These points from Luther’s sermons reinforced my understanding of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ:
– The gospel is found in Jesus Christ alone.
– Christ reveals the Father to us.
– People come to Jesus because they have heard he is kind, he is able to help them, and he is willing to help. (This is what the body of Christ should look like today.)
– We show our love for God most practically through loving our neighbor. Who are we to think we can do anything directly for God? Although rituals and religious practices help us in many ways, they do nothing to help God or to earn God’s favor when our neighbor is in need.
- Acts 17:24-25, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.”
– The law was given to serve love. Luther said if a law does not serve love, we do not have to follow it no matter if it is man-made or God-given. Love is the law for Christians.
- Romans 13:10, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the Law.”
- The law is to be preached, not to force obedience to it, but to remind us why we need a Savior.
- The only sin today is unbelief, a lack of trust in Christ alone for our salvation.
– Salvation that comes through faith alone by the grace of God produces more good works than Rome ever demanded of anyone.
- Faith and love go together; faith alone saves us and love is visible proof of our faith in Jesus Christ. Without works of love, there is no faith.
- Nothing we do qualifies us to receive God’s mercy. Mercy can only be given when no payment can be made.
– Faith needs to grow; it cannot remain the same; it grows through trials.
– The Word of God is not the words and letters printed in ink on the pages of the Bible. For Luther, the Word is the One who speaks to us through those words, the One who was made flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth.
- Luther applied Scripture to the issues of his day, comparing people of his own time period with the stories in the Bible.
- Luther’s sermons show him going far beyond the “plain sense” meanings of the biblical stories. He interpreted the Scriptures in allegorical and symbolic ways.
- The image of the Christ child, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger was an image that must have given Luther the strength to stand against the mountain of church tradition and power.
- The manger is the institutional church that raises up the Christ and offers him to the world. It is a supportive structure to which the beasts are drawn to feed and receive nourishment.
- The Scriptures are the swaddling clothes that surround the Christ child. They speak of the promise of God to redeem the world and they show the fulfillment of that promise. They reveal the image of God as love, in and through Jesus. They guide us to become more like him.
- Although both the church and the Scriptures are precious, holy and helpful, Luther teaches that we do not worship the manger nor the swaddling clothes. We do not worship the institutional church nor the Scriptures that enfold him. We worship and adore the Christ child. Christ alone is our salvation. Christ alone is our hope. Christ alone sets us free to be his hands in the world.
And I’m going to add – Jesus pointed to several people outside his own tradition as possessing greater faith than those within it. Has anything changed?