Practicing Christianity in the Lutheran Tradition is based on the following: It is faith alone (sola fide) received by grace alone (sola gratia) that reconciles our sinful selves to God, our Father. For our salvation, God demands only faith, which grows through the study of Scripture alone (sola scriptura).
In 1517, Martin Luther nailed the “95 Theses” to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany as a means of beginning discussion on some of the church practices that were not supported by his diligent, Spirit-led study of Scripture. Luther’s ideas regarding the sale of indulgences, the supremacy of the Pope in Rome, and other issues led to his excommunication from the church that he loved so much; however, Luther stood firm in his conviction that the Word of God is the ultimate authority over the actions of humanity in relation to our Sovereign God (sola scriptura), not rules or practices invented by religious councils or Popes. Scripture alone provides believers everything necessary for our salvation and reconciliation with God. According to Luther, and those who practice Christianity in the Lutheran tradition, Scripture alone, sola scriptura, is the foundation of the true Church. It is in the preaching, teaching, and studying of the Gospel that Christ is revealed to His people and faith grows.
Today the Bible is available in a variety of translations and media, providing each of us the opportunity to read the God’s Word in our own language and let the Holy Spirit do its work in us as the words penetrate deep into our hearts. This was not always the case. In Luther’s day, the Bible and the Mass were in Latin only. The common person did not have access to the Word. Most people were illiterate and those who were literate could scarcely afford to purchase a copy of the Bible which would have been transcribed by hand. This coupled with the fact that the Mass was said in a foreign language, Latin, left the masses ignorant of God’s Word. They had only their local priest to tell them of God and his plan for life and salvation. They knew when to stand, when to kneel, how to recite the Lord’s Prayer in Latin, when to say AMEN, but could not hear God speaking directly to them. To be sure, many may have been moved by the liturgy and even the beautiful stained glass in the church (created specifically to tell God’s story in pictures), but many merely “went through the motions.”
Luther changed all this! One of his greatest contributions to the spread of Christianity and, some would argue, to changing the face of the Western world, was his translation of the Bible into German, complete with local idioms. His work basically created a unified German language, but more importantly, the Word of God could now be understood by a wider audience. The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450 facilitated the production and distribution of the Bible, furthering the reach of the Word, and increasing the faith of believers. The printing press also played another major role in the Reformation: mass distribution of the writings of Luther and his fellow reformers.
“Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2, NRSV)
Standing on His Word,