Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Normally in the sermon the subject deals with something that happened two thousand years ago or more. Today we recall a more recent event, when the monk Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517, and started a movement called the Reformation.
What does the Reformation mean to us today? It is a historical event that changed the economy, politics, education and religion of Europe and the world. However, we can reflect on a historical event from different perspectives. For example, on October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived in this hemisphere. All the countries of Latin America mark this date as a special event, but they do not honor Columbus. He had a controversial character even in his time. But we recognize with the arrival of Columbus began the mixture of the cultures of the Americas, Europe and Africa.
This mixture has positive and negative aspects. The negatives are the slavery of the natives and the death of many by diseases of Europe and Africa, such as smallpox and malaria. The positive aspects include the exchange of crops and domestic animals. Before the discovery of the Americas, potatoes, corn, tomatoes or tobacco were not found in Europe or Africa. And imagine Venezuela today without pasta, rice, horses or chickens.
Also with the Reformation. Many people notice that with the Reformation came schisms in the church and wars in Europe. Also many good things, such as education for all the people, including women, and the Reina-Valera Bible, the Spanish translation best known today in Latin America.
Above all for us, the result of the Reformation is the restoration of the Word of God in its purity after centuries of mixture with idolatry and false doctrine. There are antecedents of the Reformation in the Scriptures, for example, when our Lord purified the Temple in Jerusalem. With a whip, He chased the peddlers from the Temple and told them, "My father's house is a house of prayer, not a den of thieves."
Luther wrote the 95 Theses against the sale of indulgences. To raise funds for St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the church in Rome issued certificates to avoid suffering in purgatory. Over the centuries, the false doctrines of penance and purgatory, a spiritual state between earthly life and eternal life, obscured the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
According to the Church of Rome, because of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, we receive in baptism the forgiveness of original sin and sins comitted before baptism. However, if we do venial sins after baptism, we must do penance, good works assigned to us by the church. If we can not make restitution for these sins in earthly life, we must suffer in purgatory after physical death.
But, Luther told them that μετανοῖεν, the Greek word for repentance should not be understood as "doing penance," as the Latin Bible says, but a change of mind made by the Holy Spirit in us. The gift of faith by the Holy Spirit is sufficient to receive eternal life. We are saints of God by the grace of Jesus Christ and purgatory has no biblical basis. Of course, grace is free and we should not pay money to enter eternal life.
Luther restored this biblical truth: We are saved only by faith and grace in Jesus Christ, not by works. The Lord speaks of this truth in our text for today.
"If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples." This word is the same as Luther reaffirmed in the 95 Theses and other books. Salvation alone by faith and alone by grace were not Luther's new teaching. He wanted to cleanse the temple as did our Lord and as did King Hezekiah in the reading of the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 29: 12-29). Ahaz, the king before Hezekiah began the worship of other gods instead of the worship of the true God. He sacrificed his own children to the gods of Syria, like the human sacrifices in the Americas in the past. Ahaz also broke the utensils of the house of God and closed the doors of the Temple. Therefore, Hezekiah commanded the cleansing of the Temple of filth and garbage and opened it for the worship of God.
In the same way, Luther did not want to destroy the temple and build another, but to purify the temple that is the church of errors. Sadly, the church founded by Christ had fallen into error. Then Luther reaffirmed alone by faith, alone by grace and alone by the Scriptures as a source of doctrine, not the traditions and decisions of the Pápa and the councils.
In addition, the Lord told them, "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." They answered him: "We are Abraham's seed, and we were never slaves to anyone. How do you say: Will you be free? " Jesus answered them:" Most assuredly, I say to you: Everyone who sins, is slave to sin. "
They thought of freedom in the political sense, they forgot that their ancestors were slaves in Egypt and were liberated only by the power and mercy of God shown through Moses. of Jesus, the Jews were under the dominion of Rome.
But, notice, the freedom Jesus spoke of is spiritual freedom. Apart from Christ, we are slaves to sin and we can not free ourselves from eternal damnation. the freedom of condemnation and the promise of eternal life,
This is the everlasting gospel of which we read in Revelation 14: 6-7 It is a message of grace for those who believe, but the judgment of God for those who do not believe. There is another name given to men for salvation, so those who reject Jesus reject the mercy of God and know it in their hearts, which is why the religious leaders of the Jews killed Jesus.
The church of Rome wanted to kill Luther, because Luther proclaimed the gospel of Christ against the sale of indulgences and the merits of the saints designated by Rome. In the seventeenth century, a priest of the Augustinian order like Luther lived in Caracas. Juan de Frias preached salvation by faith and by grace, and the Spanish Inquisition killed him. In many parts of the world today, those who preach the everlasting gospel are at risk of their lives.
Religious freedom and other forms of external freedom are blessings from God. But, spiritual freedom is a gift from God that no one can steal from us. We are Abraham's lineage, that is, the people of God. The church is the people of God. We are not heirs of the promise God made Abraham by history or genealogy, but by faith in the Word of God.
A local church that has deviated from the Word of God is not the church of Christ. Therefore, the Reformation continues, not because we need new doctrines or revelations, but because we have to proclaim the pure doctrine against idolatry and heresies. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the church, to guide your church in the truth and help you to remain in the faith. In this we have the hope and the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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