Our church body adopted the logo to the right to celebrate the 500th year, to the day on October 31, since the Reformation’s symbolic starting point, the nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany for debate. Ask anyone vaguely familiar with Martin Luther or the term Reformation and they will tell you what those theses were about—indulgences! However, the logo hints at what the reformation was truly all about—Jesus—and says that it is STILL about Jesus.
To be fair, all sides of the debate in that day, held faith in Jesus as the Son of God and believed in his death and resurrection. The debate instead centered around what benefits that brought to you and me. Did Jesus’ death and resurrection pay ALL the price for our sin or just the “eternal” price? Was there still an earthly or “temporal” tax to pay? That’s really what indulgences were all about, the earthly sin tax. It would be as if your wealthy relative left you a grand inheritance. The inheritance would be a free gift, BUT there would still be a considerable tax to pay because the government wants its share. The church said the same thing 500 years ago about our eternal inheritance. Jesus’ death and resurrection brought us life with Jesus in heaven and in the New Heavens and New Earth when Jesus returns, BUT there is still a temporal tax to pay first. The church said God wanted his share for each of the sins that people had committed and people could pay that share in good works. Some people paid more than enough; these were designated by the church as “Saints.” Ordinary Christians could be given extra good works from the Saints’ treasury and the church got to decide who received them. The giving out of those merits was called an indulgence. It came in the form of time off from “purgatory.” Purgatory, so said the church, was the place people had to go after they died, if they did not have enough good works. A person might remain there for years upon years paying off the temporal punishments for sin or until other peoples good works, indulgences, or prayers got them out and sent them on their way to eternal life with Jesus.
That whole scheme falls apart with Jesus words to the thief on the cross. He was not able to do enough good works to make up for his whole criminal life in mere moments before Jesus said to him, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Praise God for the reformation. Praise God that it was about Jesus so we today would know that it’s STILL about Jesus. Our salvation does not come by our works, or the works of any so-called Saint, but by Christ Alone through Faith Alone, by Grace Alone. It was that way for the thief on the cross and it is for us too. It wasn’t long before the Reformation debate brought the question: Who got to decide if what the church taught about indulgences, purgatory, the merits of saints, or justification before God was truly God’s Word? The church at that time said, “We do!” (meaning the Pope and the Councils of the Church). The reformers said, “Popes and Councils can error,” there is only one place to look for God’s Word without error, “Scripture Alone!”
500 Years later not only are we still holding to those truths Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, but being heirs of those truths we are also bearing the fruit.
Jesus said, “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:18) and so he said of people, “You will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16) The fruit of all that false theology 500 years ago was a load of corruption and greed driving the church. The fruits of faith are quite different. They look like love in action. They are good works done as a result of faith, not to earn salvation. To remind us that these good works should be growing in our lives as we personally are constantly undergoing a reformation at the hands of our God, our mission statement includes “bearing fruit” as part of our life together, and we’ve developed this logo.
Whenever you see this logo around the church, it will draw attention to places were our faith so firmly rooted in Jesus is bearing fruit. It also highlights a place were you can be a part of bearing that fruit with us. The Reformation may have sparked 500 years ago, but it is still going, and will until we’re all bearing abundant fruit.