500 years ago, on October 31, 1517, a young monk and professor named Martin Luther posted a series of theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther was concerned about the way the Church was teaching about the way of salvation for humans, and wanted to start a conversation about how to understand the work of God in our lives. Little did Luther know that this act would be an earthquake that would shake the foundations of the Church, the State, and the structure of European society.
On Sunday mornings at Central this Fall, we are going to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation by turning to the book of Romans. As Luther wrestled with God and with the doctrine of the Church, he turned to this book, which he described as “the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest Gospel, [which] is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul.” Why did Luther consider Romans such an important book? And how did it help him to reform the Church and its practices?
Romans is a book that places before us the power and the simplicity of The Gospel, the Good News of what God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ. Romans puts before us the major themes of the Christian faith: Righteousness, sin, wrath, justification, the Spirit, faith, and holiness. By exploring Romans, Luther was brought before the power of God’s Word, and that Word transformed Him by sweeping away human wisdom and trust in human works. His reading of Romans called Luther, and those who followed him, to trust in God’s Word alone (sola scriptura), in Christ alone (sola Christus), and faith alone (sola fides). Romans focuses us on the gracious work of God to free us and renew our lives by His grace, and calls us to trust wholly in His grace toward us and not in ourselves or our ability to earn God’s favor through our behavior.
My prayer for this series is that each one of us will be captured in a new way by the power and simplicity of the Gospel. I pray that our hearts will be renewed with a deep sense of our need for God’s grace and a deep trust in the abundance of grace we have received from Him through Jesus. I pray that we will be challenged to no longer trust in our own wisdom, or rely on our own power, when it comes to living our lives. And I pray that many will come to know this grace for the first time, and that many others will be freed from sin and bondage by the love of God.
I want to invite everyone to join us each Sunday this fall to hear the power and simplicity of the Gospel through the Book of Romans.