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Reformation Day 2017
Free Worship Resources, including Prayers, Sermon, Video...

Feast Day:  October 31

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(1483 – 1546) Martin Luther was a German priest, Dominican monk, and professor of theology who is attributed with starting the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment of sin could be purchased with money. He confronted Johann Tetzel, a special papal envoy sent to Germany to sell indulgences. He is said to have nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg in 1517 in order to confront several teachings of the Church. He refused to recant from his teachings and writings at the Diet of Worms in 1521. Pope Leo X excommunicated him following his refusal and he became an outlaw by decree of the Emperor.

Luther's major teachings are still found in Protestant teachings today:

  • Sola Fide - salvation cannot be earned by good deeds but is a free gift of God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Sola Scriptura - he taught that the bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge excluding the papal decrees.
  • Pristhood of all Believers  - all baptized Christians are priests. There is no need for a mediator (confessional priest) to confess sins to God.

He also translated the Bible into his German dialect that later become known as "high German"  while he was in hiding. His hymns influenced the development of singing songs in church with contemporary melodies (some of them having apparently been bar tunes).

More on Martin Luther's works: Martin Luther's 95 Theses (in English)
 


Scripture Lessons for Reformation Day

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 46
Romans 3:19-28
John 8:31-36

 


A Reformation Day Prayer

Lord God of hosts, the Refuge of every sinner and the Strength of all who put their trust in you, we praise you for having made us partakers of the blessings of your Reformation. Without any merit on our part, you have sent your Holy Spirit into our hearts and brought us to faith in your dear Son, Jesus Christ. You have made known to us the perfect merit of Christ. You have directed our faith to rest on the exceedingly great and precious promises of your Gospel. You have revealed the beauty of your grace, which rescued us from a just condemnation and assured us of certain salvation in Christ. Grant us your grace that we may receive your forgiveness with thanksgiving.  Use us as your witnesses in bringing the message of pardon in Christ to people everywhere. Open our eyes to a better understanding of your Word and a deeper appreciation of your grace that our faith in Christ Jesus may grow and flourish with the fruits of righteous living.  Amen.


A Reformation Day Blessing

Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you for preserving your holy church throughout the ages. For the gift of the blessed gospel we praise your name. For the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection from the dead and life eternal in Christ, we thank you, loving Father. We treasure the rich heritage handed down from our fathers in the faith. Hear our prayer which we ask in the name of your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, through all eternity.  Amen.


 

A Mighty Fortress
By Grace I'm Saved
The Church of Christ, in Every Age
The Church's One Foundation
Through Jesus' Blood and Merit
My Hope is Built
The Gospel Shows the Father's Grace
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Blessed Assurance
God's Word is our Great Heritage
Faith of Our Fathers
Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word
God's Word is Our Great Heritage
O God, O Lord of Heaven and Earth
Onward Christian Sodiers


 

           
Reformation Day Sermon
:

Blessed Assurance
Hebrew 11:1-2,
by Rev. Frank Schaefer

This year, we celebrate the 489th anniversary of the birth of Protestant church. It was in 1521 that Martin Luther stood firm in front of the papal envoy as well as the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire at the Diet of Worms.

The words he spoke on that eve of the Protestant church are still ringing loud and proud: I will not and cannot recant of my words; it is neither safe nor right to go against one’s conscience; Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God!

What is so remarkable was that Luther knew fully well that his bold stand would likely result in excommunication and execution.  In fact, on that day he was excommunicated by the pope and the emperor declared him an outlaw.

What was Luther’s crime? He believed in the Scriptures as the only authoritative word of God and by that challenged the power of the pope (whose decrees were held to be just as inspired as the bible)

Luther also opposed the church on other grounds, such as his experience of salvation by faith rather than works, and he most definitely opposed the selling of indulgences—pardons from hellfire for a donor’s relatives.

We as Protestant Christians celebrate Reformation Sunday not only because of our history but also for what we are privileged to believe in.

Sometimes the main Protestants beliefs are summed up with the teaching of the “five solas.” They are identified as:

Sola Scriptura –Scripture only
Sola Fide –by faith alone
Sola Gratia –   by grace alone
Solo Christo— through Christ alone
Soli Deo Gloria—glory to God alone

There’s not enough time to expound on every single point, so I thought I’d rather focus on the one principle that Protestants celebrate and that really sets Protestants apart from the Roman/Orthodox Church: the assurance of faith doctrine.

One of the Scriptures often quoted by Protestants is from Hebrews 11 which defines faith as an assurance of salvation: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Luther even translated the phrase with “eine gewisse Zuversicht,” that is, “a certain confidence.”

Many Protestant believers describe this certain confidence as an inner witness of the Holy Spirit which allows the justified disciple to know they are saved.

The Apostle Paul certainly also received such an assurance of his salvation during his conversion experience as described in the book of Acts.

We can find a similar description of such assurance in the writings of many church fathers, most notable in the “Confessions” by St. Augustine of Hippo.

The biggest criticism of the Protestant “assurance doctrine” is that it has the tendency to make believers complacent.  Why would they continue to do good works if salvation is already in their pocket?  Scripture passages such as those from the epistle of James support this notion: “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:17)

I think deep down, most every Christian would agree that both aspects of salvation are very important, faith and keeping the law (which includes doing good works).

I think, even the apostle Paul in our text from Philippians had a role for keeping the law / human works in his concept of salvation. I think we need to see the context into which he is writing to understand what he means.

First, we need to understand that he came from a background where keeping the Mosaic law was considered salvation.

In Verse 6 we hear him say:  “…as for righteousness based on the law, [I was] faultless.”

Paul, before becoming a Christian, living as a Jew, never broke the law!  That’s remarkable.  Just as remarkable as the rich young ruler who came to Jesus asking about salvation and telling Jesus: I have kept all of the law, all my life! 

However, even keeping the whole law of God, did not prevent him from doing something terribly wrong: he persecuted the church (“as for zeal, persecuting the church” V6)

So, in Paul’s experience, even keeping the whole law all his life did not lead him to salvation. 

Paul does not want to discredit good works or God’s law; the purpose for his writing is to teach the church at Philippi an important lesson:  His intent is to correct an arrogant attitude some of the folks had. They were bragging about their righteous works and thought that they had earned their salvation. They thought they were better than others.

That’s why Paul opens this passage by saying: if anyone has reason to brag, it would be me. I have kept the whole law.  But that’s not what ultimately saved Paul.  He was saved by God’s grace, by faith that came after his eyes were opened by Christ himself. Now, that puts things in perspective.  Don’t brag about earning your salvation, Paul says, rather do good works, keep the law, run the race based on the strength that comes from being saved by faith.

As a good Protestant, it makes sense to me to have assurance of faith and still wanting to keep the law.  I want to do good works for my Lord, who has done everything for me. I don’t need any other motivation, and I certainly do not need the fear of losing my salvation in order to do them. That's how I understand Sola Fide--saved by faith alone.

 One of the original reformers in the 16th century used an analogy that I find very helpful in this regard: that of a fruit tree:

Before a tree can be productive and bear fruit it must grow into a healthy and strong tree.  Once the roots are deeply established the fruit is a natural outgrowth much like good works and an adherence to God’s law comes naturally to those who have been saved and made into a new creation by God. 

Good works, God’s law are very important aspects of our faith, but to Protestants the assurance of faith is certain and primary. In this theology we avoid the pitfall of becoming modern-day Pharisees while at the same time giving credit where credit is due: to our Creator God, our Savior and Redeemer.

Praise be to God who continues to draw all men unto him, who reveals his plan of salvation to us.  And let’s not forget: He who began the good work of faith in us will be faithful to complete it until the day of his glorious return.  Amen

More Sermons (DPS subscription needed):

Other Resources:

Skit:  Luther and Tetzel, by F. Schaefer

Multi-Media Reformation Resources by DPS