Is the Reformation Still Relevant?

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

October 31, 2016 begins a year-long celebration leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. It was on this date in the year 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, protesting the Roman Catholic indulgence and the general system of works-righteousness devised by the medieval church.

But a lot has happened in 500 years. Is the Reformation still relevant today, beyond being an interesting historical footnote, or an opportunity to celebrate German culture? If the Reformation was simply a matter of history or culture, then its relevance would be limited to those interested in history or culture. But the Reformation is a matter of theology. It's a matter of faith. And so it is as relevant today as it was 500 years ago.

The heart of the matter is expressed no better than in the fourth article of the Augsburg Confession, the foundational document of the teaching of the Lutheran Church. "Our churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works. People are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake. By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins. God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight (Romans 3 and 4)."

The Reformation's relevance is for all people. Every religion devised by man is a system of offering our strength, merits, or works to make ourselves right with God, the universe, and everything. If this was the case, then no one would be saved. Even the most righteous person according to his own work has a pile of failures and offenses that excludes him from being right with God.

But by faith, our works are excluded from consideration. The righteousness that counts before God is a different kind of righteousness—one that is given as a gift. It's a righteousness that exceeds that of the best and the brightest and the most spiritual and religious person. It is Christ's righteousness, given by God's grace, and received in faith.

Not only is the Reformation as relevant today as it was in 1517, but it is as relevant as it has been since the day when a man from Nazareth named Jesus, also called the Christ, did the works that we cannot do and suffered the punishment of death that we should have suffered. He is the only Righteous One, and He offers His righteousness as a gift. And that's relevant for you.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard serves as pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in New Haven, Missouri.

Created: October 24th, 2016