Christ, Our Righteousness, Part 8
To prove just how often people confuse salvation with fellowship, I want to use the example of the Reformer Martin Luther. I believe God used him mightily to address one of the main problems created by the Roman Catholic Church and their teaching regarding salvation. As most are aware, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-10). There is nothing we can do to earn salvation and there is nothing we can to maintain that salvation either. I’ve stated that in this series from the first article. We are responsible for maintaining our fellowship with God which exists only because we have salvation from Him.
Martin Luther grew up very confused about his salvation. As the stories go, he placed himself under the constant pressure of never doing enough. If there was some sin in his life that affected someone else, he felt the need to not only confess it to God, but to the wronged person. While this is a good practice in general, Luther took it to the nth degree. If he thought something bad against someone else, he would feel inclined to tell them about it. It got to the point where several other priests and/or monks grew very impatient with his constant need for penance.
Luther could not marry the principle of a loving God who also extends forgiveness with the idea that he was, in fact, fully forgiven and could do nothing to earn salvation. Certainly, aspects of Roman Catholicism make that very nearly impossible with their unbiblical belief in Purgatory and Indulgences.
Though Luther had what became known as his 95 theses and nailed them to the Wittenberg Door, essentially creating what became known as the Reformation, Luther’s main problem had to do with the fact that Roman Catholicism taught (and still teaches) that grace was not enough to obtain salvation. There were certain works on man’s part that were not only required as part of the equation to gain salvation, but also to maintain it. This holdover is now seen in Protestantism with the full rejection by many of the “once saved, always saved” theological viewpoint.
Luther believe salvation was gained only through faith in God’s provision. It was faith that appropriated salvation and opened the doorway to fellowship. There was nothing that people could do obtain salvation beyond having the simple faith of a child. This was Luther’s belief-altering truth. He finally understood what it meant – “the just shall live by faith”! Faith gained salvation and those justified (by God) continued to live before Him in faith!
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) 
Then why – years later – did this same Martin Luther revert back to beating himself with whips? Why did he write works that offered such judgments against the Jews? In fact, why did he allow himself to become embittered by what he saw as the Jews’ inability to see the truth? Later in life, “His 1543 treatise Von den Juden und ihren Lügen (On the Jews and Their Lies) took its place among other anti-Jewish literature of the times, although historians acknowledge that this treatise was particularly extreme, even by the standards of sixteenth century Europe.” This ended up influence another person later on by the name of Adolf Hitler.
Why did Luther travel that route? How was he able to go from hating himself and feeling the need to constantly confess sin to God and others, and even flagellating himself with whips as a form of penance, to seeing the truth of God’s grace in light of salvation, enjoying the freedom he found there, only to circle back somewhat to the point where he once again lived in darkness of soul?
Had his salvation changed? Had he somehow lost all or part of it? If Luther had salvation, he had salvation. What happened? The only real answer is that his fellowship with God changed. I’m not trying to judge Martin Luther, please understand. I do realize that because of the pressures of persecution, the fact that he was counted as an enemy of the “church,” and there was a price on his head, very likely took its toll.
That said, did Luther’s fellowship with God change? If he was an authentic Christian, then this is the only explanation for how he viewed things toward the end of his life. An angst returned to Luther, prompting him to see life with a jaundiced eye. His view of Jewish people leaned much more toward Anti-Semitism than what it had been previously. In fact, it was clear that his anti-Jewish sentiment revealed itself not only in his writings but in within his daily life as well.
Like any relationship, it is possible for us to lose sight of goals and objectives. Relationships can become mundane, ordinary, and therefore, emotionless, and even loveless. If this is true with respect to our human relationships, how much more is it true with our relationship with God?
Unlike our human relationships, God reveals Himself to us through His Word. We did not live during the time that Jesus walked this earth in physical form. We do not have the benefit of personally knowing Him as He was then. We never heard Him actually speak, therefore we have never heard the resonance in His voice. We never enjoyed the opportunity to hear Him preach, how He may have exulted when someone He touched was healed, or the tone of His voice when He embraced the little children. We do not know the sound of His voice or look on His face when He took His disciples to task. We don’t know how we might have felt had we actually witnessed and heard Jesus prophecy to Peter that he would reject Him before the rooster crows three times.
In short, unlike human beings with whom we are in relationship, we are in relationship with an invisible God who, though He has a human form (in God the Son), remains invisible to us because He does not physically live in this dimension. The only possible way we can get to know God and fellowship with Him is through His revelation we call the Bible. That’s it. Certainly, the Holy Spirit who indwells us, teaches us God’s truth from that source and does many other things as well, but chiefly, the Bible is our guide to our fellowship with God Almighty.
If we set the Bible aside, treat it as though reading/studying it isn’t that important, our fellowship with God will be affected negatively. We will cease to grow in our relationship with Him and instead, our sense of spiritual connection with Him will dry up.
It is really no different from no longer spending time with another human being physically. If we are married but we start to spend more time away from our spouse, our emotions for them will retreat, dry up, and eventually die altogether. We can actually stay in the same house and drift from them emotionally. We stop talking, we stop connecting, we stop caring, we stop growing.
Next time, we’re going to talk about the way God has chosen to reveal Himself to us and why it is important – make that extremely important – for us to avail ourselves of that revelation. It’s how we grow, how we become emotionally attached to God, how we learn what His will is for our lives, and how we maintain our fellowship with Him.
We’ll chat with you then. In the meantime, I pray you enjoy your day and that God would open your eyes to show you how blessed you are in Him.
Entry filed under: christianity, eternity, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: assurance of salvation, by grace through faith, christ our righteousness.