In yesterday’s blog we began to explore what took place nearly 500 years ago when a monk by the name of Martin Luther re-discovered how a man is made right with God – faith alone. We noted that Luther was protesting the Catholic Church’s practice of selling various ways of accessing the ability to be right with God. The movement which God sparked through his writing and preaching came to be known as the Protestant Reformation (since it "protested" the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church system). Luther re-discovered from Galatians 3:11 that the “just shall live by faith”, meaning that a man is made right with God through faith alone.
What we mean when we say "By Faith Alone"
Being made right with God through faith alone was the first reason for rejoicing on October 31. Today we will briefly look at the four other biblical doctrines that came to be reaffirmed by Luther and others in the Protestant Reformation. It was not that the Gospel message had been totally lost in the 1500 years leading up to the Reformation - for there were groups and individuals whom God used to keep it and live it out. Rather in terms of an organized and focus movement to push forth the much needed reform and to re-affirm in a clear way the Biblical Gospel, none had done it as effectively until Luther. It is not by any faith alone, but by a specific faith, the biblical gifting of faith alone, that a person is made right with God. The core doctrine that characterizes “faith alone” is what we call “justification by faith”. The Bible tells us in Romans 4:3 that the Old Testament figure Abraham “believed God, and it was counted unto Him as righteousness”.
Another way of understand justification is by noting that it is God’s legal declaration of my innocence at the moment I believe the Gospel. Quite literally, when I am justified by faith, its “just-as-if-I” never sinned. Four other truths flow from this central feature of the gospel. Below we will briefly summarize them, since each of them answer a particular question about how a human being is made right with God.
1. How is a man made right with God? Faith Alone. Romans 3:4 “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”
2. What leads a man to see his need to be made right? Grace Alone. Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
3. Whose righteousness is counted to me for righteousness the moment I believe? Christ Alone. 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
4. Where do I find out about being saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? The Bible alone. 2 Timothy 3:15 “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”
5. What is the purpose of being saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone of the Bible alone? For the Glory of God alone. Ephesians 1:12 “that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.”
Like five mountain peaks do these five truths stand to make visible God’s saving glory. What is clearly in the Bible, what was re-discovered by Martin Luther and what is perhaps the clearest summary of the gospel are five reasons for rejoicing on October 31st, and every day. Have you received God’s gift of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone of the Bible alone for the glory of God alone?
Reclaiming October 31st for the Glory of Jesus Christ
With the above five statements, we can see why it is more effective to "light the Gospel candle than merely curse the darkness". As we think about how many people in our culture observe Ocotober 31st, I believe this is your opportunity as a Christian to take what you have learned about the Reformation, and more importantly the Gospel, and let your light so shine. Consider the verses below as we close out today's blog:
Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
Romans 13:11-12 "Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light."
Philippians 2:15-16 "so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain."