Readings for Reformation Sunday
John 8:31-36; Romans 3:19-28; Revelation 14:6-7
It was five hundred years ago – 1517 – that an outspoken German monk named Martin Luther called into question the Church’s teachings on such vital subjects as divine authority, repentance, and the relationship between faith and works. At the heart of Luther’s concern was a question that is as relevant to believers today as it was then. “How can I be sure of my salvation?”
The Gospel reading highlights a major theme of the Reformation – the performative power of God’s Word. By that I mean God’s Word does more than just communicate ideas about God to us; it actually does something to us.
“If you abide in my Word…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” A word from Jesus is all it takes to liberate us from sin, death and Satan, and cause our dead hearts to start beating again, (Jn 8).
The epistle reading was a major influence on Luther’s understanding of the Gospel. In it, Paul lays out an alternative solution to the problem of our lack of righteousness before God. Instead of the dead-end answer of “just try harder” Paul points us to the finished work of Christ and the righteousness that comes only through faith (Rom 3).
The reading from Revelation describes an angel messenger who is sent by God to share “an eternal Gospel”. To a dying world the message of salvation through faith alone in Jesus alone apart from works will always be relevant (Rev 14).