The Protestant Reformation is one of the most interesting periods in history and most important times in Theology. Reformers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and many others discovered scripture in a way that they had never understood before. Luther, for one, could not understand how the legalistic, works based theology of salvation taught by the Catholic Church could be in line with the Scriptural Doctrines of Grace. This passion for truth and pursuit of God, sparked one of the most chaotic and important periods in History.
In my study of Ephesians, I have come to a pair of verses that many of us that grew up in church have had memorized since age 8 or 9. Though we may know it well and be able to quote it from heart, lets take a few minutes, break it apart and see why these doctrines of Grace were so important to the Reformers.
"8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
This is the Fundamental truth that is the backbone of our entire faith. If God's word his not inspired, inerrant, and completely authoritative, our Christian life has lost its purpose and we cannot be sure of anything. Scripture is the essence of Truth. It defines Truth and the Reformers understood and lived for this. Without this undeniable truth, we cannot look at anything in the Bible as anything but a good story and the lives of these great men were utterly wasted.
Now lets get into the text!
"For it is by grace you have been saved..."
I posted the other day on the first 7 verses of Ephesians 2 and they all clearly point to fact that God's Grace alone can bridge the depths of our depravity. The Roman Catholic Church in the day of Luther was completely void of grace. Salvation was not a gift but an earned merit. People like Martin Luther could not stand to see the most precious gift known to man ignored and forgotten. Look again at the beginning of Ephesians 2
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ"
How could you take grace out of the equation? It doesn't make sense anymore! God who owes us nothing, gives us everything, paying a debt of sin that we, in our radical corruption, heap upon ourselves! A Gospel not centered entirely around the Grace of God is Heresy.
"For it is by grace you have been saved through faith"
Faith is the method by which man receives salvation. God by grace pays a Christian's debt of sin on the cross, and in return, they place saving faith in Christ Jesus, not as the helper of their Salvation, but as the complete and total propitiation of their sins.
Luther Described faith in this way: "Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times. "
Daring Confidence! not a feeling, or hope, or guess. Faith in Christ means throwing yourself on God's Grace in complete realization of your own inadequacy. Only Faith! Faith in God's Grace.
"...it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
Its not us! We have no grounds for boasting! It astounds and confuses me how so many large church pastors find themselves on national news denying "Sola Christus." When confronted with the question, " Is Christ in fact the only way to reach heaven? What about Jews? and Muslims? What about Mormons? They believe in Jesus don't they? They just added to it right?" These so-called leaders of the church fold under the burden of self security and weasel out of the question with responses such as "oh...well that's not for me to say." or "Only God can judge the heart!" Speak the Truth! How terrible is this?!?!?!
Brian McLaren, a rising leader in the Emergent Church, completely denies the truth of John 14:6, proclaiming gloriously that the person of Jesus Christ is not the only way to salvation. He writes in his book "a Generous Orthodoxy":
"In this light, although I don’t hope all Buddhists will become (cultural) Christians, I do hope all who feel called will become Buddhist followers of Jesus; I believe they should be given that opportunity and invitation. I don’t hope all Jews or Hindus will become members of the Christian religion. But I do hope all who feel called will become Jewish or Hindu followers of Jesus. Ultimately, I hope Jesus will save Buddhism, Islam, and every other religion, including the Christian religion, which often seems to need saving about as much as any other religion does"
What a desecration of the truth! Any parents of teens that may end up reading this, I URGE you as strongly as I know how! Don't let your kids read these Emergent Church Authors. "Sola Christus" Is the Gospel! These Authors not only attack and desecrate the power of scripture, but they aim to disgrace the Glory of God. They belittle the importance of doctrine by neutralizing important truths of the gospel. There are so many great Authors that are ALL ABOUT GOD'S GRACE AND GLORY that are just as easy entertaining for teens to read. If a middle or high-schooler comes to you asking about "Blue like Jazz" or "Velvet Elvis" redirect them to a book by Brennen Manning called "The Ragamuffin Gospel" That book, I read as a freshmen in high-school and understood, is swimming with "Sola Christus" by magnifying his grace in light of our depravity. No man can boast, except in Christ. And Only in Christ.
Christ is the Gospel! This is a statement I would give my life for.
Soli Deo Gloria
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
Isn't it beautiful that our salvation ultimately points back to him? God has planned this whole salvation thing out, and it works to His Glory! I only see it fit to end this discussion of our salvation by attributing all Glory to Him! I posted this earlier but feel compelled to share the point of our salvation much more with the Doxology from Jude.
"24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen"
Not to us, but to the NAME OF GOD be all Glory!