Read: Galatians 2:16-21
The great truth of the Reformation was “Justification by faith alone.” Luther opened the door to reformation in the church with that simple, four-word statement.
The Roman Catholic Church taught differently. This apostate church that held sway over the whole of Europe taught justification by faith and works. One had to do works in addition to believing in order to be saved. Luther had tried that in the monastery. God plagued Luther with the consciousness of his sins. God drove Luther almost frantic, as Luther tried to appease God by all sorts of works.
Chief among these works was his confessions of his sins to his superior, Johann Staupitz. He would spend long periods of time confessing to Staupitz every little sin he could think of; and minutes after leaving Staupitz, he would think of another sin, and hurry back to confess that sin as well.
Staupitz got sick of it all, and finally said to Luther, “Brother Martin, if you are going to confess all these sins to me, please commit some big sin, like murdering your mother, to make your confession worthwhile.
Staupitz did not mean that literally, but he tried to show Luther the way to the cross of Christ, a way Luther could not yet see as the way to peace. The blinders of the Roman Catholic church prevented him from seeing the cross.
But God led Luther, through this dark way, to the cross. And when Luther finally saw it, he exclaimed, “I saw heaven itself opened before me!” He saw heaven as a reality for him through that dark and murky cross of Calvary.
The cross revealed heaven because Luther finally turned away from a preoccupation with his own works, and saw only the work of Christ, which Christ performed on the cross.
When Luther translated the Bible into German, he translated such texts as Romans 5:1: “Therefore being justified by faith alone, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” the Roman Catholics badgered him mercilessly for adding the word “alone,” which they said was not in the original Greek.
Luther’s reply was, “I know the word is not in the Greek, but the idea is.” It was the word “alone” that infuriated the Roman Catholics. But Luther insisted on it. It was the salvation of the church.
Why do so many leaders in the church and ministers of the gospel want to go back to that awful error of Rome? Why do they want to turn their backs on Luther and his soul-wrenching struggle to come to peace with God?
We cannot tell with certainty, but man’s pride is a terrible thing and sinful man wants to preserve some tattered remnants of his pride. And so he says, “I can do something too. I am justified by faith and my works.”
We ought to fall on our faces at the foot of the cross and confess that we can do nothing– nothing at all to be justified.
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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