“For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law” (Romans 3:28).
Five hundred years ago, on October 31, 1517, the Roman Catholic priest Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the front door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg University where Luther served as a professor. Luther’s 95 theses are 95 complaints against the teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church of his day and center around Luther’s staunch opposition to Pope Leo X’s selling of indulgences for the forgiveness of people’s sins. These 95 theses created
a firestorm across Europe and eventually led to Luther’s excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church and the formation of the Lutheran movement of which we here at St. John’s are still a part.
For ve hundred years, the Lutheran movement has centered around ve primarily theological claims.
Claim #1 – Sola scriptura (Scripture alone). Lutherans claim that God’s Word, contained within the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, is the Church’s sole source of authority and that God’s Word constantly calls the Church to reform itself according to the gospel of Christ.
Claim #2 – Sola de (Faith alone). Lutherans hold that it is not the doing of good works that save us, but rather that we are saved solely by faith in Christ. Such faith is a gift of God’s Holy Spirit, created in us by God’s Word at work in our lives. Good works proceed from our faith, but good works do not create faith.
Claim #3 – Sola gratia (Grace alone). Lutherans believe that salvation is a gift of God’s grace to us in Jesus and not something that we can somehow earn or deserve. God accomplished our salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are saved not because of anything we have done or could do, but only by what God has done for us in Jesus.
Claim #4 – Solus Christus (Christ alone). Lutherans teach that we are not righteous (made right with God) on our own, but rather that in our baptism, we have been clothed with Christ’s own righteousness. We have been made righteous (right with God) because Christ’s righteousness has been given to us. Christ alone saves us.
Claim #5 – Soli Deo Gloria (To the glory of God alone). Lutherans trust that Christ has made us free to no longer live our lives for ourselves, but rather to live our lives wholly and fully for God as we love and serve our neighbors. Now that we have been saved by grace through faith, we are free to live our whole lives in worship and praise of God.
Even as we give thanks for the past 500 years, all the more we look forward to how God is calling us forward for the sake of Christ’s gospel in the world over the next 500 years. The world needs the gospel. The theological claims we Lutherans continue to make put us in a unique position to proclaim the good news to today’s world in both our words and our actions. How is God calling each of us to live out the claims we make and to share the good news that, in Christ, we have been made free? How is God calling St. John’s to live out our mission to be and made disciples of Christ, in response to God’s grace?
Together in Christ +