The world bears the Gospel a grudge because the Gospel condemns the religious wisdom of the world. Jealous for its own religious views, the world in turn charges the Gospel with being a subversive and licentious doctrine, offensive to God and man, a doctrine to be persecuted as the worst plague on earth.
As a result, we have this paradoxical situation: The Gospel supplied the world with the salvation of Jesus Christ, peace of conscience, and every blessing. Just for that the world abhors the Gospel.
– Martin Luther – Commentaries on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians – 1538
Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria. These catchphrases of the Reformation sing to us a tranquil song. Knowing the truths therein calms the storms of our lives and strengthens us with confidence. The Reformers knew what it meant that we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone who has fully paid for all of our sins. The merits of man, the merits of all the saints, and the merits of all the church appease nothing of the wrath of God against sin. Our salvation is merited on Christ’s death and resurrection alone. This is the subversive and licentious doctrine the world hates.
As Luther insisted in 1538, “the world bears the Gospel a grudge.” The world seeks to thwart the Gospel because it is “jealous for its own religious views.” We do not face the same religious juggernaut as Luther did in the Roman Catholic Church. However, in the last few years, Luther’s prophetic voice echoes as the United States has embraced homosexual marriages, the destruction of biblical categories of gender, and has seen increases in white supremacist and black supremacist movements. In a world such as this, Sam Harris is right when he says “religion poisons everything.” Its doctrines are opposite those groups which seek solace apart from Christ. The true faith, being the true antidote is a poison to the cancers that plague our world.
Luther sought to demonstrate to the powers that be (at his time, the papacy) the the word of God has the ultimate authority. He then leveraged that against the society in which he lived and started a revolution in ideas, in religious practice, and in human hearts. In the same way, we seek to demonstrate that there is no authority, but that which resides in Christ alone. Such authority undermines those whose God is their belly, their ego, or their social media account.
The true faith is, “a doctrine to be persecuted as the worst plague on earth.” It gets in the way of progress. The message is antiquated. It is a personal affair and not a public one. There are a myriad of excuses to deny human guilt. Yet, we do not succumb to such powerless critics.
Paul describes accurately our situation in his epistle to which Luther has provided us comment, “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Gal. 1:3). A present evil age is the one in which we live and “the Gospel supplies the world with the salvation of Jesus Christ, peace of conscience, and every blessing.”
One of my favorite images of the Reformation is that of a candle burning. In the piece, the Pope, cardinals, and devils attempted to blow out the light of knowledge that has been given to us. Let us pray that we will latch on to it as John 1:5 states, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
As we anticipate the 500th year anniversary of the dawn of the Reformation next year, I will attempt to cover key events and documents that helped to shape the Reformation and bring it to become the world-wide phenomenon it remains. In 2017, I hope to cover major theological points the reformers made and how they continue to shape and mold the church today.