and capitalism can all ultimately be traced back to the Reformation. And the Reformation also reemphasized ideas like the sacredness of all callings, and spheres of authority in human society." I don't know that this is an overstatement.
In summary, I doubt that Martin Luther could imagine all that has happened in the last 500 years as a result of his actions but, "All glory to God" for what has!
Happy Reformation Day!