“We need to talk.” That’s what Martin Luther was thinking 499 years ago today as he walked to the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, with 95 theses in his hand. He posted those propositions on the church door -the community bulletin board – with the hope that he could open a dialogue with the religious leaders of the day. The established church was teaching that people could make up for any sins they committed and earn their way into heaven by doing any number of good things.
As Luther read the Bible, he noticed again and again that forgiveness and eternal life depended on God and not on us. If people wanted to earn their way into heaven by being good, then they needed to be perfect. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The problem is that no one is or can be as perfect as God. The only way that we can be perfect is for someone to give us perfection. That someone is Jesus Christ. Without Jesus’ blood and righteousness, we are lost. This is the truth that the Holy Spirit revealed to Martin Luther through his study of the Scriptures. This is the truth that Luther wanted to discuss with the religious leaders.
Those 95 statements that Luther posted on the church door became the spark that ignited the Lutheran Reformation. When the religious leaders of the day refused to listen to God’s Word, which Luther shared, Luther finally broke from them. The foundation of Luther’s faith was the central truth of salvation by grace through faith. We are not justified (declared holy in God’s sight) by keeping any laws. We are only justified by faith in Jesus Christ. That’s where Luther stood.
“We need to talk” is what God says to us. “There’s something serious we need to discuss.” The Bible clearly explains that every human being is sinful and deserves eternal death. The Bible also clearly explains that, in love, God saved us from our sins through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All who believe in Jesus as their Savior can look forward to eternal life in heaven. That is the one thing needful – salvation by grace through faith.