In the past couple of weeks there have been two major significant events which have caught my attention. No, I am not talking about the Buckeyes football team, even though I could!
And I am not talking about the mass shooting in the church in Texas – that is a topic for a future discussion.
These two significant events have centered on the church as we know it today. Are you ready for a short history lesson?
The first of these events was the recognition and celebration of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a young German monk, priest, lawyer, and professor posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the church door at Wittenburg, Germany, in protest to the practice of buying indulgences as a guarantee of entrance into heaven.
Luther’s refusal to recant his position as stated in that document resulted in his excommunication from the church by Pope Leo X and his declaration as an outlaw by the then Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Charles V. While Luther never intended to start a world-wide movement, his stance created a following of many who became known as “Protest-ants”.
Although Luther never codified his beliefs as such, in the years since the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, historians and scholars have indeed classified his stance into what is now known as the “Five Solas”. They are Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Christos, and Sola Deo Gloria.
Understanding the term “Sola” to mean “alone” or “only”, these five foundational doctrines are “The Scriptures Alone, By Faith Alone, By Grace Alone, By Christ Alone, and To the Glory of God Alone.”
Luther’s study of the Bible, which he translated into German from Latin so that the common man could read the Scriptures for himself, brought him to the conclusion that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge from God.
He also saw that salvation and eternal life are not earned by good works, but are received only as the free gift of God’s grace through the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ alone as the redeemer from sin.
These five beliefs are indeed the basis for the theological stance of a great many Protestant denominations, and generally are something we all have in common.
The second event which is of great significance to the church today as we know it is the celebration of the beginning of the 100th year of the life of Billy Graham. His birthday was earlier this week.
In commemoration of his birthday, many celebrities and well-known individuals from around the world have commented about the impact this man of God has made on their lives personally, and upon the lives of millions around the world. He has spoken to more people about Jesus than any one individual in the history of mankind, not just individually, but through his stadium events, and through television and the media.
In a video presentation celebrating his 99th birthday, Billy Graham, in typical Billy Graham fashion, simply yet humbly challenged his viewers to take three simple thoughts to heart as we think about his life and ministry.
With due respect to Dr. Graham, those three principles are worth our reviewing here. They are:
1. Follow in the steps of Jesus intimately. This, in a word, is “Sola Christos”. What Dr. Graham was saying is that only through Christ will we ever find the answers to our questions regarding eternity AND our questions regarding the here and now. Whatever our questions are, Christ not only has the answer, but Christ IS the answer! So the challenge for each of us should be to get to know Him better and more intimately each and every day we live. Jesus Christ is the answer to world turmoil, to domestic violence, to political upheaval, to terrorism, to whatever problems we may face each and every day of our lives. He alone can help us make sense of all the mish-mash of the world around us.
2. Read the Word of God daily. The Bible alone is God’s specially revealed word for us to follow in order to make sense of that world around us. We are told that “All Scripture is God-breathed”- the very breath of God Himself – “and is profitable” – even books such as Leviticus or Song of Solomon – “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” The Bible alone is and should be our source for the great doctrinal “teaching” of the church. When we read it, we will discover that the Bible shows us where we need to change, because we all have gone astray and done wrong. That’s “reproof”. The Bible, though, does not just show us where we have messed up; it also helps us get back on the right path! That’s “correction”. And the more we read it, the Bible will indeed give us God’s directions for how to stay on the right path for successful living. That is “training in righteousness”.
3. Don’t neglect to pray diligently and constantly. Praying is something we all do no matter what or in whom we believe. But once, we are walking with Jesus intimately, and reading His Word daily, prayer is simply like a conversation between friends. It is not always asking God for things, although that is an important part of prayer. It is ultimately recognizing to whom we should go to get the provision and the protection and the peace we need no matter what the situation may be. God tells us in the Bible that we should not worry about anything – that’s very important! But we should pray about everything! And if we do, His peace will guard our hearts and minds in everything.
These two men, Martin Luther and Billy Graham, though not perfect, have both made significant contributions to the cause of Christianity. And by the way, in the next few days we will celebrate Martin Luther’s birthday as well.
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and the News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Port William UMC.