Saved by grace through faith

I watched a video from my friend at the Elisha Project the other day.  There was a song to the video and in the song there was a line, “I’m all churched out.”  It makes me think of hearing Mike Slaughter say he’s tired of “playing church”.  And it made me go back and watch a couple of PBS videos about theologian Martin Luther, whom God used to bring about the Protestant Reformation.  DON’T QUIT READING – HANG IN THERE WITH ME.  (I used to be a person who would see a phrase like Protestant Reformation and quit reading.)

Martin Luther became an insider in the church when he became a monk in the 1500’s.  What he saw from the inside bothered him.  The church taught that you reached God only through the church.  The church’s power lay in the one great comfort it promised.  If you followed its rules and performed its rituals, you would escape the horrors of this world and an eternity in hell and find eternal happiness in heaven.  If the church kicked you out of the church (called excommunication), they were in essence kicking you out of heaven, because the church taught that it decided who went to heaven.  Of course, if you had the money you could nearly always buy your way back into the good graces of the church, and according to the church – back into heaven.  It was all based on earning salvation and you earned it through obedience to (and generosity toward) the church.

Luther had been raised believing the person who was saved was the person who went out and “achieved” salvation.  After much effort in trying to achieve salvation himself, Luther became convinced that you simply could not achieve it.  You could not gain salvation through your donations to the church, through your good works, or through any other efforts to please God.  He came to the conclusion that you simply placed out your empty hands and by God’s grace, you received the gift of salvation.  So he concluded that you don’t need the church, you don’t need the priests, and you don’t need pomp and circumstance of ceremonies.  Salvation is not between you and the church, it’s between you and God.  Needless to say, the higher ups of the church did not take kindly to someone messing with their money, but that’s another story.

The Protestant Reformation led us to what most of Christianity believes today – Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—”

While I believe church can be a great place to learn, to grow, and to gather with other followers to live out our faith, there is only so much even the church can do when it comes to salvation.  As Luther so radically concluded, you have to hold out your own empty hands and by God’s grace He will give you the faith for Jesus’ sake to be saved.  And only then do the works come into play – not to earn something from God, but because we’ve already been given something from God through His grace.







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