Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Today we observe the day of the Reformation, when the monk, Martin Luther, posted 95 Theses of the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. They were 95 points against errors in the doctrine and practice of the Roman church in the sixteenth century and to this day.
I will not review each of the 95. First, I will speak about the context of this event in which the Reformation of the church began. For the first 300 years of the church, believers were persecuted by the Roman Empire and many Christians died for the faith. Everything changed early in the fourth century when the Emperor Constantine ended the persecution and allowed Christians to worship God publicly. The number of church members grew because the emperor showed his favor to the church and as an institution the church gained much influence and its leaders enjoyed riches and fame. This situation continued for century after century. The church grew in a sense, but it forgot its mission and the pure doctrine.
In that time of Luther, the church did not teach the truth of the Scriptures and there was much ignorance. The church of Rome taught at that time and still does today, the promise of eternal life because of the blood of Christ on the cross, but there is fine print.
Every Sunday, we confess in the liturgy, "Holy and kind Father, in your infinite love made us for you, and when we fell into sin and became slaves of evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent your only Son and Eternal, Jesus Christ, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, and thus to reconcile us to you, God and Father of all.” In baptism we receive the gift of saving faith, but for us our life here is a struggle against our sinful nature and we always fall into sin. However, if we repent of our sins, we have forgiveness by the grace of God.
Should we do something on our part to gain this forgiveness? The church of Rome says yes. When we fall into sin, we must go to the priest and list each of our sins from the last confession. Who can remember all your sins from last week? There is more. The penitent must do penance for every sin to receive God's forgiveness. This penance can be anything the church demands.
What will happen if one can not do penance for every sin before his death? This person can not immediately enter into eternal life. He or she must do penance in purgatory for centuries or thousands of years before entering into eternal life.
Supposedly, the Pope has the authority to release souls from purgatory. In that time of Luther, the church of Rome sold indulgences. An indulgence is a letter written by the Pope to allow the departure frp, purgatory. For what purpose did the church sell indulgences? To raise funds to build the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. This basilica still exists and every year the Pope speaks from its balcony. This building was built upon the belief of people that they could buy the departure of their loved ones from purgatory. And today the church of Rome still teaches the need for indulgences.
Luther told the people this is not the teaching of the Bible. Eternal life is a gift of God that we receive only by faith. As we sing, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Our epistle (Romans 3: 21-28) reads as follows:
"But now, without the law, the righteousness of God has been manifested, testified by the law and by the prophets: The righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ, to all who believe in him; Because there is no difference; For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace, for the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. "
We do not have qnything to do to achieve eternal life. Christ has done everything for us. When we confess our sins, God does not tell us, You must do this, this and this, and if you can not, you must wait in purgatory before receiving eternal life. No, we can enter into eternal life directly by the grace of God.
In this way the three themes of the Reformation emerged. First, Scripture alone. What is written in Scripture is necessary to know for salvation and nothing else. Second, only by faith in Jesus Christ are we saved. And we receive eternal life only by the grace of God, not by our merits.
Therefore, in our gospel for today, our Lord said to them: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” But, the Jews thought of political freedom. "And they said to him, 'We are Abraham's seed, and we never serve anyone. How do you say,' You will be free? '" Their land was under Roman rule, but according to the civil laws, they were not slaves.
However, Jesus spoke of spiritual freedom and spiritual bondage. Spiritual slavery is slavery to sin, bad and self-destructive desires. Spiritual freedom is s good conscience and peace with God. A government that respects human rights is a blessing. Political freedom is a blessing. But many times we can not control the circumstances of our earthly lives. If we are rich or poor, free men or slaves, we always have spiritual freedom in Jesus Christ.
That is why we remember on the day of the Reformation, the day in 1517 when the monk Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses at the door of the church. The date was October 31, the eve of All Saints Day. Also the name of the church was the All Saints Church. That was not by chance. What is a saint?
According to the Roman church, when someone prays to a person and a miracle occurs, this is evidence that that person is in heaven and is not in purgatory. According to Scripture, the saints are all who believe in Jesus Christ and have the freedom from sin by the blood of Christ. We confess in the creed, that we believe in the Holy Spirit and the communion of saints, which is the church. We believe that the Holy Spirit gathers together the church and guides it in all truth. Eo, with Luther as H is instrument, the Spirit reaffirmed the basic doctrine of justification by faith and the spiritual freedom of all saints. We give thanks to God for Luther, the gift of faith and peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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