Justification by Faith Alone: Who’s Legacy?
What happened for a reformation to occur in the Church? What is a reformation? What significance does Luther offer for our contemporary living? Are we able to wear the same lens that Luther was taught by the Spirit to look through in order to interpret how we might live faithfully today?
It all began 500 years ago in Wittenberg, Germany. A young seminary professor had taken issue with the practice of indulgences that was being used by the church of the day to raise money for a new building project for Rome. The way to raise a theological question for the church was to post a thesis and present a logical argument for why this question should be considered by the church authority.
Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, and professor of theology did this very thing on October 31, 1517, on All Saint’s Day Eve.
Scripture “broke through.”
What was the reformation really about? Volumes have been written. Luther’s own works amount to volumes of theological teaching, preaching, reforming, educating and spiritual counsel. But what is the reformation really about? To use Luther’s own question that drives his Small Catechism to educate families to be the spiritual leaders and bishops in their homes—what is that? (vas is das? what does it mean?)
If I were pressed for an answer by my kids, here is the beginning of an answer. It is about the cross and what our Lord Jesus did there for sinners. He died to justify us, to make us right with God. The only way it could happen since we are bound to rebel against God by nature is for God’s only Son to “breakthrough” to us and give us faith in a promise. The expected outcome is faith in God’s promise for you. This is not Luther’s insight only but the inspiration of the apostle Paul and the early church.
How do we pass on this legacy of truth about God the Justifier making the ungodly right with God’s very Self through a death? It seems so other-worldly in a sense with respect to our everyday world. Justifier, sinner, ungodly, cross, not to mention “forgiveness”. How can we hear God’s Word today and live in a world so seemingly different from Paul’s or Luther’s or even our parent’s?
What would a personal or a church reformation look like today? How does a church look through the cross of Christ and interpret everything in light of the gospel in order to live for God and neighbor? The answer is but a beginning. A faith beginning. Our every day on earth is discovery of what this means to trust our Lord Jesus more and more. Every day is new. At the beginning of every day, grace must happen. At the end of every day, grace must happen, again and again. God justifies us.
I am trusting you who read this believe in the power of the cross. But who’s legacy is it? Will our kid’s faith give a beginning answer to their kids and friends about what the reformation is really about? What does it mean? May God break in again.