Sermon Summary, 11/5/17, “Five Hundred Plus Five” (Romans 1:16-17; 3:24)
Five days ago our first Trick or Treaters were a Dad dressed as Martin Luther, 1st daughter as a hammer, 2d daughter as a nail, 3rd daughter as the 95 Theses, and Mom as the door to the Castle Church. What is the big deal about Martin Luther? Quite a lot. Five hundred years and five days ago, he nailed his 95 Theses on the door and became the major player in the Protestant Reformation. We are sitting in these seats today because of that. John Wesley was profoundly influenced by Luther and because of that there was a Methodist movement.
Before Oct 31st, 1517, laity did not sing in church; laity were prohibited from reading the Bible, it was too dangerous for them; Priests were exempt from being prosecuted (what abuse that allowed), laity only had access to God through the Priests; and most importantly, it was believed that we were saved by works and not by grace!
Luther as a young man struggled with his faith, as John Wesley would 200 years later. Luther was not able to even see a Bible until he was 20, but his reading of the Bible, especially Romans, opened his eyes. When Pope Leo X, decided he would build St. Peter’s Basilica and use indulgences to raise the money, Luther wanted a debate on “The efficacy and Power of Indulgences,” his 95 Theses. Pope Leo directed that Luther be silenced and recant, his writings burned. Martin Luther responded by burning the Pope’s letter! The Pope excommunicated him and the Holy Roman Emperor convicted him. Before he could be imprisoned his friends hid him in the Castle Wartburg where he spend his time translating the New Testament into German, the vernacular of the people. Luther felt that the mother in the home, the children on the street, the common man in the marketplace should have access to the Bible themselves and direct access to God.
From “Romans” he had come to understand that we are saved by grace through faith in God’s acts of salvation though the cross. Two hundred years later, upon hearing Martin Luther’s “Preface to the Romans,” John Wesley declared “that his heart was strangely warned, I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” On this conversion experience of John Wesley, the Methodist movement was born.
Luther and Wesley both experienced doubts. Wesley, asking how could he preach without faith, was told “Preach faith until you have faith and then because you have faith, preach faith.”
We too, experience doubts, and to paraphrase, we should “Live faith until we have faith and then because we have faith, live faith.” We are saved by grace through faith. That is Luther’s legacy for us.