While reflecting over the course of these past five days upon the Reformation of the Church, I have tried to piece together the one overarching take-away I’d like to give to anyone who happens across this blog. That take-away, as it turns out, is comprised of two parts – the first with which you’re likely familiar.
Salvation through Jesus Christ, explains Martin Luther, is obtained strictly sola fide (by faith alone). No ifs, ands, or buts about it: nothing we do other than accepting by faith the grace granted through Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead accounts for the salvation He so freely and lovingly gives. It’s over. It’s done.
And because Luther had the gumption to echo the Apostle Paul five centuries ago, you and I no longer have to struggle with the fear that our imperfections, shortfalls and outright acts of stupidity affect our basic salvation as long as our faith is in place (see Ephesians 2:8-9).
But – oh – that grace that comes from Christ’s blood that flowed is so, so much more than the Get-Out-of–Hell-Free card as it is all too often perceived to be today. Which leads to the second, equally-important-but-less-familiar portion of this take-away as we wrap up our Reflections on Reformation.
This gift – this grace – is one of freedom.
It’s one of empowermeng.
It’s one of hope.
It’s one of promise.
It’s one of redemption.
It’s one of eternal value.
In short, it’s the best, most priceless, non-repayable gift that you or I will ever receive. Grace through faith is such a lavishly extravagant gift from the Creator, in fact, that Luther explained exactly how the true follower of Christ will embrace it:
Our faith in Christ does not free us from works but from false opinions concerning works, that is, from the foolish presumption that justification is acquired by works. Faith redeems, corrects, and preserves our consciences so that we know that righteousness does not consist in works, although works neither can nor ought to be wanting; just as we cannot be without food and drink and all the works of this mortal body, yet our righteousness is not in them, but in faith; and yet those works of the body are not to be despised or neglected on that account. In this world we are bound by the needs of our bodily life, but we are not righteous because of them. “My kingship is not of this world” [John 18:36], says Christ. He does not, however, say, “My kingship is not here, that is, in this world.” And Paul says, “Though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war” [2 Corinthians 10:3], and in Galatians 2:20, “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” Thus what we do, live, and are in works and ceremonies, we do because of the necessities of this life and of the effort to rule our body. Nevertheless we are righteous, not in these, but in the faith of the Son of God.