This morning I would like to speak about two core teachings from Martin Luther that came out during the Reformation.
The first and most important is Martin Luther’s teachings on faith.
The second is his teachings on the Christian understanding of freedom.
At the time that Luther lived the teachings of grace were so abundant that you could actually buy grace.
What do I mean by that?
Well, you could go to the church and buy a piece of paper called an indulgence. An indulgence stated that you were granted some of God’s grace for a past sin.
For Luther this contradicted the Gospel message.
Luther believed that you received God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
A key verse for Luther came in the book of Ephesians where we read: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the results of works; so that no one may boast.
For the Apostle Paul a consistent theme that runs through his letters in the Bible is this understanding that our good works do not save us. According to Paul there is no salvation in works.
Paul also said in Romans in the Bible: There is no distinction since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood made effective through faith.
Or take this verse again from Romans: The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”
The one who is righteous will live by faith.
We are saved by the work of God in our lives. We are not made right before God through our own good works. God takes the initiative in forgiving us, loving us, and in creating new hearts within us.
God comes to us. God chases after us. The Holy Spirit works in us. We believe this by faith.
Luther held tightly to these teachings even at the risk of putting his own life in danger by defying the teachings of the Church. There was nothing that you had to do to earn God’s grace and you could certainly not buy it.
God’s grace came as a gift to those with trusting hearts who had faith in Jesus.
We are saved by grace alone through faith.
Faith was central to Luther’s teachings and to the very beginning of the Great Reformation. For Luther he believed it was a sin to do some good work in order to receive favor from God or to receive some kind of an award.
Luther believed it was a sin that the church wanted poor peasants to buy grace through indulgences.
This was a great injustice. The church needed to be corrected and the church needed to change.
A second important teaching that came out of the reformation was Luther’s teachings on freedom. We are saved by grace through faith.
In God’s saving grace a Christian can then live out his or her life in true freedom because you are already saved.
You are free to live your lives as you choose to do so. You are free to go and to live the life that makes you happy and that brings you joy.
You are free to go and to serve others, to give, and to follow Jesus not out of duty or obligation but out of Christian freedom.
You are freed from sin and are freed to love your neighbor and to love God. We are freed to love and to live out of that love that comes from God.
If you study the lives of the saints you will discover that they may have initially come to God out of a sense of duty or even guilt.
But that in time the Spirit of God spoke to these people in such a way that their eyes were opened.
Their eyes were opened so that they ended up living out their faith in freedom for the joy of following Christ, not necessarily out of duty but out of joy.
This transformation took part in Luther’s life as well.
In his early years he followed Jesus more out of a sense of guilt and duty then out of a deep and abiding joy for his savior.
In some ways Luther even hated God.
He deeply struggled in trying to please God with his good works and religious devotions to God.
It was only much later in his life when he realized that he was saved by grace through faith and called to live his Christian life out of true freedom was he able to know the real treasure of following Jesus.
This revelation completely changed Luther.
Faith in God’s grace must be so real to us that the love that it produces in our hearts proves the existence of faith in our lives and leads us to lives of freedom.
In freedom we follow Jesus and delight in being in God’s presence.
We hear in the Gospel of John: If the Son make you free, you will be free indeed.
By faith live deeply into that freedom.
Speak a word of peace, be generous in showing love to others, forgive as God forgives us, surprise someone with an act of kindness, be humble in your walk with Jesus, and above all else cherish your faith in Jesus, cherish your freedom that comes from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us.
The gift of faith and the gift of freedom is something that no one can take away for you.
It is yours, it comes from God.