On October 31, 1517, the German monk and theology professor Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses for academic discussion at his university in Wittenberg. Little did he know that God would use this simple act as the spark to catalyze continental, and eventually global, movements for renewal in the Christian church. We have much to celebrate in the work of the Reformation’s leaders and churches. Building on the foundation of the ancient church, the Reformers taught key biblical doctrines with unprecedented clarity and shaped the life and mission of the church around these themes:
- The Bible is the only infallible authority for knowing and following God, and all human traditions must be evaluated and corrected by biblical teaching.
- Our salvation from sin and death is purely a gift of God’s grace (his unmerited favor), accomplished solely by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and applied to us by the Holy Spirit. We receive our salvation in union with Christ only by trusting ourselves to him by faith, and God forgives and accepts us as his beloved children only because we share by faith the perfect status and standing of Jesus himself.
- All Christians are a holy priesthood called by God to know, worship, and serve him together in the world, and every kind of work and service is a sacred calling from God.
These are precious truths, indeed. As an heir of the Reformation legacy, Central joyfully celebrates the clarity and power of the good news of the grace of God in Jesus Christ that the Reformers labored to proclaim and live faithfully according to the word of God.
But this is also a time to lament. Contrary to the desire of the Reformers, new divisions emerged within the church that have persisted to the present day. Protestants and Catholics have suffered from centuries of conflict, and many within all Christian traditions have compromised and abandoned the biblical treasures that the Reformers recovered. Christians have become comfortable accepting separation from other Christians not only for the sake of important doctrines but also for the sake of liturgical, racial, and cultural differences. Our failure to seek unity and service together with all who share a common foundation of faith in the grace of God in Christ has crippled the witness of the church to a divided and hurting world. The church of God is not yet rightly and fully reformed according to the word of God, and so we lament and pray with longing “Come, Lord Jesus!” to unify the church in grace and truth and to make all things new.
Therefore, this is a time to recommit ourselves to be reformed and always reforming. We honor our fathers and mothers in the faith not only by remembering the stories of the past but even more by living by faith in the Savior they loved and the Lord they served. By the grace of God, may Central recommit daily to being a holy priesthood by proclaiming and living the truth, love, and glory of God in every place and in every calling together with all fellow Christians who share our trust in Christ according to his word.