Our theme for this month: “Understanding Salvation”
Our Bible verse for today: “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:-8-9 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “Salvation is a free gift which you must simply accept”
Martin Luther was a Catholic priest and monk in the 1500s in Germany. He is remembered mostly for two reasons. First, he was one of the fathers of the Protestant Reformation. He was perhaps the most influential figure in moving Christians away from the Catholic Church and into a more Bible-centric, faith-based practice of Christianity.
The other thing Luther is remembered for is his personal discovery and subsequent teaching that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, and not by works. However this was not a new revelation from God. The Apostle Paul had written about it 1500 years earlier in Romans 1:17 and again in Ephesians 2:8-9. Unfortunately, shortly after the time of Paul, the Christian faith moved into an era of works-based salvation. The Catholic Church became the dominant expression of the Christian faith and they taught a strict doctrine of salvation by obeying the rules, participating in the rituals, and giving money.
Luther himself was terrified of the holiness and righteousness of a God who seemed impossible to please. He prayed eight times a day. He sometimes spent six hours a day confessing his sins to another priest. He fasted multiple times each week. He often slept without blankets, even in the winter, because he considered himself too sinful to deserve the pleasure of blankets. He once ascended a high staircase on his knees, pausing at each step to pray a prayer of confession and to beg God’s forgiveness. And yet, Luther was miserable. No matter how much he repented he still felt guilty.
Finally one day in Bible study and prayer Luther had an epiphany. The Holy Spirit opened his mind to the great truth of Romans 1:17, that the righteous live by faith, and that as Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches, our salvation comes as a result of the grace of God by means of faith in His son, and not from any works that we perform. It is a free gift and can only be received by an act of faith.
It was the most revealing and liberating truth Luther had ever experienced. And it changed everything. In that moment Luther realized he did not need to earn his salvation. In fact, there was nothing he could do to earn it – he had already discovered that through many years of fruitless effort.
You cannot earn salvation, you cannot purchase it, and you will never be good enough to deserve it. It is the free gift of God, simply as a matter of his amazing grace, and it comes only through faith in His Son Jesus.
Tomorrow we will explore this great truth further. We will talk about the element of salvation that is a one-time event and which begins in a moment of decision.