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Happy Reformation Day!!

Well the 31st of October has come around again. The day on which we celebrate Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses in Wittenberg in 1517. These theses attacked the cruel notion that we can purchase forgiveness and less time in purgatory. Luther came to understand that the gospel of God’s righteousness is good news which is a gift to us–not a threat of punishment! The just shall live by faith (Rom. 1:17), not by faith and works. Luther was really discovering the Apostle Paul for the first time and not inventing anything new…Soli Deo Gloria.

This song was written to reflect on the 5 solas of the reformation by Tim Chester and Bob Kauflin:

1. Your word alone is solid ground,
the mighty rock on which we build.
In every line the truth is found,
and every page with glory filled.

2. Through faith alone we come to you,
we have no merit we can claim,
sure that your promises are true,
we place our hope in Jesus’ name.

     Gloria, gloria, glory to God alone.
     Gloria, gloria, glory to God alone.

3. In Christ alone we’re justified,
his righteousness is all our plea.
Your law’s demands are satisfied,
his perfect work has set us free.

     Gloria, gloria, glory to God alone.
     Gloria, gloria, glory to God alone.

4. By grace alone we have been saved,
all that we are has come from you.
Hearts that were once by sin enslaved,
now by your pow’r have been made new.

     Gloria, gloria, glory to God alone.
     Gloria, gloria, glory to God alone.

Optional final verse for Reformation Sunday:
And on this Reformation day
we join with saints of old to sing;
we lift our hearts as one in praise:
Glory to Christ our gracious King.

Tim Chester and Bob Kauflin

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Luther on External Righteousness

From his lectures on Romans (circa 1515): ‘God does not want to redeem us through our own, but through external, righteousness and wisdom; not through one that comes from us and grows in us, but through one that comes to us from the outside; not through one that originates here on earth, but through one that comes from heaven. Therefore, we must be taught a righteousness that comes completely from the outside and is foreign. And therefore our own righteousness that is born in us must first be plucked up.’ LW 25:136

Luther means here that we need the righteousness of Christ – that righteousness by which we are justified because our own righteousness must be plucked up for the filth that it is. Our own righteousness can be compared to a blind man who is holding in his hand what he believes to be the consumable cure for his sin. He just does not realise he is holding his own dung in his hand. This is why we need an external or alien righteousness, one that comes as a gift – by faith alone – from Jesus Christ.

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Theses

Thesis 5: A fake sinner will only merit a fake saviour. A true sinner will, by faith alone, merit the righteousness and forgiveness of a true saviour…Be a sinner!

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17 ESV)

See Luther Quote #5 for the explanation.

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Luther Quote #3

An excerpt of a letter Luther wrote to George Spenlein, a fellow Augustinian Friar, on April 8 1516 – 18 months before posting his Ninety-five Theses:

‘Now I should like to know whether your soul, tired of its own righteousness, is learning to be revived by and to trust in the righteousness of Christ. For in our age the temptation to presumption besets many, especially those who try with all their might to be just and good without knowing the righteousness of God, which is most bountifully and freely given us in Christ. They try to do good of themselves in order that they might stand before God clothed in their own virtues and merits. But this is impossible. While you were here, you were one who held this opinion, or rather, error. So was I, and I am still fighting against the error without having conquered it as yet.

Therefore, my dear Friar, learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to praise him and, despairing of yourself, say, “Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given to me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.” Beware of aspiring to such purity that you will not wish to be looked upon as a sinner, or to be one. For Christ dwells only in sinners. On this account he descended from heaven, where he dwelt among the righteous, to dwell among sinners. Meditate on this love of his and you will see his sweet consolation. For why was it necessary for him to die if we can obtain a good conscience by our works and afflictions? Accordingly you will find peace only in him and only when you despair of yourself and your own works. Besides, you will learn from him that just as he has received you, so he has made your sins his own and has made his righteousness yours…’

LW 48:12-13