John 8:31-36 - Reformation - October 30, 2011
God's Word Sets Sinners Free
On the Eve of All Saints’ Day (Halloween) in the year 1517, Martin Luther posted 95 Theses on the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. These theses were intended to serve as an outline for debate concerning the selling of indulgences for the remission of sins. The sale of indulgences was a fundraiser in Germany designed by the papacy to finance the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. “When the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs.” This absurd claim was the catch-phrase that was used in selling these worthless promises. People longed for freedom from the bonds of hell. And they were willing to pay to free their loved-ones from the imaginary prison of Purgatory. And so these poor sinners clung in desperation, not to the words of Jesus, but to the words of the Pope in Rome. It was a shameless racket. But it was a successful one, because these poor souls didn’t know any better. They didn’t know the truth, and so they remained enslaved to lies.
Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Martin Luther sought the truth in the word of God. And so according to this clear and certain promise of Jesus, not only did he discover the liberating light of the Gospel for himself, but through him, God brought it back to the Church that had lived in darkness for so long. St. Paul’s admonition to Timothy and to all pastors has rung true now for countless generations, and we have seen it: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16). Luther not only saved himself, but now nearly 500 years later, thanks to his faithful service to the Church we continue to hear the Gospel that saves us too.