The Central Principle of the Reformation
By Rev. Tom Tuura
Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church
At every turn we are hearing about the Reformation. And that is a good thing. It is a big thing. Its big because its all we know, and have known, for these five hundred years. I wonder how we would have responded had we been the actors in the play five hundred years ago; or today for that matter. What if there were no Martin Luther?
If someone were to ask you, what is the central theme of the Reformation, what would you say?
I'll give you time. Write it here; don't read ahead. ________ ________ _______ __________
____________________ _____________________ _________________ ________________
I know that with some of you that wasn't hard. There are many good answers too. Certainly the need for the Bible to be translated into the common language of the people so they could read it themselves was critical. Also hearing the Mass in your own language instead of attending a service every day/week and being unable to understand more than a few words was also important. Later on you could even have a copy of the Scriptures in your home. Also, being able as a congregation to sing praises to your Lord in your own language was important.
Another answer is the catechism and the critical need for basic Christian education of the young. Too many people, even the priests didn't have a good knowledge of the Bible. Or you might have said that allowing laymen and women to lead and participate in public worship, or even serve communion was the reason for the Reformation.
However none of the reasons above are the main reason for the Reformation. They are all very important results and changes, or reforms, that took place as a result of the Reformation.
Do you have it yet? So what is the answer?
If you wrote justification by grace through faith, congratulations. That's it. But what does that mean?
There is one word in the Bible that makes it unique. One word. It is one word that makes the Bible different from the Koran, or any other holy writ including the Old Testament. It is the word Gospel. (The concept of free grace and justification is indeed in the Old Testament.)
Isn't it surprising how we take words for granted? Justification by grace through faith is the free application of the Gospel, or good news of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross to all hopeless sinners who believe. Justification is a forensic term. Its a courtroom decision by a judge. Now the concept of justification had existed prior to Luther. Justification, by itself, could take many forms.
Conceivably this judge could rule a person justified if they could prove they weren't a sinner. Or, if they could prove that they had done enough good works, and had adequately reformed themselves that they were “cured”. Or perhaps the judge gave a special offer that for a limited time, those who traveled to a holy place, would be justified. And then if a person had been really bad, they then sacrificed their own lives, then they had a chance to be justified.
These are all actual beliefs of millions of people around the world. The fact is there was a person who did prove He wasn't a sinner. Although He was really good, He sacrificed His own life, so that anyone who believed on Him could be saved. This “Man” is wholly God, and wholly man. He is also holy God and the one, and only, holy Man. His name is Jesus.
Here's a few other observations about this foundational Reformation principle.
Justification is free to all, yet most who hear resist and still do not believe. (Matt 7:13,14)
Justification is unconditional, except to believe (Rom 3:24).
Justification is not by any mixture of good works, genetics, birth or title. (Rom 3:20)
Justification is not a process of self improvement, (Luke 23:43).
Justification is right now, not some indefinite future achievement (Acts 13:38).
Justification is by faith, personal. (Rom 1:16,17; Eph 2:8,9))
Justification can and will be refused by a majority of humanity who refuse to give up their own efforts of righteousness. (Matt 7:13,14 Acts 4:12)
Justification is freely and lovingly, and abundantly granted right now by Almighty God in heaven to all who would believe, and trust in Jesus, His only Son for their forgiveness and salvation, both now and for all eternity, with no exclusions, or requirements. It involves the complete forgiveness of all sins, past, present, and future. It guarantees eternal life in heaven in the presence of God, and all the saints of all time. (Rom. 3:23,24; 1 John 1:9-2:2)
What must you do? Believe. (Acts 16;30,31) You can know all there is to know about the Reformation, and even the core principle of justification, and not be justified. What, what? Yes indeed; knowing it isn't possessing it. This is a common mistake teachers make. Simply teaching it, or giving information about biblical truth is good, but not enough. You and I must personally believe it. Surrender your pride and unbelief. Repent and confess your resistance to His love and grace. Will you Surrender yourself to Christ?
I surrender all. I surrender all.
All to Thee I my blessed Savior, I surrender all. Judson W Van de Venter (Ambassador #485)
Ephesians 2:8,9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Romans 10:9,10 “That if you confess with your mouth, the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
That’s my view from the Blackberry Patch Pulpit