Sermon by Rev. Christian C. Tiews – 10/31/2010
“And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him — and forgave him the debt” (Mt 18:27)
Today we are observing one of the most important events in the history of Western Civilization—a date that many consider to be the start of the Reformation.
On October 31, 1517—with only a few hammer blows—Martin Luther cracked open a crust of man-made teachings which had been smothering the Gospel for centuries.
This Luther did by posting his famous Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Saxony.
Why was this necessary—and what does this event have to do with us in Tulsa, OK, almost half a millennium later?
In the centuries prior to Luther’s historic act, the Roman papacy ruling the Church had begun to focus solely on the Law.
As such, Western Christianity had gradually lost sight of the Gospel—the message of free and unmerited salvation through Jesus Christ.
Rome had diminished Christ by claiming that believers are capable of becoming right before God by performing a variety of good works—such as purchasing indulgences, attending Masses, praying to the saints, worshipping relics, going on pilgrimages, and the like.
And as if these theological problems weren’t bad enough, church leadership had also slid into a swamp of moral abuses.
Many false teachings had crept into the Church, all of which diminished or even besmirched the work of Jesus Christ.
As such, his whole life long, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk in the German territory of Saxony (point to statue) had been taught—incorrectly—that salvation requires people to be completely righteousness before an angry and merciless God who demands perfection.
Yet Luther was in a Catch 22 situation because he knew that no one—and he in particular—can attain the level of perfection and righteousness that God seemed to demand.
Martin Luther was never able to find peace before this wrathful God.
But by studying the Scriptures in their original languages—and not solely in the Church’s official Latin translation which had veiled the truth of the Gospel—Luther made an amazing discovery.
He realized that God actually gives us the very righteousness that He requires when we believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that Christ grants us forgiveness.
In this way, Luther discovered that our triune God reveals Himself not as a God of wrath and anger as on Mt. Sinai, but as a God of grace and mercy—as on the hill of Calvary.
Luther’s goal when he posted the 95 Theses?
Not to overthrow the ecclesiastical system, but only to remove the errors and abuses—the cancer cells—that had crept into the church body, so that the Gospel could once again shine forth on God’s people.
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