Blessed Fruit from the Reformation
On October 31, 1517, 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, setting motion what we call the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation Era moved us back to the truth given to us by the Apostles. The return to the Scriptures opened the treasure chest of biblical truth reflected in the Five Solas of the Reformation. Sola Fide, or by faith alone, is one of the rediscovered truths. In Scripture, we are told by faith alone in Jesus Christ we are justified before God (Rom. 3:26, Rom. 4:5). The term justified is a legal term. Theologian Millard Erickson writes, “Justification is a forensic act inputting the righteousness of Christ to the believer. It is not an actual infusing of holiness into the individual. It is a matter of declaring the person righteous, as a judge does in acquitting the accused.” Our justification is not based on ourselves but stands on the merits of Jesus Christ.
Even though this is true, it is often hard for us as believers to think of ourselves as righteous before God. What wonderful, freeing news it is that God has never accepted any sinner based on their righteousness (Rom. 3: 25). Paul makes the same point in Philippians 3:9, “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” Luther affirms this Pauline truth in his commentary on Galatians, “We are pronounced righteous solely by faith in Christ, not by the works of the Law or by love.”
Why is this the case? The sinfulness that is found in every human heart makes the doctrine of justification necessary for sinners to be saved. No sacrifice we might attempt to earn our salvation is good enough to be accepted by a holy and perfect God. It would take the death of a holy and perfect sacrifice, a spotless lamb as pictured in the Old Testament, to be that vicarious substitution needed to be made right with a holy God. Paul states, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus took our sin and stood in our place so that God could give us the righteousness necessary to stand before a perfect and righteous God. This truth is so important for believers. Justification is by faith alone, in Christ, not in works, the church, or anything else is one of the fruits of the Reformation.