October 31, 1517 - Reformation Day - was  remarkable day in history, and is still celebrated among Lutherans today. It is the day on which Martin Luther, a devout Catholic monk, posted the "95 Theses" - errors Luther found in church doctrine and practice that he wanted to bring to light, in hopes of returning the church toward the truth.

Luther’s belief that Scripture alone is the sole authority for doctrine enabled him to question the church. Scripture, he argued, said that Christ’s death fully satisfied the penalty of sin. The Bible states that a person is justified or “declared not guilty” of his sin by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. At the time, Luther had no intention of leaving the church he hoped to reform, but his commitment to the Scriptures as the sole authority branded him as a heretic and led to the splintering of the Christian Church at that time. Now instead of there being one Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church which broke away from the Catholic church some centuries earlier, Lutheran and other "Protestant" churches would appear as well.

Before Luther discovered the truth that you are saved by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone and by scripture alone, he lived a tormented life. No amount of good works could soothe his conscience.  Left constantly worrying about his faith and wondering about his standing with God nearly drove him to despair. However, everything changed when Luther reflected on Romans 1:17, "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.'" When Luther saw that Jesus did everything to save him: lived a perfectly righteous life for him and died on the cross to pay his punishment for sin, Martin finally found peace. It’s interesting that the note found in his pocket when he died read, “We are all beggars.”  Luther lived his whole life simply holding out the hand of faith and receiving by God’s grace all that Jesus did for him.

That is why the Reformation is still important today.  Martin Luther isn’t the only one who wants the answer for a guilty conscience. You want peace with God. I want peace with God. There is only one way to have no doubts that you have the righteousness you need to get to heaven. There is only one way to know that your sin has been forgiven and you won’t suffer sin’s punishment in hell. That way is God ALONE doing everything needed to save us! That is why the three “Alones” at the core of Luther's teaching (Grace Alone, Faith Alone and Scripture Alone) are so important today.

As this month marks the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day, we'll take some time to look at each one of these core teachings separately in the weeks to come!

Do you have any questions about God, faith, spirituality, our church teachings, etc.? Send an email to Pastor Spaude at pastor@stpeterwels.com!