“We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”
― Martin Luther
“Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God’s grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust in and knowledge of God’s grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible to separate works from faith as burning and shining from fire. Therefore, be on guard against your own false ideas and against the chatterers who think they are clever enough to make judgements about faith and good works but who are in reality the biggest fools.” (Martin Luther commentary on Romans)
11 Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols.
12 Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the Lord.
13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
The protestant reformation was born out of Martin Luther’s study of the book of Romans. Our scripture passage, “The righteous will live by faith”, or sola fide (faith alone), toppled the religious hierarchy of the day, much as Jesus’s ministry exploded the “old wineskins” of the Jewish faith. Prophets and reformers do not seek to deliberately destroy the traditions, but rather hope to breathe new life into old and tired forms of religion that have lost their meaning through neglect and reinterpretation.
I had the privilege of starting a new program in my school board. For several months I fielded phone calls from parents who felt disconnected from the system and were looking for alternatives. I researched current trends, met with respected educators, visited charter schools, and attended countless community meetings. Finally, after several months, we launched a new program that is still active and growing 20 years later. Unfortunately, many of the original ideas were replicated with little or no understanding of the purpose. This resulted in hollow practices that were easily discarded by succeeding administrators.
The people of God are susceptible to thoughtless change if they lose site of God’s original purpose. They “exchange their glorious God for worthless idols” that are steeped in culture and tradition. Each generation needs to be reborn by the spirit to experience the power and grace of God afresh. It has been said that God has no grandchildren.
Lord, we live by scripture alone, grace alone, and faith alone (Martin Luther). We are tempted to pick and chose the elements of our faith based on tradition and personal preference. Help us not to lose site of the core of the gospel that places Jesus at the center with us reliant on his grace. Amen.