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. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Faith is a topic that doesn’t always make sense to us. It is a belief in what we cannot see or hear or fully understand with our usual senses, yet faith is pivotal to our understanding of the Christian life, especially as we begin our exploration of the Protestant Reformation. In what do you place your faith? What does the term “crisis of faith” mean to you? How has your faith changed over the course of your life?
The Protestant Reformation grew out of Martin Luther’s desire to bring about a renewal within the church of his time, which he saw as plagued by unbiblical practices and clergy focused on limiting the common people’s ability to approach God. One of the actions of the churches that Luther most vehemently protested was the sale of indulgences, which were a way to lessen the penance required of a person to obtain forgiveness for their sins.
The church of Luther’s time taught than in order to be forgiven, people should perform acts of penance, such as abstaining from certain foods, saying specific prayers, or performing acts that would show their sincere desire for repentance. He did not believe that these penitential acts were wrong in and of themselves, merely when they became viewed as the means to the ends rather than as a way of truly showing a yearning for forgiveness.
Another point of dispute between Luther and the established church concerned the levels of hierarchy which existed within the church. He felt that these graduated levels of clergy taught people that they might only approach God through the intermediary of an ordained priest.
After struggling with the aforementioned doctrines of the church, Martin Luther began an in-depth study of the Psalms, and the letters to the Galatians, Romans, and Hebrews. Through the course of his study, Luther developed five theological principles that he felt should be inherent in Christian doctrine. These are usually called the five solae (Latin for alone) and are sola fides (by faith alone), sola gratia (by grace alone), sola scriptura (by Scripture alone), sola Christus (through Christ alone), and soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone). Each of these principles represents a key component of Christian understanding of God’s work of offering us freedom from sin and death.
Luther’s work to reform the church was met with severe punishment from the established church, which resulted in him spending nearly a year living in seclusion from both church and secular authorities. During that time, he occupied himself by translating the Bible into his native tongue of German, at a time when the Bible existed solely in Latin, which very few people spoke outside of the religious hierarchy and the academic world.
Lord God, you are a living God who continues to work within our lives and within the life of your Church. You seek to help us grow as individuals, as well as, the Body of Christ. We thank you that you are still at work that you continue to call us right where we are to be the people who you desire for us to be. We thank you that you inspire the hearts and minds of people to make changes where they are most necessary for the good of Your Kingdom. Open us to the ways in which you are working within our lives that we might grow in an ever deeper relationship with you. In Christ’s Name, we pray; amen.
Some approach Christianity with suspicion and skepticism. A greater number glance at Christianity, shrug their shoulders and ask “So what?” The Apostles' Creed gives us a succinct summation of our core beliefs, but do we really believe them if we never turn the corner and ask how this impacts our lives?