October is the month that culminates with the celebration of the Reformation; on the 31st. This is not just a Lutheran thing, as all of the protestant denominations and even non-denominational churches stem from the actions in the 16th and 17th centuries and those who fought in many ways to “reform” the Christian Church. The movement was anchored in the desire and the necessity of bringing the Church back to the pure and true teaching of the Gospel; that it is God’s grace alone in Jesus Christ alone, received by faith alone, by which we must be saved. Nothing need be or can be added to that.
Our salvation is a pretty simply proposition. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31) That was the reply that Paul and Silas gave to the jailer of the prison in Philippi when he asked them what he must do to be saved. That’s it! Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; not just that He lived but that His life, death and resurrection are sufficient for the forgiveness of our sins and our reconciliation to God our Father for all eternity. That’s where faith comes in. Faith is what trusts in the promises that God has made to us; that they have been or will one day all be kept and in them we find our life. Way back in the Old Testament, in the Book of Genesis, Moses writes; “Abram believed the LORD and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (15:6) God had just made promises to Abram, that he would have a son, as well as descendants as numerous as the stars in the night sky and the grains of sand on the seashore. God also promised that the entire world would be blessed through him, pointing to the Messiah that would come through Isaac from his family line. Abram believed God, He had faith and trust in the promise, and that faith was credited to him as righteousness.
Righteousness equals perfection in the eyes of God. None of us can do that on our own, we are undone from the start due to the sin that is in us from birth, even conception. That sin has been paid for in the keeping of the promise of Messiah, that He lived, died and rose again for us; our forgiveness and eternal life, and faith in the resurrection is what justifies us (sets us right with God). Later on the Prophet Habakkuk states; “The righteous will live by faith.” (2:4) Righteousness, perfection in God’s eyes, brings with it life, in this world and for all eternity, and that righteousness comes to us only as the gift of God which is received and kept in the hand of faith. All of this is quite simple, but it certainly isn’t easy; not in sinful fallen world, not in fallen and sinful human flesh, and not with the continued assaults from our enemy the devil.
Through the course of 1500 years the Church had wandered from this simple faith, adding rule upon rule to what needed to be done in order to “achieve” salvation. All of these man made laws diminished the significance and power of the completed work of Christ on our behalf, even rendering it unnecessary and foolish. The Church was literally spitting in the face of the Savior in calling Him a liar in crying “It is finished” (John 19:30) from the cross as he drew his dying breath. At that very moment, and forever after, all that needed to be done had been done. Forgiveness and eternal life had been won for all people, all sinners, and these gifts are received only by faith. The resurrection of Jesus proves this as death could not hold Him in its grips.
The Reformation brought the Church, those who protested the abuses and errors of the Roman Catholic Church, back to this simple faith. We can remember this and stay rooted in it today by remembering all five of the Reformation “Solas”; Sola fide (by faith alone), Sola gratia (by grace alone), Solus Christus (in Christ alone), Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone) and Soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone).