“There is no justification without sanctification, no forgiveness without renewal of life, no real faith from which the fruits of new obedience do not grow.” - Martin Luther
It is reported that early on in his theological endeavors Luther struggled with his faith. He states that it was largely due to the fact that he had not yet discovered the grace and mercy of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Until that point, God seemed cruel to him--a God that held people accountable for things that they could not change. After all, even after he joined a monastery, he still struggled with sin. Luther was growing impatient--with God and himself. What is it that he would have to do to escape the wrath of this "ogre" of a God that he served? While studying the New Testament, Luther discovered the truth that would transform his life:
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." - Romans 1:17 ESV
There it was--but faith in what? Better yet; whom?
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV
From that point on Luther was a changed man. He was awakened by the Truth of God's word and he could not go back to sleep. There is much to be learned from his experience with the Word of God. The Church of the 21st Century must look back through history at Luther and the men who followed. It is only through Christ and our union with him, that we can accomplish the work before us: Seeking and saving the lost, as well as mortifying our own flesh--pursuing holiness and being crucified to the world.
Evangelists Paris Reidhead and Leonard Ravenhill explain better:
For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. - 1 Corinthians 15:21-23 ESV
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. - Galatians 2:20-21 ESV
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. - Colossians 2:3-4 ESV
So much of our theology of the present day is disconnected from this one central truth of the gospel; we are justified by faith in Christ alone. There is nothing that needs to be added to or taken away from this fact. Attempting to find salvation by any other means is an exercise in futility. Yet, strangely enough, this has become a foreign concept to most evangelicals of the present day. So much of what we see revolves around what we should do. I've said it before and I'll say it again: So much of what we see today in evangelism revolves around "What Would Jesus Do?". In other words, what I must do to be more like Jesus. All the while, we are forgetting the real heart of the matter; "What Did Jesus Do?" We can't heal the blind, the lame, the dumb, or forgive sins. That's what Jesus did. But what we can do is what was told to first converts of the early church by the apostles on the day of Pentecost--
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." - Acts 2:36-39 ESV
To teach or believe anything other than this is heresy. As Luther himself stated, "the doctrine of Justification is the pillar by which the church stands or falls". In our present day, it appears to be crumbling. This month's blogs (however many there will be) will be dedicated to looking back in history to the time of the reformation, to re-discover the rich theology and truths of scripture that are so desperately needed in our day. Contrary to popular belief, the Reformation is not over. May it continue until the Kingdom Comes...
Sola Fide, Solo Christus (Justification by faith alone in Christ alone)-- This is what Luther discovered. He was never the same. With the flame now lit in his heart, he would fire the shot that would set the whole world on fire. May we likewise follow in his footsteps. Christ (and him crucified) is the only thing that we need for salvation and to find peace with God.
Blood of the Lamb
And the LORD answered me:"Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end--it will not lie.If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. "Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. - Habakuk 2:2-4 ESV
Soli Deo Gloria,