Every year, when October 31st rolls around, we Lutherans who remember our religious heritage look back to the reformation movement which took place in Germany during the 1500’s. Hopefully, we will remember this event with thankful appreciation for the Lord causing the glorious light of the gospel message to once again shine in all its splendor.
That gospel message is clearly revealed in the Bible. For example, consider Romans 3:24, 28. “(All) are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus… We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” Simply put, we sinful human beings have been forgiven of all our sins and eternally saved by God’s undeserved love ALONE, through the redeeming works of Jesus Christ ALONE, and we receive it by trusting in Jesus as our Savior ALONE. It’s good news indeed.
In spite of the wonderful clearness of the Bible’s teaching, during the years leading up to the Reformation period the gospel message was largely obscured by false ideas and teachings. Instead of looking ALONE to the Bible for direction, the church looked outside the Scripture to human traditions, and to the pronouncements and decrees of the church councils and popes.
As a result of this flawed human reasoning, all kinds of teachings developed. People began to look at their own good works or the works of the past saints in order to gain God’s forgiveness and the assurance of salvation. These teachings directed people away from Christ as if Jesus’ saving work was not enough. Such teachings drained away God’s peace and comfort from souls of people and led many people, including Martin Luther, into spiritual despair.
But God opened Martin Luther’s eyes to see the good news of the Gospel. When Luther saw it, he said that “it was as if the gates of heaven had been opened.” God opened Luther’s eyes of faith to see the truth that our place in God’s family is not based upon our own performance or works but rather upon the work of Jesus. Jesus lived the perfect life and died an innocent death as our substitute so that we could be sure that we are forgiven and going to heaven. When Luther discovered this good news, he wanted to restore the church so that others could know of it. Thus began the “reformation” a time in church history when the church was “reformed” back to the simple truth of the gospel.
One of the great blessings that came out of the Lutheran Reformation is that Martin Luther put the Scriptures into the hands of the people. Up until that time, the Bible had been translated into Latin, a language most common people could not read. Luther translated the Bible into the language of the people.
Today, we have the Bible readily available. Make use of it. Let’s not make the same mistake so many past generations have made. Let’s keep our ears turned to God’s Word – so that we may keep the wonderful blessings of the Gospel.