Sola Fide

No. 56 - 29th October 2017

I can remember the first time I watched my father writing out a cheque. He wrote “Cash” at the top, followed by a long number. Then he wrote the date and signed it. I asked him what he was doing and he explained that when he took this piece of paper to the bank, they would give him whatever amount of money he had written on the cheque. I was flabbergasted. The very idea that he could just write down how much money he wanted and someone would give him the money for nothing. It was incredible. The only thing I didn’t understand was why he didn’t write a much bigger number, because I knew they weren’t very rich. I also knew that most people had to work for their money, but my dad just had to ask for whatever he wanted.

This Tuesday will be the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther supposedly nailed his 95 theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg. He had been studying the New Testament in Greek, its original language, and discovered something rather startling. At the time, most people in Europe were very concerned about their Salvation. In other words, would they go to heaven when they died. The Church was telling them that they could earn their salvation by doing penance or going on pilgrimages. Or, they could pay for it with cash, which went towards the building of the magnificent Church of St Peter’s in Rome. Well all that was about to change.

What Luther had discovered through his study of the Bible was that he couldn’t buy or work for his salvation. It was a bit like the picture of my Dad writing out a cheque and the ridiculously generous people at the bank, just gave him the money. What I hadn’t realised was that my father had credit at the Bank. What Luther discovered was that he had credit with God. Not something he had worked for or paid for. His credit was put there by the Son of God who had paid for it with his own life. Everything that Jesus went through on the cross was to pay for Luther’s salvation. It was as though he just had to write on the cheque, ‘I want Salvation,’ and God would give it to him. Now that took a bit of faith to believe that it would come as a gift from God, without him having to do anything to earn it or pay for it. So, the second pillar of the Reformation came from this discovery. Sola Fide. By Faith alone.

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