Reformation Sunday (Observed)
Passage: Romans 3:19–3:28
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36
Date: October 29th, 2017; Reformation Sunday
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Today, this Reformation Sunday, we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany.
This event sparked incredible change - not only in the church, but throughout the world.
It’s important to recognize, however, that we are not celebrating the forming of the Lutheran Church back in the 16th century.
No - we are celebrating the reforming of the catholic church.
That’s right! You and I belong to the catholic church – not the Lutheran Church.
Now maybe you are thinking to yourself, “Pastor should go outside and have a look at our sign to help him figure out which church we belong to!”
Well, yes, I understand that we call ourselves Lutherans - and I am proud to be one
But not because Martin Luther, or the Reformers, came up with something new or innovative.
I am proud to be a Lutheran because he restored, he reformed the church to be what God intended it to be.
The Lutheran Church isn’t a new creation of Martin Luther.
In fact, I am confident that he would lament the fact that we call ourselves “Lutherans” today.
Think of a perfect sphere of play-dough and imagine that perfect ball is the pure church as God intended it to be.
Because of sin, humanity introduced new teachings and new practices that deformed the church – so the perfect sphere became a misshaped mess.
In fact, in some cases, the church was so deformed, it could not be recognized or considered to be the church any longer.
In the 16th century, Martin Luther did nothing else but reform the church back to what it was always intended to be – like a twisted piece of play-dough being reformed back into a perfect ball again.
So, we can say that we belong to the catholic church because “catholic” simply means the universal church.
To be clear, this does not mean that only those who belong to the Lutheran Church will be saved.
The church is not simply a group of people, or members, who call themselves Christians or Lutherans or anything else.
So what is the church?
The church is people. You.
The church is composed of all of those who have received God’s grace alone through faith alone.
You are not a member of the catholic church because you have your name on a membership list at a congregation.
You are not a member of the catholic church because you go to church and try your best to live a good life.
No, you are a member of the catholic church because God is gracious and merciful to you and he so loves the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life.
You are a member of the catholic church because the Holy Spirit has worked in your heart to bring you to faith, to bring you to trust in what God has graciously accomplished for you through his Son, Christ Jesus.
Grace alone. Faith alone. Christ alone.
This is what makes you a Christian. This is what makes you a member of the catholic church.
This is the truth restored by Martin Luther and the Reformers. The pure Gospel. Grace alone. Faith alone. Christ alone.
So, how do we know that God’s church, the catholic church, is only composed of those people who have faith in God’s grace shown in Christ?
This leads to another important truth that was restored by Martin Luther and the Reformers - Scripture alone.
We turn to the Bible to learn about God, about ourselves, about sin and death, and about God’s gift of eternal life.
The authority isn’t church tradition, or popes, or councils - it is God’s Word.
God has given us his divine revelation through his Word and it is the only source for the truth. Scripture alone.
God’s Word very clearly reveals to us the truth of the Gospel.
Do you think you are a Christian because you obey God’s laws?
As we heard in our epistle lesson, St. Paul tells us that “…no one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law; since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
Do you think you are saved because of all of the nice things you do?
St. Paul tells us, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22).
Are you proud of yourself and think that you are a pretty good person because you come to church and you volunteer your time and you are charitable?
St. Paul asks us, “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but on that of faith. For we hold that a one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 2:27-28).
We boast in what God has done for us – not in what we do for God.
Certainly this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t live according to God’s will. We are to love God above all things and we are to love each other as we love ourselves. We are to serve each other.
God’s grace is not cheap grace. It is not a license to sin.
As God’s people we follow his law.
But we love God and we love and serve each other not to become God’s people and earn our way to heaven - but because we are God’s people and heaven has been earned for us by Jesus.
It is all by God’s grace that we are his people and live accordingly.
A good question to ask ourselves is why would we want to live our lives any other way, but according to God’s will?
Our sin causes so much hardship in our lives and in this world.
Our sin is the very cause of our Lord’s suffering and death on the cross. Why would we want to continue to live our lives in that way?
St. John tells us in our Gospel lesson, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Jesus has set you free from sin and death indeed. Eternal life is yours.
Only Scripture. Only Grace. Only Faith. Only Christ.
This was, and is, nothing new. This is the catholic church. This is the church to which we all belong.
This is the eternal Gospel that was restored by Martin Luther and the Reformers 500 years ago (Revelation 14:6). Thanks be to God! Amen.
More in Reformation Sunday
October 25, 2015Reformation Solas (no audio this week)