Martin Luther and other reformers took on the false teachings and heretical practices of the established Church and, as a result, also challenged secular forces. They were intimately connected.
There were two basic questions (Among many others) –
Can you buy/earn forgiveness of sins?
Who or what has authority in the Church?
Although we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation and ought to be way beyond confusing the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, these two questions continue to raise their ugly heads. People still believe deep inside they can earn forgiveness by doing or saying things correctly. The Church also still has a hierarchy of clergy, traditions, and policies that try to gain control and authority over people.
Because of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us on the cross and in the resurrection, we have forgiveness and eternal life! Period! No working for it. No buying it. No earning it. We have NO RIGHT to those gifts EXCEPT through our Lord’s grace and mercy.
Reformation for Martin Luther began in his heart. The Lord changed him … transformed him and through him “Church” changed along with God’s people.
The reformation that struggles to occur and bangs its head on each and every Church door for discussion and change, is how the laity now engage in mission and ministry. Reformed, transformed, Spirit-filled and gifted lay people are eager to serve the Lord in meaningful ways in a secular, antichristian world in which Christ can be an influence through them.
Church authority and structure continue to squash that enthusiasm. The laity continues to be manipulated to pray, pay, and obey so that a certain certified and ordained group can do the real work of Christ.
The Small Catechism as written by Martin Luther, was presented for the “Head of The Household” to instruct their families. No Preacher or Pastor was necessary in that chain of command. Where are we as husbands, wives and parents today?
Deciding “who or what has authority” in the Church was also a major effort of the Reformation. It is and always has been God’s Word. Plain, pure, and simply expressed and understood. The Guttenburg Press was the internet of the day. People could have access to The Holy Bible in their own language. What a novel idea! Because of inventions and risks taken by lay people hundreds of years ago, each and every one of us today can read God Word and grow and follow and serve the Lord Jesus Christ through it.
Martin Luther rested his convictions, his eternal life, and his life on this earth on God’s Word. Not on traditions or history, not Church authority, nor on the will of any human being.
I believe it is time to take the chains off of God’s Word so that those who read it continue to be driven to repentance, to the love and mercy and forgiveness of Lord of Jesus, to the Holy Supper, and to a Spirit- filled and gifted life of service without limitations or exclusions so that an unbelieving world can see and hear the marvelous works of our Lord and Savior.
God has said it! So Be It!