Today is not only All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween), it’s also Reformation Day.
Few of us understand what Martin Luther was trying to do on Oct. 31, 1517, and how it began a series of events we came to know as the Protestant Reformation.
Let me see if I can help with that–in case you’re interested!
The five major tenants of the Reformation:
1) By Christ alone.
Jesus Christ is the sole and perfect Agent of our salvation.
Therefore, no other intermediaries are needed between us and God, and His sacrificial death and perfectly righteous life are the sole basis of a right relationship with God.
This sets us free from performance treadmills and religious systems based on the few outperforming all others and binding everyone’s conscience to their system.
It was a direct challenge to those on the top of the religious/social pyramid, and great news to those at the bottom or completely outside the pyramid.
You can imagine why this made the Medieval Catholic church very unhappy…
2) By grace alone
This is about God’s heart and what God gives to sinners (i.e. – what flows through the pipeline of faith and the direction of that flow).
Christ loved us so much He died to give sinners His righteousness and very life, and loving generosity is what motivated God to give His “everything” to us.
We are saved in spite of ourselves, and need God to intervene from the outside to completely change us on the inside– because we are powerless to fix ourselves.
But once received, gratitude for grace (loving God in response to His love) becomes the fuel of our growth and service.
People who trade in guilt or fear to keep others down or keep others passive and subservient would not like this teaching.
It makes them rather unnecessary.
Yet it puts the spotlight on our own soul, because….
An ashamed pride that spurns charity, and not bad conduct, is the main barrier between us and salvation.
3) By Faith Alone
This point centers on the conduit of salvation (the pipeline).
We get off the performance treadmill (Or we let go of our angry rebellion against the treadmill), and forsake trusting in our selves and what we do.
And we stop listening to voices inside of us or outside of us that crack the whip, pressure us to do more, be better, and try harder, and/or offer an easy, magical system of managing life and self-fixing.
Instead, we entrust our selves to Christ, and trust Him to provide everything needed for salvation, life, etc.
That threatens the religious monopoly of the controllers, but it also puts the spotlight on our own soul, because…
A wounded pride that asserts, “I’ve done enough and suffered enough! I have it all under control!” is the main barrier between us and salvation.
4) The Bible alone
This point is about the divine guarantees and sole authority under-girding our salvation.
God’s written Self-revelation (not institutions or traditions or the self) is the supreme court and final determiner of what we are to believe and how we are to live.
This allows us to “fact-check” religious institutions, leaders, and movements against God’s revelation, and to compare the teachings and practices of the New Testament church to what’s happening today, and see if we’re drifting from it.
Which removes a lot of power and blind control from religious leaders who like to keep the masses ignorant and dancing to their tune.
But notice it also puts the spotlight on our own soul, because….
A stubborn pride that asserts, “I have the final say-so for me! I will do it my own way!” is the main barrier between us and salvation.
5) The priesthood of all believers
This is about the privileges and responsibilities that flow from salvation.
All work and all professions are now “the ministry” for believers and are honorable before God.
Those in the priesthood or the religious orders suddenly aren’t so special, superior, or indispensable.
They are demoted, while the rest of us are greatly elevated in dignity, and also in personal responsibility.
We can no longer justify passively allowing a few religious professionals to do all the work for the rest of us.
We each have a job in God’s kingdom, are accountable to Him for how diligently and well we do it, and so it’s time to make the most of it!
Hence, the Protestant work ethic.
You may not like the Reformation, and you may even disagree with these core teachings, but it’s undeniable they revolutionized the Western world back then.
And have the potential to revolutionize things again!