I’ve got a bet­ter rea­son to ob­serve Hal­loween

The Weekly Vista - - Religion - RANDY MOLL

While most of the world will ob­serve Hal­loween with its ghosts, gob­lins and prac­tices which have their roots in the pa­gan be­liefs and prac­tices of pre-Chris­tian Europe, a few of us ob­serve Oct. 31 for an­other rea­son.

It was on that day in 1517 — on All Hal­low’s Eve (the even­ing be­fore All Saint’s Day) — a Ger­man priest and monk nailed 95 th­e­ses or state­ments to the com­mu­nity bul­letin board of the day, the door of the Cas­tle Church in Wit­ten­berg, Ger­many. And the post­ing of those state­ments, meant to chal­lenge and en­cour­age de­bate over the sale of in­dul­gences in the Ger­man lands, was the spark which led to the Lutheran Re­for­ma­tion — an event which changed the world.

It’s hard for us to­day to even imag­ine a time when church mem­bers were not al­lowed to own or read the Bi­ble, when the church hi­er­ar­chy and es­pe­cially the head bishop (or pope) de­ter­mined what was to be taught in the churches and re­jected the cen­tral mes­sage of the Bi­ble, when those who trans­lated the Bi­ble into the language of the peo­ple or taught what the Bi­ble says were de­clared heretics and burned at the stake, when the head bishop and his hi­er­ar­chy could de­ter­mine whose sins were for­given and whose were not, and when for­give­ness could be bought from the church through the sale of in­dul­gences. But this is the way the Western Church — the Ro­man Church — was in the 15th and early 16th Cen­turies. And, in fact, this sad state of af­fairs in Europe had been so al­ready for cen­turies be­fore.

And it was into this set­ting that Dr. Martin Luther — not to be con­fused with Dr. Martin Luther King, the civil rights ad­vo­cate of the last cen­tury — lived. Fear­ing for his own soul, for he knew he was a sin­ner, Luther be­came a monk and later a priest and univer­sity pro­fes­sor. As such, he was priv­i­leged to read for him­self the Bi­ble and teach it to his stu­dents and par­ish­ioners. But Luther found that the teach­ing of the Bi­ble and the doc­trine of the Ro­man Church were far from the same.

Through the prayer­ful study of the Scrip­tures, Luther learned that no one was right­eous or could be ac­cept­able in God’s eyes by his own works or life “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Ro­mans 3:23). Noth­ing that a per­son could do was enough to sat­isfy God’s just wrath against sin. But he also learned that all are “jus­ti­fied freely by (God’s) grace through the redemp­tion that is in Christ Je­sus” (Ro­mans 3:24). Je­sus Christ, by His holy life and in­no­cent suf­fer­ings and death, made atone­ment for the sins of the whole world and rose again. He “was de­liv­ered for our of­fences, and was raised again for our jus­ti­fi­ca­tion” (Ro­mans 4:25).

Thus, Luther, who was so trou­bled over his own sins and short­com­ings in keep­ing God’s com­mand­ments and pleas­ing God that he abused and pun­ished him­self, found com­fort for his soul. He found his hope in the Gospel, which re­veals the right­eous­ness of God which is ours through faith in Christ Je­sus (cf. Ro­mans 1:16-17). He came to know and be­lieve “that a man is jus­ti­fied by faith with­out the deeds of the law” (Ro­mans 3:28).

He re­al­ized the Ro­man Church was wrong when it taught that peo­ple had to do good works as­signed by the church to be saved. He knew that the in­dul­gences the Ro­man Church was sell­ing to raise money could of­fer no for­give­ness and were en­tirely con­trary to the teach­ing of the Bi­ble. And He knew that the popes and the bish­ops and priests had no author­ity to preach and teach any­thing but the Word of God — the Bi­ble.

Thus, be­gin­ning with his 95 Th­e­ses, Luther be­gan call­ing the peo­ple and their churches back to the Bi­ble as the only source and judge of all Chris­tian teach­ing and to its cen­tral mes­sage, that sal­va­tion is by God’s grace alone, for the sake of Christ’s redemp­tion alone, and is re­ceived through faith alone.

Later, when facing the like­li­hood of be­ing put to death for his teach­ing, Luther was called upon to re­cant and take back all his teach­ings and writ­ings which were con­trary to the Ro­man Church and its

hi­er­ar­chy. He is said to have replied: “My con­science is cap­tive to the Word of God. I can­not and will not re­cant any­thing, for to go against con­science is nei­ther right nor safe. Here I stand. I can­not do oth­er­wise. God help me. Amen.”

Luther’s stand for the truth of God’s Word and his preach­ing of the true and sav­ing Gospel which had for cen­turies been si­lenced has brought bless­ings to us all, whether we re­al­ize it or not. Be­cause of his stand and his trans­lat­ing work, we can read and study our Bi­bles to­day. And we can and should use our Bi­ble as the only source of truth and with it judge what is taught to us in Bi­ble classes

and preached to us from pul­pits. And through the preach­ing of God’s Word by Luther and oth­ers who have fol­lowed in his steps, we still can hear to­day that though we are sin­ners un­wor­thy and guilty be­fore God, we are jus­ti­fied and for­given for the sake of Christ Je­sus and His in­no­cent suf­fer­ings and death in our stead, and that this grace and for­give­ness won for us by Christ is ours, not by works, but through faith alone in Christ Je­sus, our Sav­ior!

Now that’s a great rea­son to ob­serve the day!

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