When I was at College, with respect, some of our lecturers could sometimes go on and on and just fill us with information. After one such lecture, one student dared to ask, “So what? How does all that information help us in ministry going forward?” The lecturer then got out his fine writing pen and notebook and replied, “The boy asks a good question – I shall endeavour to answer him in the next lecture.” Ever since that time, that particular lecturer never left a lecture without explaining the ‘So what!’
This coming Wednesday we remember an important event on the Church calendar, namely, Reformation Day when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses on the doors of the Wittenberg Castle. “So what” you ask.
Well, the “so what” is that this event was the catalyst which started a movement which has become known as the Reformation. Up until this time the Roman church had been teaching Scripture in a language that few could understand, and more disappointingly, much of what was being taught was actually contrary to what Scripture taught. Martin Luther, in the study of the original biblical languages, encouraged the Roman Church to reform so that it could teach what the Holy Scriptures actually taught. Sadly, the powers to be at the time in the Roman Church didn’t agree with Martin Luther and hence the Reformation began.
Martin Luther and other ‘reformers’ taught five key principles found in Scripture, namely that salvation was in Christ alone (sola Christus Jn 3:16-17; Acts 4:12; 15:11), by Grace alone (sola gratia Eph 2:8-9), through Faith alone (sola fide Rom 3:21-28), guided by Scripture alone (sola scriptura Rom 1:16-17; 2 Tim 3:15-17), all to the glory of God alone (sola Deo gloria Eph 1:3-14; Phil 2:9-11).
The five-letter word ‘alone’ is key to a proper understanding of what these biblical principles teach. It is not Christ and the saints; it is not Grace and our goodness; it is not Faith plus works; it is not Scripture plus what the church leaders say or write; and it is not glory to God and man!
This major shift from what was being taught in the Roman church is not only biblical and the catalyst for the reformation way back on October 31st, 1517, it is of great comfort to us. Just imagine if salvation and eternal life depended on our goodness or on what we did in the first place. I think if we were truthful, we would all be rather miserable because in our heart of hearts we know we could never fully measure up to God’s perfect standard. Thankfully, God in his grace and mercy has given us His holy word which alone clearly teaches that He has done everything that is required to save us unto eternal life. This wonderful news, the giving and completed work of His Son alone at Calvary and beyond is graciously applied to our hearts by the power of His Holy Spirit. Hence, may all glory be to God alone forever. JZ