Tuesday, September 26, 2017

500 Years of Bearing Witness

(Below is my article for the October 2017 edition of my church's newsletter.)

At the end of this month we’ll be observing the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  It was on October 31st, 1517 that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, a German theology professor, posted 95 points for academic discussion and debate.  It was those 95 theses, as they were called, that sparked a change in the landscape of Christianity.

At the heart of this change is the belief that Christ alone is the head of the church, and Christ is to be found in the Bible.  A person’s conscience cannot be bound to mere assertions of authority.  The truth must be demonstrated.  Luther argued that people need to be shown by plain reasoning from the scriptures that something is true and should be believed.  They must be convinced for themselves.

This being convinced for yourself is the meaning of faith.  It’s not enough to simply go through the motions of religion without understanding what you’re doing.  You must understand and believe it to be true.  This brings the reality into your life.  It’s by faith we are saved.

Luther found this to be true in his own life.  Once he realized the Bible teaches that Christ is the end of the law for believers, that is he fulfills the law (he fulfills our humanity, for the law is a description of the way to be truly human), Luther placed his complete trust in Christ alone.  He saw Christ as the place of human fulfillment.

This fulfillment includes the overcoming of the outcome of a life lived in conflict with the law of our being.  Christ took death and hell upon himself and defeated them on the cross.  His resurrection is the proof that he is the victor over our enemies, including the wrath of God toward sin.

Ever since this time there have been Christians and churches which have made this confession of faith.  The very word Protestant comes from the Latin prōtestantēs which means “to bear public witness” (dictionary.com).  To be a Protestant is to be for the belief that people are rightly brought to faith in Jesus Christ when they have explained to them from the Bible the truth about Christ.  It is for this reason that Protestants have been known for preaching and hymns and Sunday school.  These are all means for getting the message across.

Our church is unique in that it blends the two primary streams of the Protestant movement.  When our church was founded the founding members wrote concerning Salem, “She is and remains a part of the Evangelical, that is, the united Lutheran-Reformed Church, as it exists in Germany and has spread to this location.”

Truly we have something to celebrate!  Christ is present for us in the Bible.  We have the Bible in our language so we can have it explained to us.  We can read it for ourselves to see if what we’re being told is really true, and having become convinced that it is true we can bear witness for ourselves to the person of Christ and what he has come to mean to us in our lives.

God’s very best to you as you celebrate 500 years of Reformation faith!