Celebrate the 500 Anniversary of the Reformation

Reformation Moment 2017

Luther’s 95 Theses started the Reformation, but the protest (Source for ‘Protestant’) movement continued to mature and clarify for years.  Over time, several basic teachings came to express the Reformer’s central insights.  Often written in Latin, they remain like the motto of Luther’s teachings.  First among them is (in Latin) SOLA GRATIA – “By Grace Alone”.

The word “Grace” in Christian teaching had come to mean several different things in Martin Luther’s day.  This still causes confusion among Christians.  After study of the Scriptures and discussion with his fellow Professors and Reformers, Luther formulated a brief definition (again expressed in Latin).  This is his concise definition, supported by his Reformation partners:  Grace means “God’s favorable feeling {toward us} because of Jesus Christ”.

When Luther was growing up, he was taught that God is very serious about sin.  Luther was taught that, being a righteous Judge, God insists on punishing sin – and sinners.  As a devout Christian, Luther took this to heart.  Later in life he wrote that the dread of a God like this terrified him.  He could not feel any love for One Who looked on him so sternly and with such threat.  Love God?  Luther could not!  This error shaped his attitudes and life for many years.

This is why he entered a monastery as a young man.  He spent years trying to be without sin.  He fasted, prayed, worshiped, obeyed his Church superiors, served as they ordered, and even abused his body with self-inflicted beatings to drive out what he saw as his spiritual failures.  Nothing helped.  However hard he tried, he continued to see that he fell short of being “perfect”, as God demanded.  He despaired of ever “measuring up” and deserving everlasting life in heaven.

In the winter of 1514 – 1515, already a man in his 30’s and a Professor of Scripture, he realized he and all believers are “saved by Grace”.  How did God feel about him?  “Grace” meant God’s heart was favorable to him, not against him.  God’s attitude depended not on Luther’s works, but on the work of Jesus Christ.  “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned.”  (John 3: 17 & 18a)  This is what Jesus Himself said to Nicodemus – and to Martin Luther.

When this truth sank into Luther’s mind and heart, he felt that light filled his dark soul and that Heaven opened.  The truth of God’s grace changed this terrified, suffering child of God.  He was a different man, a different servant of God, a different teacher of God’s truth.  There, in his quiet study at the monastery tower – several years before the 95 Theses – the Reformation was born.  Luther believed – and started teaching – that all are saved BY GRACE ALONE.

More Reformation Resources