Greetings and salutations dear friends!
I’d like to take a moment and give us all a refresher history lesson on the reformations. That’s right, it should be plural. Some of you know that November 1 is observed as All Halloweds’ Day. Our Catholic friends know about this much better than we do, but in recent years “Halloweds” has fallen out of use and most refer to it as All Saints’ Day. It is a traditional feast day within Catholicism where all the saints that don’t have their own days (like St. Patrick, St. Nicholas, St. Valentine, etc.) are memorialized together. All Souls’ Day follows on November 2, and for our rather traditional Catholic friends (most of whom live in other countries now), it makes for quite a two-day celebration period each year.
It was on All Halloweds’ Eve (this has since been corrupted into the word “halloween”) that a German monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed an essay to a cathedral door in 1517. That night, Luther publically posted his essay and the next morning, when everyone in town gathered for a church service, they were made aware of his work. These “95 Theses” were a list of grievances that he had against the Roman Catholic church in general, and the Pope and other officials in particular. Most church history scholars boil the theses down to five main points. “Sola” is the Latin word meaning “alone” or “only”. The five solas are “sola scriptura” (scripture alone), “solus Christus” (Christ alone), “sola fide” (faith alone), “sola gratia” (grace alone), and “soli Deo gloria” (glory to God alone).
For this reason, October 31 has become known as Reformation Day, as news of Dr. Luther’s writings quickly made their way to Rome, earning him the ire of the Pope himself. Though the Swiss and Czech reformations had already begun, with varied successes, and the English reformation was yet to come, having very different reasons, it was these “solas” around which the various stripes of reformers cemented. Even though we have many different kinds of protestant denominations, networks, groups, and expressions, these central tenants are what all protestants can base their belief systems.
First, whatever we believe should be able to be articulated as a result of revelation from God through His Word. Scripture is our sole source of authority. If Pastor Jim or I preach our opinion to you, fire us. We preach because we have a book from which to preach. We proclaim the truths of God’s Word, not some secret vision He has given to us on Saturday night. The great Good News that God commissions us to tell to the world has been given to us in print. If we are not squarely grounded in scripture, we aren’t really grounded at all. By extension, if we attempt to ground ourselves in scripture AND anything else, we declare that God’s Word on its own is not good enough.
Second, the Christ, the Messiah, the man Jesus, born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, is our sole source of salvation. He lived a life, never committing a sin. This positioned Him – uniquely – to serve as an atoning sacrifice. He died, a most gruesome, painful death, bearing our sins. He was a substitution in our place, receiving the wrath of God that we deserve. Two days later, He overcame sin and its consequence, being raised to life again, HALLELUJAH! There is no other source of salvation. Not yourself, not a priest, not an institution, not a tradition, not a family heritage, not a series of good works; Jesus the Christ is the only source of salvation in this sinful world.
Third, faith is the only method for mankind to receive this salvation. To place our trust in the work of Jesus, we must remove our trust in our sin of the flesh – this is repentance. We turn from our sin and toward the Messiah. We believe that He is who the bible says He is, and we accept Him as our Savior, and we yield our life to Him as Lord. That’s it. That is the only way we receive salvation from Him. We don’t have to pray a specifically scripted prayer, or recite something a number of times. We don’t have to light a candle or be sprinkled by a holy man. No one gets to add requirements or stipulations, or anything else. It is a simple, childlike, faith that God asks for, and He freely gives us everlasting life!
Fourth, for the folks that struggle leaning into the idea that faith is some kind of “good work” that we “do”, we are reminded that salvation is by grace alone. The undeserved love of God is the only reason for salvation. We don’t earn it; He doesn’t owe it. He freely, willfully chooses to bestow salvation upon us as a free gift. How amazing is that?
Fifth, why does God save us? Why does God give us His Word? Why did God Himself choose to become a human being, born of a virgin and laid in a manger? Why doesn’t God add more strings to this process? Why doesn’t He make us clean up our own selves before we’re ready to receive His gift? Why doesn’t He punish us like we deserve? Why does He create us in the first place? All of this is solely for His glory! He makes us, He calls us, He redeems us, He makes us co-heirs with the Christ! He loves us. He wants to have a relationship with us! He makes a way for us to come back to Him, because He wants us to be His children. Nothing in the universe brings God more joy than when we love Him back! He delights in our praise and He wants us to be with Him! For this reason, our obedience is the first act of worship. We glorify Him in our lives, for we have been bought at a price. It’s all about giving Him the glory!
He is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!
Rev. Andrew J. Reynolds