In Appreciation of Reformation Day

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

Consistent readers of this blog know that I am deeply committed Evangelical. Especially in the area of soteriology (i.e., theology of salvation), I am convinced that the Evangelical understanding of how we are saved is the biblical message. Without question during the Middle Ages, the church in the Western world lost the New Testament understanding of salvation of faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone. Anglican theologian, Alister McGrath elaborates:

The late Middle Ages saw the church going through a period of real doctrinal confusion. People were not sure what they believed. They weren’t sure why they believed it, either. The result is that the church of the period really lacked any sense of certainty about what they believed and why they believed it.

There arose a whole generation of Christians who really didn’t understand what the Gospel was all about. That was enormously important for a whole range of things. One of the great themes of the doctrine of justification is this: It answers the question, “What must I do to be saved?” That is a real question for a lot of people. It is an important question. It is a question that needs to be answered. Yet in the late Middle Ages, people weren’t certain how to answer that question at all. What must you do to be saved?

Alister McGrath, “The State of the Church Before the Reformation,” Modern Reformation (March/April, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1994): 4-11.

In certain denominational and theological circles, it is popular to trash Martin Luther. Luther is blamed for everything from denominational division to Nazi persecution of the Jews to the lack of holiness in the American church. However during the Middle Ages, the Holy Spirit used Martin Luther to recover the gospel message. Most of us would not know Christ today if it were not for Luther’s commitment to biblical truth: faith in Christ’s finished work on the Cross is the means by which which we are made right with God (i.e., justification).

Since we are justified by faith alone, it is clear that the inner person cannot be justified, freed or saved by any external work or act, and such works, whatever they may be, have nothing to do with the inner person. Therefore, only ungodliness and unbelief of the heart make a person a condemned servant of sin — this cannot be caused by any external work or act of sin.

It follows that it ought to be the primary goal of every Christian to put aside confidence in works and grow stronger in the belief that we are saved by faith alone. Through this faith the Christian should increase in knowledge not of works but of Christ Jesus and the benefits of his death and resurrection.

Martin Luther, The Freedom of the Christian (Minneapolis, MN: 2008), 55.

I appreciate Reformation Day because without it, I would not be saved.

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