Last week I blogged about Martin Luther and how he went from law school student, to monk to reformer (please read my previous blog, "REFORMATION 102 – Why Is Reformation Day Celebrated on October 31?") This week I want to write about the Five Solas of the Reformation. 

But first a primer on Latin… Latin was the language of the Romans. Over time Latin evolved into what today we call the Romance languages: Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, and a few other regional dialects (English is mostly Germanic in nature but a significant portion of it is derived from Latin). And although Latin died out over time it remained the universal academic language for several centuries. In other words, academics read and responded to each other’s works in Latin. Today English fills that role although the remnants of Latin persist to this day, primarily in the fields of law, medicine, mathematics, theology, and so on (e.g., habeas corpus, gluteus maximus, quod erat demonstrandum, Scripturam ex Scriptura explicandam esse—can you guess what these words mean in English?). 

And for what it’s worth, I learned a little Latin back in 1961-1962 when I was an altar boy in Tampa, FLA (this was before Vatican II changed the mass to the contemporary language of a country). Later I studied Latin in 1964-1966 during my freshman and sophomore years at Jesuit High School in Shreveport, LA. I still remember translating Caesar’s account of the Gallic Wars for a test, Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres; "All Gaul is divided into three parts." Don’t you wish you could be more like me? 

And for what it’s worth, the right word is solae (plural of sola), not solas, which is the Englishized (another wrong word) version of the plural or sola. Geez, do I have to tell you everything? OK, here’s something else. Sola means "alone" or "only." There! 

But I digress… 

Luther wrote his Ninety-Five Theses in Latin, same as he did with his other major works. Likewise, the Five Solas of the Reformation where written and spoken in Latin. They are:

Sola Scriptura, "Scripture Alone" – 2 Timothy 3.18-17. Scripture alone is the final authority over all matters in the Church, for Scripture alone is "God-breathed." Creeds, writings of the Church Fathers, Ecumenical Councils, and other traditions are well and good just as long as they are in agreement with Scripture.

Sola Gratia, "Grace Alone" – Ephesians 2.8-9. We are justified—declared righteous, forgiven of our sins, adopted as children of God, granted eternal life, …—on the basis of God’s gift of grace alone and not through any merit on our part.

Sola Fide, "Faith Alone" – Ephesians 2.8-9. We are justified—ibid—through faith in Christ’s atoning work alone and not though any other means. Jesus said, "repent and believe the gospel" (John 1.15). Repentance and believing are the fundamental core of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Solus Christus, "Christ Alone" – 1 Timothy 2.5. Christ alone is our First Love, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our mediator with the Father. Apart from Christ we are destined to die in our sins and suffer for all eternity in Hell as a consequence.

Soli Deo Gloria, "For the Glory of God Alone" – Psalm 57.5. God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—alone deserves all the glory in the Church. Jesus glorified the Father (John 12.28) with His work of redemption, and we glorify the Father when we bear good fruit for Him (John 14.13), i.e., when God’s grace and our faith yield good works (Ephesians 2.10). 

The Five Solas are not explicitly mentioned together in any document stemming from the Reformation. The first three amounted to the essence or core of what Luther and other Reformers (e.g., Melanchthon, Zwingli, Calvin) taught. The last two were alluded to in their writings and sermons but are equally important.

Speaking of the importance of the Five Solas of the Reformation… These five statements are as important today as they were in the 16th century. Watering down any one of the five, either personally or in the Church, is to water down all five, and to water down the gospel, and to inhibit ongoing reformation. For the Reformers well knew that as long as the Church is made up of people who are, in Luther’s own words, simul justus et peccator ("simultaneously justified and sinner")—and it will be so until Jesus returns—then the saying, ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda ("the church reformed, always reforming") is also valid. In other words, the Reformation of the Church is still going on!  

Next week: REFORMATION 202 – What Was the Aftermath of the Reformation?

 

 

 

 

Why Is Reformation Day Celebrated on October 31?

 

Last week I blogged (“blogged” is real word according to Microsoft Word’s spell Nazi checker) about the 16th century Reformation—what it was and why it came about (please read my previous blog, “REFORMATION 101 – What Was the Reformation?”)  This week I want to write about the reason why it’s celebrated on October 31st.

 

Luther (1483-1546) was a German Augustinian monk who struggled with his inability to atone for his sins, frequently experiencing nightmares of burning in hell for all eternity for his ongoing failures to satisfy the demands of a holy God.  Prayer, fasting, self-flagellations, not even spending a night sleeping nearly naked on the snow eased his anguish.  Not even daily confessions helped (he would often turn around after a confession session to confess again for fear he forgot to confess something, leading his confessors to tire of him and say, “Martin, come back when you have something to confess!”).

 

But in time Luther began to understand that grace was a free gift of God and that faith alone in Christ’s atoning work on the cross was all that God required of the sinner for justification (i.e., made righteous before a holy God).  His epiphany (mental light bulb) came on when he read in Romans 1.17 that “The righteous shall live by faith.” 

 

While serving as Professor of Theology at Wittenberg he became incensed at the selling of indulgences (ticket out of purgatory).  On October 31, 1517 Luther nailed a list of 95 grievances—“The Ninety Theses”—to the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg (for a dramatization of this event check out this video from the movie “Luther”:

) And as they say, “the rest is history.”

 

As I wrote last week, the Reformation was, first and foremost, a rediscovery of the gospel of Grace of Jesus Christ.  Luther’s theology evolved over time but can be summarized as the teaching that salvation is not earned by good deeds but is received only as the free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, he challenged the authority of the pope insisting instead that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge from God and that only two sacraments, not seven, are to be administered in the church: baptism and communion.  In addition, he opposed the ordained priesthood teaching instead that all baptized Christians are a holy priesthood.

 

One thing Luther did not want was for his followers or the church he founded to be called “Lutheran.”  Rather, he insisted on “Christian” or “Evangelical” as the only acceptable names for those who professed faith in Christ.  Guess you can’t always get what you want!  Then again, we at AnchorPoint refer to ourselves as “Christian” and “Evangelical.”  Luther would approve.

 

 

Next week: REFORMATION 201 – What Are the Five Solas of the Reformation?
Week after: REFORMATION 202 – What Was the Aftermath of the Reformation?

 

 

 

 

Sunday, October 29, 2017, is Reformation Sunday, and I (Pastor Reinaldo) will be teaching about the Reformation. Reformation Day falls each year on October 31. But this October 31 is a very special Reformation Day as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation. 

Let’s start with the basics. First, what is a "reformation"? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 

reformation a :the act of reforming; b :the state of being reformed

I don’t know about you but I don’t find that very helpful. Let’s back up a bit and look at the definition of the word "reform." Again, from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 

reform a :to put or change into an improved form or condition; b :to amend or improve by change of form or removal of faults or abuses

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. Let’s couple that definition with the definition of "The Reformation" (the article "The" and uppercase "R" make all the difference here),  

The Reformation a 16th century religious movement marked ultimately by rejection or modification of some Roman Catholic doctrine and practice and establishment of the Protestant churches

Consistent with this definition, the Reformation, which officially began on October 31, 1517, was a 16th century movement aimed at changing and improving the condition of the Roman Catholic Church (only church denomination in Western Europe back then) by way rejecting its abuses, removing its faults, and returning it to the doctrines and practices of the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, as prescribed in Scripture. You might say that the Reformers rediscovered the gospel in much the same way that King Josiah rediscovered the Law and enacted reforms in Israel during the second half of the 7th century BC (2 Kings 22-23 & 2 Chronicles 34-35). 

Depending on which Church historian one listens to, the Church began a steep declinemoral, ethical, doctrinal, etc.some 1,000 years prior to the 16th century. One of the Reformers, John Calvin, admired Pope Gregory I (in office from 590 604) and commented that he was "the last good pope." Over the years the decline escalatedor deescalated, ratherto the extent that by the 16th century the Church bore little resemblance to the Church Christ founded and which the Apostles established in the 1st century. Sad. 

Next week: REFORMATION 102 Why Is Reformation Day Celebrated on October 31?

 

I, Pastor Reinaldo, moved to Lubbock, Texas, in June, 1980, same year that Mac Davis released his Country & Western hit song, “Texas in My Rear View Mirror” (“I thought happiness was Lubbock, Texas in my rear view mirror…”; you can listen to it at...

 

Unlike Mac Davis, “Texas in my front windshield” was a new and exciting experience for me.  Although I first believed in Christ in 1974 in Ruston, Louisiana, my first few years as a Christian were mostly filled with emotional pain and disillusionment.  Surely, Lubbock would be a new beginning for me.  And it was!  I fell in love and married Hope there, I earned my doctorate there, I advanced in my career there, and I grew in my faith there.  Yes, I loved Lubbock, something which even Mac Davis agreed with towards the end of his song.

 

But what I did not do in the seven years I lived in Lubbock was enjoy the water.  For all my trials and tribulations in Louisiana, I would say that the water there tasted like wine in comparison with Lubbock’s water, which tasted like turpentine.  The water there, drawn from the Ogallala Aquifer (largest underground lake in the U.S.) was replete with all sorts of minerals.  Perhaps associating it with turpentine is a bit much, but imagine making tea from sheetrock and you have a clear picture of its abominable taste.

 

But the worst of it wasn’t the taste.  Older houses there tended to have very low water pressure due to pipes becoming clogged with mineral deposits.  The pipes at an older residence hall at Texas Tech, Hulen Hall, had to be removed and reinstalled.   They were cut up into 1” sections and given to faculty and staff as souvenir paper weights (a 1½” pipe had an effective opening less than ½” due to years of mineral deposits). 

 

So, what does any of this have to do with (Revelation 3.14-22), the letter to Laodicea, seventh of the seven letters to churches in Asia Minor in (Revelation 2-3)?  It appears that the water in Laodicea was as bad—probably worse—than that in Lubbock.  But that was not the Laodicean church’s main concern.  Rather, it was that the tepid, disgusting water they drank was a metaphor for the pitiable (Christ’s own word) state of that church.  Christ frequently used elements of the society and culture He was speaking to as metaphors and allegories to address spiritual truths.  And of the seven churches of Revelation, Laodicea was the only for which Christ had nothing to commend them for; it appears that they valued comfort, convenience and consumerism before Christ.  Their pitiable state was as bad as the water they consumed.  Sad.

 

Please join us this Sunday to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3.22), and to AnchorPoint Church in particular.  I pray that we would carefully hear what Christ has to say to us.  And you can pray for me that I would teach God’s word accurately and that I would reflect Christ’s heart in my message.

 

Did you know that the name "Smyrna" means "myrrh"? Smyrna was a major Greek port city of Asia Minor, second only to Ephesus in grandeur and strategic significance. It was also a major processing place for myrrh (hence the name "Smyrna"). This coming Sunday we will look at Christ’s letter to the church in Smyrna, the second of seven letters to seven churches in Asia Minor.

 

But in this blog I want to address myrrh, the aromatic spice so beloved by so many for so long. Myrrh is mentioned 19 times in Scripture, seven of those times in Song of Solomon (1.13, 3.6, 4.6, 4.14, 5.1, 5.5 & 5.13). You should look them up—but be prepared to blush!

 

In Matthew 2.11 where we read that the magi (or "wise men") were "…going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him…they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." The gift of gold is fit for a king; Jesus is the "King of Kings." The gift of frankincense is fit for worshipping God; Jesus is God. And the gift of myrrh is for embalming the dead; Jesus died—and rose again!

 

In John 19.39 where we read that "Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight." Assuming he used the liquid form of myrrh, and assuming that the 75 lbs. mentioned was half myrrh and half aloes, the 37.5 lbs. of myrrh would cost about $3,000 today (liquid myrrh is about $20.00/4 oz. at amazon.com—you do the math. Truly, Nicodemus was "born again" (John 3.1-15), for he trusted Him as his Savior and showed his love for Him by spending that kind of money on His burial.

 

And in Mark 15.23 where we read that "…they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it." Apparently, myrrh has analgesic qualities, especially when mixed with wine and ingested. But as Mark tells us, he refused it. We read in Mark 14.36 that the night before His crucifixion at the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed to the Father, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." But the will of the Father was prophesied by Isaiah some seven centuries prior, for we read in Isaiah 53.5 that, "…he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed." As I understand all this, Jesus could not accept any relief from His suffering, for He needed to atone for the full burden of our sin.

 

I’ll have "myrrh" to say about Jesus’ letter to the Church in Smyrna on Sunday.