November 5: By Faith
This past Sunday marked Reformation Sunday, on which we commemorated the momentous occasion of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses into the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. These Theses outlined ways in which the church had strayed from Scripture, was abusing its spiritual authority, and was adding or taking away from the foundational message of salvation through faith in Christ alone, by grace alone. Whether or not this list was actually nailed to a door, we don’t know, but we do know that the 95 Theses became widely distributed. Luther’s intentions were to reform the church from within, encouraging the existing church to renew its emphasis on the gospel of Jesus. But because the Catholic church excommunicated Luther and refused to consider the reforms he outlined, a new movement called the Reformation developed that eventually blossomed into the Protestant church.
During the Reformation, five Latin phrases — “solas” (or “onlys”) — emerged to summarize gospel truth: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (to the Glory of God Alone). In the month of September, as we sang “How Firm a Foundation,” we focused on Sola Scriptura. In October, we sang “All I Have Is Christ” — Solus Christus. Throughout November, we will be singing “By Faith,” and remembering the great promises that come through Faith Alone.
The chorus of the song By Faith, written by Stuart Townend and Keith and Kristyn Getty, starts with the amazing declaration: “We will stand as children of the promise.” In the weeks ahead, we will look at how God called Abraham and his descendants to be his chosen people, promising a Messiah to save them. We will see how we — followers of Jesus — are now, by faith, descendants of that promise. Romans 9:8 says, “It is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” The chapter continues in verse 30, “What then shall we say? The Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as a way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written:
“‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.’”
Brothers and sisters, that rock is Jesus, and we are “children of the promise” only by faith in him alone.
For Reflection: In Hebrews 11, the chapter on which the Gettys based their song, we read about people who had faith and were saved. Read Hebrews 11, starting in verse 39 of chapter 10. Think about what it means to belong to this long line of “those who have faith and are saved.” Thank God for making you a “child of the promise” through faith in Jesus.