On Tuesday 31 October, while some will be ‘celebrating’ Halloween, many will be remembering the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, supposedly launched when Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. I say supposedly because there is no real evidence for this (after all B&Q hadn’t yet been established). What did happen is that on 31 October 1517 Martin Luther wrote two letters denouncing the sale of indulgences and included 95 ‘bullet points’ to support his argument. Indulgences were essentially declarations by the Roman Catholic church that some, or all, of a person’s punishment in ‘purgatory’ could be avoided in return for particular prayers, good deeds and especially money. Luther rightly wrote “Christ has nowhere commanded indulgences to be preached, only the gospel”.
Whilst undoubtedly this was a vital, pivotal moment in history, the great breakthrough for Luther himself came some 2 years later when he began to appreciate the glorious truth of Romans 1v17: “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’”. Luther later wrote about this moment “I felt that I was altogether born again. I had entered paradise itself through open gates”.
Some 500 years later, like Luther, we rejoice in the amazing grace of God – in particular, that we are justified by faith alone, not by our so-called good deeds and certainly not by our money. We have received a “righteousness from God” – of infinite value, sublime quality – so let us live by faith in Christ alone as a truly reformed church.
Peace and Grace