Galatians 2 v 15-21 
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Reformation : Luther

Date: 23 July 2017

Reformation – Luther

Rev. Simon McLeay

Wow!  Jono did a great introduction to our Reformation series last week.  He used a surf-life saving analogy, which I loved, about Jesus hauling us from the chaos that life can be into his boat – the dripping wet, surging boat of the church.

The point that he made which I really want to reinforce today is that Faith – is not just an answer in our brains, it is a uniting of ourselves with Jesus. 

Galatians 2 .20

 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

Let me drop back a little and do a bit more introduction to the series.

Who’s heard of the reformation?  What years are we talking about?  Who are we talking about?

So the Reformation – was a movement for reform within the Christian church 500 years ago.  The major protestant denominations merged from it.  It wasn't the first split in the church.  The biggest split has been between the Christian church and the Jewish community in the first century.  The next biggest split was between the Orthodox church in Greece and Russia and the Roman catholic church around 1000 AD.

The other thing I want to say is that the catholic church before the reformation had some real problems – but we were all catholic’s back then.  They were our problems not someone’s.  And Christians who stayed catholic reformed their part of the church too. 

So who cares?  Why would I care about some German dispute from a million years ago?

3 reason for this series. 

1. Because people used to kill and die for these reasons and I reckon we need to be careful of religious ideas that people kill and die for???? 

2. Because Understanding the reformation can help us overcome the prejudice that still exists between Protestant and Catholic.


3. Because human beings don’t change that much – (we change technology and technology changes us – but we don’t change that much) so we are probably still asking similar big questions to what they asked, we are just using different words.

I thought we could look at some people and their stories!


Intro Luther – timeline


Grew up religious, but afraid.  In his time God was seen as very severe and to be feared and Jesus wasn’t much better.  During a thunderstorm as a youth Luther’s fear drove him from planning to be a lawyer to making to be a priest out of fear.  He became a priest, then joins the University at Wittenberg.  At this seminary he feels that many of the things that the church was teaching weren’t adding up.  In his search for God he searched the scriptures and became convinced that the methods offered to win God’s favour – weren’t right.  He came to a passionate conversion where he realised that he could never make himself good enough for God.  But he didn’t need to, God had prepared a way that he, by faith, could accept.  His conversion as he understood it echoed through Europe.

Now people today still find God as a threatened scary idea behind the Old Testament.  Others see God as a source for their own happiness, as Jono said last week.  God is neither of those.  God is a loving Father who wants to invade every part of our lives with His goodness.  That revelation changed Luther.

So he nails these theses to the door of the Cathedral.  It was like a post on Facebook, something to be debated.  Then he is significant but he also picks up a mood for change.  Francis of Assisi had picked up a mood for change but had done it within the Catholic church.

You can see that a lot of his influence happens in a few short years, mainly through the 1520’s.  There is a lot of politics tied in with the religious and then he gets married.  Has a family.  And keeps making a difference.  But there is a key period in his life where a lot of change happens. 

I think of Luther and the question – Are you alone right and 1500 years of church history is wrong?

So if I could sum up what Luther was on about in a few lines – here it is.

We are saved – that means coming into a right relationship with God through faith and not through goodWorks.  But be careful of those two words – because faith and works may not mean what we think.  Faith is not just an idea in your head – it’s more about personal trust and being crucified with Jesus.  It’s like taking the hand of a hostage rescue worker and being willing to follow them through hell.  And works are different also.

– So the big question in death, how can you get right with God so that you can be with him in the future?  And the big question in life – how can you align yourself with God so that you can live the best life with him now.

Let me say again – words change in their meanings.

For example, the American declaration of Independence – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It sounds indulgent really isn’t it.  The pursuit of the biggest high?  Well that’s not quite what happiness meant in 1776.  Happiness meant more prosperity, thriving, wellness – that changes things a little eh?

Well good works in 1517 – didn’t generally mean the corporate works of mercy, feeding the poor, visiting the sick, looking after orphans.  That’s not the good works that Luther rejected.

No “works” or Good works – had a specific religious meaning about specific religious activities – such as saying certain prayers, visiting shrines and giving money to the church.  The Church – had developed the idea of purgatory out of a couple of verses in Revelation – talking about the elders holding golden bowls of incense which were the prayers of the saints.  Now the unreformed church had a scary vision of God and Jesus.  So people didn’t pray to them a lot, they prayed to Mary, and because she was very busy they would pray to Mary’s mother St Anne.  Now here’s where it gets more complicated.  But bear with me because this matters.  When you died – short brutish life.  Generally, you went to purgatory – place of cleaning before you got to heaven.  And the prayers of the saints – not any saint – but special church approved saints could help you get cleaned up.  Or more specifically could help your dead relatives get cleaned up and go to heaven.  Originally people would endow a monastery or somewhere so that monks might pray for you.  But by Luther’s time the Pope was selling a super clean. Now I want to point out that the Catholic church reformed a whole lot of this stuff also.  Some at the Council of Trent, and some just 60 years ago at Vatican II.  So good works that Luther rages about – he’s not talking about caring for the poor.  He saw that as a genuine good spiritual activity. 

Thesis 43.

 Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or needs to the needy does a better deed than buying indulgences. 

Luther was on about true repentance, this is key.  You can’t buy salvation for your family through ‘work’ or money.  It’s free from God.

Ok.  Why does this matter today? Where do we see this today?  We see it is Islam.  People don’t become suicide bombers for themselves.  They do it because there is an idea that a martyr can atone for the sins of others.  So just like indulgences, if you become a martyr you can get a friend an uncle out of hell and into heaven.  It’s bollocks.  There is no god who does that.  Now I want to be respectful of other religions.  But you need to remember with Islam that the Bible warns against this false teaching. Galatian 1.8 involves a very clear warning

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”

 – Under God’s curse, anathema – Luke uses this language in the Beatitudes Luke 6.24. This is to live outside God’s way.  The New Testament clearly warns that a different gospel is to live outside God’s blessing.

We live in a time when another merchant of death is hawking pardons.  No longer the Papal preacher Tetzel but Osama Bin Laden and his crew 1996 Fatwa. [A] martyr’s privileges are guaranteed by Allah; forgiveness with the first gush of his blood, he will be shown his seat in paradise, he will be decorated with the jewels of belief, married off to the beautiful ones, protected from the test in the grave, assured security in the day of judgment, crowned with the crown of dignity, a ruby of which is better than this whole world and its entire content, wedded to seventy-two of the pure Houris (beautiful women of Paradise) and his intercession on the behalf of seventy of his relatives will be accepted.

I believe that the great risk is that protestants today sometimes think we can say the prayer and get saved.  A transactional view of salvation.  And we can think that is what Luther was on about.  But in fact this is a false teaching.  Jesus did not preach a transactional gospel.  Neither did Paul.  And in fact this is the very thing Luther was opposing.  The offer of the gospel is a changed life a transformational gospel.  Not here’s the key, it’s not self-help.  It’s not do-it-yourself.  It is God transforming us. 

The difference between a transactional and a transformational gospel.  Reading Luther you can be tempted to think he is transactional.  Faith alone – but actual that is far from the truth.  For he says without repentance – change.  No hope.  Yes, the transformation is by faith.  But faith changes us. 

The goal is transformation

E.g. born again.  A new life needs to be nurtured in us.

It’s like putting on a whole new set of clothes.

So becoming a Christian is about starting anew life, not paying a death insurance policy…

Big difference.

He has done it for us, but he also wants to do it within us.

It’s like there are two natures in us – a nature that is born but grows towards death – our first life is a life that has an expiry date and is often committed to pleasure and self-preservation.

When we become a Christian a second life is born within us, a life that will grow towards eternity, a life that is of self-donation and God orientated and God wants to grow more of that in us.

Like the parable of the wheat and the tears – both exist within us but only one will survive death.

So what?  Transformational gospel.  God is gifting us the most amazing life changing mentor.

And that will lead us to Works of mercy.

And there is a sharpness to this that cannot be bought off. 

v45 Christian are to be taught that he who sees a man in need and passes him by, yet gives his money for pardons, is not purchasing the indulgence of the pope, but the indignation and wrath of God.



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