by Jojo Ruba
The Augustinian monk and German theology professor was sick of the abuses he saw in the church. Particularly, he was appalled at how the church was selling indulgences as a way to escape God’s punishment in purgatory.
Ordinary people were taught the doctrine of purgatory, a place where believers would go and be “cleansed” from repetitive sins before entering heaven. The more of these sins you had, the more time you would need to suffer and be cleansed. Though this wasn’t Hell and was only temporary, a soul could still spend thousands of years there. This was why indulgences were so attractive. The more money you spent, the less time you, or even an already deceased loved one, would spend in purgatory. This theology allowed the church to collect money to pay for the rebuilding of Saint Peter’s Basilica and gave clergy a lot of power over ordinary believers.
But Luther wasn’t just tired of the abuses of the system. He wanted to start a theological discussion about the nature of salvation itself. As a boy, he was haunted by the idea that his good deeds would never be righteous enough to merit salvation. As a man, he began to see how scripture did not teach that we could be saved by our own righteousness, but rather by God’s grace alone. Works or indulgences were inadequate to save us. Twenty years later, Luther summarized his beliefs this way:
The first and chief article is this: Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (Romans 3:24–25). He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works and merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood (Romans 3:23–25). This is necessary to believe. This cannot be otherwise acquired or grasped by any work, law or merit. Therefore, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us ... Nothing of this article can be yielded or surrendered, even though heaven and earth and everything else falls (Mark 13:31).
On October 31, 1517, Luther’s beliefs lead him to post the now-famous 95 theses on the doors of a local church, a place where the community would see his work and begin to discuss it. Five-hundred years later, Evangelicals still celebrate that we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone taught by scripture, which alone is our source of final authority.
It’s the same message we at Faith Beyond Belief continue to teach as we speak across the province. We too want to begin spiritual conversations about the truths that matter and to encourage Christians to do the same.
In honour of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, FBB is launching the Reformation 500 Campaign. This campaign is a way for you to connect our ministry with others you know who would benefit from our training. Whether it’s churches or individuals, we want to reach out to others and help bring them the tools to have effective conversations for Christ in everyday circumstances.
Before the end of the year, we need to find new partners who can help support FBB. We need to find:
50 people who can give $10 a month
10 people who can give $50 a month
5 people who can give a $100 month
The Reformation only grew because ordinary people like us spread its message by word of mouth and by invitation. Faith Beyond Belief can only grow in the same way. We want to pay our current staff but also want to hire new staff who can help us run our office and support our speakers as we have an increasingly busy speaking schedule.
If you are already donating to FBB, thank you! Your support is invaluable. Would you consider hosting a fundraising event that would connect us with your friends or family who may want to support our work? Please contact us and we can help you setup this event.
If you are not yet a donor, this would be a great time to invest in the lives of the people God brings to us. People like “Jesse”. He recently, e-mailed me to remind me that I spoke at camp he was at a few years ago. He thanked me for the training I gave and then said he was now using those truths to encourage someone else who was struggling with the faith. He was optimistic that this other person would be encouraged to stay strong in the faith all because of the investment we made in his life. Your invaluable support allows us to encourage these kinds of reformations in the lives of others.