Wittenberg, Germany, October 31, 1517.
Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" ( Matthew 4:17 ), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.
4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
5. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.
6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.
7. God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.
8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.
9. Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.
10. Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.
11. Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept ( Matthew 13:25 ).
12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.
13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.
14. Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.
15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.
16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and assurance of salvation.
17. It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily decrease and love increase.
18. Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture, that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.
19. Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.
20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words "plenary remission of all penalties," does not actually mean "all penalties," but only those imposed by himself.
21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.
22. As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.
23. If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.
24. For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.
25. That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish.
26. The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.
27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.
28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.
29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.
30. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.
31. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.
32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.
34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.
35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.
36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.
37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.
38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the divine remission.
39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.
40. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them -- at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.
41. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.
42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.
43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.
44. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.
45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God's wrath.
46. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.
47. Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.
48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.
49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.
50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.
51. Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.
52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.
53. They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.
54. Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.
55. It is certainly the pope's sentiment that if indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
56. The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.
57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.
58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.
59. St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.
60. Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.
61. For it is clear that the pope's power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.
62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.
63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last ( Matthew 20:16 ).
64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.
65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.
66. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.
67. The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.
68. They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.
69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence.
70. But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.
71. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.
72. But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence preachers be blessed.
73. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.
74. Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.
75. To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.
76. We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.
77. To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.
78. We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel,spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written, 1 Corinthians 12:28 ).
79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.
80. The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.
81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.
82. Such as: "Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.
83. Again, "Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?"
84. Again, "What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, because of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love's sake?"
85. Again, "Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?"
86. Again, "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?"
87. Again, "What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?"
88. Again, "What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?"
89. "Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?"
90. To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.
91. If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.
92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Peace, peace," and there is no peace! ( Jeremiah 6:14 )
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Cross, cross," and there is no cross!
94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.
95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace ( Acts 14:22 ).
Other than the Cross of Jesus Christ itself, there are few symbols in the Lutheran Church that are as commonly known as Martin Luther’s Seal, or Luther’s Rose.
In a July 8, 1530 letter to Lazarus Spengler, Luther interprets his seal:
Grace and peace from the Lord. As you desire to know whether my painted seal, which you sent to me, has hit the mark, I shall answer most amiably and tell you my original thoughts and reason about why my seal is a symbol of my theology. The first should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. "For one who believes from the heart will be justified" (Romans 10:10). Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive. "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17) but by faith in the crucified. Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (Matthew 28:3; John 20:12). Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed. And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. Such blessedness is exquisite, beyond all joy and goods, just as gold is the most valuable, most precious and best metal. This is my summary of theology. I have wanted to show it to you in good friendship, hoping for your appreciation. May Christ, our beloved Lord, be with your spirit until the life hereafter. Amen.
This month of October brings with it the recognition of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation that started on October 31, 1517, as Dr Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk and professor posted 95 theses for debate. These theses (or arguments) attacked the Roman Catholic practice of selling Indulgences, paper certificates that granted forgiveness and the hope of releasing a loved one from the false concept of “Purgatory.”
Although Luther was trying to improve a corrupted Christian Church at the time, inadvertently he caused Protestant churches to spit from Roman Catholicism and spring up all over. One of those Protestant church bodies became known as Lutherans. It seems to me that many Lutherans seem to have no idea why it is important to be a Lutheran. Or they don't understand why. Or they are just Lutheran because they were brought up that way. Those of us who are life-long Lutherans, especially, often take for granted what a Gospel-rich blessing it is to be a Lutheran. There are numerous reasons why it is good to be a Lutheran, (that is belong to a Lutheran church while being part of the greater Christian Church). Here are just a few:
Christ Always at the Center
Confessional Lutherans are clear that the test of our worship is, "Is it Christ-driven?" Though it is so common to the point of being cliché for Christians to speak of being "Christ-centered," Lutheran theology makes a careful distinction that I find to be absent in most other Christian churches. Lutherans distinguish between being faith-centered and being Christ-centered. Much of what passes for Christ-centered is really faith-centered. What Christ will do for us is often said to depend on the greatness of our faith. When talk of assurance of salvation ultimately comes to focus on the question “How do I know I have faith?" or "What is the evidence in my Christian living that I am saved?" one can be sure that the power of one's faith has become the center and taken priority over Christ. This is wrong.
We don’t gather together to celebrate our faith but to celebrate Christ as the object of our faith and to receive the grace he gives to renew and increase our faith.
Liturgy, sacraments, and absolution, and the preached Word all come together in Lutheran worship to more highly exalt Christ and his power.
Perhaps more significant than any other part of Lutheran theology is having a scriptural view of the sacraments. If we are to point to a single reason why we are Lutheran, it would be the sacraments. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are where God has chosen to reveal to us his grace and forgiveness. We need what the sacraments give. In the sacraments we have "forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation." In preaching, baptism, and the Lord's Supper, the Word of God comes to us. It is here that Christ is present and given for us. This is certainly the most difficult pill of Lutheran doctrine for other Protestants to swallow. Yet, the theology of the sacraments is far too vital for the life of Lutheran churches to be downplayed. The sacraments are means of grace (the ways in which God chooses to give us what he has to give) by which the work of Christ is further given to us.
When we reject those means of grace which God has identified, or we confuse the mystery of Christ and therefore make God fit into our reason, we substitute the sacraments with makeshift sacraments of our own device.
To be Christ-centered is to be sacrament-centered (though the reverse is not necessarily true). That’s why it is so important to receive all sinners to the Lord’s Table, yet teach why it is careful to know what you believe because many people may not acknowledge the same faith and understanding of the sacraments. If we want Christ alone, then we must seek him in those means which God has chosen.
A church without a structure or liturgy is too dependent on the preaching of one person. In the liturgy a Divine Service unifies each person who comes to church. Here we confess our sins, pray for each other, hear God’s word, sing, and confess our faith. Where preaching is clear, biblical, and instructional, a high dependence on one person's preaching is, of course, less problematic. But preaching that fits this description is far too uncommon in churches, and even the best preachers are prone to idiosyncrasies, tangents and weaknesses. Liturgy can guard us against all of this. Where liturgy is present, it guarantees that people will hear and confess the Word of God even when preaching is unsound and weak.
Traditional liturgy unifies the Church, present and past. Traditional liturgy keeps us from an individualistic, “my needs/my feelings first” spirituality that thinks only of a vertical relationship between us and God. Liturgy connects us to the heavenly worship of saints and angels. This is most clearly seen in confession/absolution, the Sanctus, and service of the sacraments. Liturgy also connects us to each other in worship. It's true that liturgy can become repetitious and lifeless, but that's no reason to fault the liturgy. Any activity in the church has this potential. Still, even in cases where the recitation loses its passion, liturgy is still advantaged, since what is confessed in the liturgy remains true and calls us to rejoice in the truth.
Though liturgy is closely related to creeds and historic confessions, liturgy may, however, be modern and does not necessarily indicate the confession of a historic expression of faith. For this reason, confessional Lutheran churches place a great deal of importance on historic creeds and celebrating theological heritage. The Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed are all included in the Lutheran confessional documents known collectively as The Book of Concord. These historic documents along with the rest of the Lutheran confessions (Augsburg Confession, Small/Large Catechisms, Smalcald Articles, Formula of Concord), identify the theology of Lutheranism and unite confessing Lutherans around more than simply a particular view..
Though there are numerous aspects to Christian liberty, I'll look only at one matter that relates to this subject. Some church bodies for risk of being un-Christian become too legalistic and tell people that they cannot do things, for which Christ has set free. The role of women in worship, praying with other Christians, and namely the practice of the prohibition of alcoholic beverages. Today, Lutherans likewise see that we may rightly enjoy all gifts of God, but that we must not abuse them. Despising the good things of life and naming them as a sin is an attack on God’s grace. It is not only true that one is free to be a Christian, but it is also true that we are not to despise what God has called good (Psalm 104:15).
For further explanation on what it means to be Lutheran, I recommend checking out the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod website: www.LCMS.org, or the book: Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions: A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord.
What are the Lutheran Confessions?
Drawn from God's Word, the Lutheran Confessions are a true and binding exposition of Holy Scripture and serve as authoritative texts for all pastors, congregations and other rostered church workers of the LCMS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod).
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod accepts the Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and subscribes unconditionally to all the symbolical books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.
We accept the Lutheran Confessions as articulated in the Book of Concord of 1580 because they are drawn from the Word of God and on that account regard their doctrinal content as a true and binding exposition of Holy Scripture and as authoritative for all pastors, congregations and other rostered church workers of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
Often times, the Lutheran Confessions are called the Book of Concord, when they are assembled in one volume. The Book of Concord contains documents which Christians from the fourth to the 16th century A.D. explained what they believed and taught on the basis of the Holy Scriptures. It includes, first, the three creeds which originated in the ancient church, the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. It contains, secondly, the Reformation writings known as the Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, Luther's Small and Large Catechisms, and the Formula of Concord.
The Catechisms and the Smalcald Articles came from the pen of Martin Luther; the Augsburg Confession, its Apology, and the Treatise were written by Luther's co-worker, the scholarly Phillip Melanchthon; the Formula of Concord was given its final form chiefly by Jacob Andreae, Martin Chemnitz, and Nickolaus Selnecker.
Individually the Lutheran Confessions contain these documents:
2nd Century A.D.
Baptismal Creed used in Rome.
325, 381 A.D.
Assembled church leaders at the Council of Nicea (325) and the Council of Constantinople.
This Creed intends to clearly state on the basis of Scripture that Jesus Christ is true God equal with the Father and that the Holy Spirit is also true God, equal with the Father and the Son.
6th-8th Century A.D.
Unknown. Named after the great church father Athanasius, who was instrumental in the drafting of the Nicene Creed.
Confesses the teaching of the Trinity and the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
A short work that was to educate the laity in the fundamentals of the Christian Faith.
Though covering the same chief parts of Christian doctrine as the Small Catechism, the Large Catechism is really a series of re-edited sermons that Luther preached.
June 25, 1530
Often viewed as the chief Lutheran Confession; it was presented by the Lutherans to Emperor Charles V at the imperial diet of Augsburg as a statement of the chief articles of the Christian faith as understood by Lutherans; also contained here is a listing of abuses that the Lutherans had corrected.
Apology of the Augsburg Confession
After the Roman theologians had condemned many of the teachings of the Augsburg Confession (AC), Melanchthon authored this lengthy defense of AC. Rightly considered a Christian classic.
Articles of faith intended by Luther to be an ecumenical platform for an upcoming ecumenical council. Stated what the Lutherans could not compromise and why.
Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope
Was intended to serve as a supplement to the Augsburg Confession, giving the Lutheran position on the Pope.
Formula of Concord
A restatement of some teachings in the Augsburg Confession over which Lutherans had become divided. The Solid Declaration is the unabridged version. The Epitome is an abridged version intended for congregations to study. Over 8,100 pastors and theologians signed it, as well as over 50 government leaders.
Prior to becoming a pastor, a seminary student must complete a year of “student teaching” or in-the-field training if you were. This is called vicarage. Before completing my fourth year of my Master of Divinity degree, I myself was a vicar in a small church in Missouri from 2011-2012.
The word vicar itself, in its broadest sense actually means “a representative, or substitute.” Linguistically, “vicar” is the root of the English prefix, “vice,” meaning deputy. Many today even say, they live vicariously through something or one another. That is, serving instead of someone. In the Roman Catholic Church, The Pope uses the title Vicarius Christi, meaning, the vicar of Christ. In other words, the pope acts as the physical representative of Christ on Earth. That’s a pretty big claim!
During this month of October, we, as Lutherans, have means to commemorate Martin Luther’s challenge to the Roman Catholic Church.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther (an Augustinian monk of the Roman Catholic Church and theology professor) wrote 95 concerns (or theses) about purgatory, indulgences, and other teachings of the Church—topics on which he wanted to debate. He then nailed them to the front door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. (In that day, it was common for professors of the University of Wittenberg, whom Luther was theological chair, to post complaints for debate on the Castle Church door.) Although it is speculated that Luther’s 95 theses were not actually nailed on October 31, they were in fact mailed in letterform by Luther. So either way you have it, Luther’s 95 theses were “posted.” It was an act that began the Reformation, led to many other “protest”-ant churches, and changed the Church forever.
The practice of selling forgiveness in the form of indulgences (paper certificates), enticed common people, most of whom were poor and uneducated, to dish out money that would, according to the Pope, buy their deceased relatives out of purgatory and into heaven. In accordance with Catholic teaching, purgatory (Latin, "purgare", to make clean, to purify) is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions). The proceeds from these sales lined the pockets of various princes and bishops while continuing the myth that forgiveness could be bought. The priests who wanted to reform the Catholic Church, believed this tradition and belief to be contrary to Scripture. In Martin Luther’s mind, the church had deceived the people. An illiterate populace depended on their educated church leaders to guide them in their faith.
As a young monk, Luther struggled with feeling good enough for God. He didn’t understand how God could or ever would accept him. Fasting, prayer, confession, even physical beatings, didn’t seem enough to please God. Luther spent years trying. During these years of struggle, he began a study of Romans.
In the first chapter, he found freedom to his conscience. Verse 17 reads, “...as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.”
Luther came to understand that he could never earn forgiveness, never earn God’s love and grace, and never do enough to make himself right with God. Consider the truth he found in further reading of Romans: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24).
And again in chapter five:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand (Romans 5: 1-2).
Justification through faith. Faith alone. AKA Sola fide. Christ paid the penalty for my sin because he loved me and knew that I could never pay that price outside of hell. All my good works emerge out of a heart of gratitude, not from obligation and certainly not as a means to evening the score between me and God. As if that were possible!
October is also month in which we celebrate the feast/festival days of St. Luke on Oct. 18, St. James of Jerusalem on Oct 23, and St. Simon and St. Jude on Oct 28. Most notably, we celebrate Reformation Day on Oct 31, when most in our secular community celebrate Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day, Nov. 1.
While it is certainly more important that we remain Christians first and foremost, we especially value being members of the Lutheran Church (and members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) this month. We celebrate October 31 as Reformation Day, recalling the event that gave the Bible back to the people and giving us a rich tradition of basing our lives on Scriptural truth. However, if you choose to observe Halloween, (which actually is forgotten celebration of honoring loved ones who past, All Hallows, or All Saints) remember that Christ has freed you from the darkness of sin that these fall months exemplify, and brought you into his kingdom of light. He bought you back to be his own, not by gold or silver, but by the holy precious blood of Jesus and his innocent suffering and death. Believe in God’s Grace and Word alone through faith alone. Sola fide! Sola gratia! Sola Scriptura! Faith Alone! Grace Alone! Word Alone!
Recall Luther’s famous words as he testified before the Roman Catholic Church at the Diet of Worms, 1521:
“Unless I am convicted by the testimony of Sacred Scripture or by evident reason... my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against my conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.
“My conscience is captive to the word of God.”
Luther's words should inspire all Christians to hold fast to this truth and the truth of Scripture. To study and know Scripture, to pray on and memorize it. And most importantly, to live and act in accordance with Scripture by acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our Lord.
~ Pastor Aaron Boerst