The Radicality of Living by Faith

My morning prayer time has evolved into a fairly eclectic mix which includes reading from a Lutheran lectionary. This book includes three readings from the scriptures and one reading from a church father or mother. Today’s reading was by Philip Melanchthon, one of Luther’s lieutenants and theologian in his own right. He lived in the 16th century and was one of the chief reformers navigating through the tumultuous waters of what we call The Reformation. The Catholic church referred to it more as the Great Apostasy. Whatever one is inclined to call it, this time period was entirely revolutionary on more than theological levels.

The central issue of course revolved around the way in which a believer engages Jesus and his saving merits. Having been raised Catholic, I understood that it was entirely through the seven sacraments. As a good Catholic I understood that sacraments were the outward signs that imparted grace. And they all needed to be administered by a priest. The reformers took issue with all of this for the most part and argued and taught that all the grace of Jesus was available to everyone by FAITH ALONE without the need for a priest. An utterly revolutionary thought at that time. However, I think it remains as revolutionary as ever.

In the reading this morning, Melanchthon states “To be justified by faith in Christ means to obtain remission of sins, to be counted as righteous, that is, accepted by God, not because of our own virtues but for the sake of the mediator, the Son of God.” But in the face of a predominant sacramental theology, this was entirely upsetting. Downright radical because it was turning a deeply embedded system virtually on its head. And the ensuing battles that were fought were intense, even bloody. The Counter Reformation was launched soon after to preserve the integrity of the Catholic church and the pope and the priesthood. But Luther and Melanchthon and Calvin and so many others forged on and established a theology rooted in this central truth that the righteous would live by faith

And properly understood, this faith is in a Person who lived and died and rose from the dead as the second Adam who had come to re-engage relationship between the Creator and image-bearing creatures. Adam’s sin had disrupted this direct relationship. But Jesus comes as the second Adam to atone for the sin of Adam #1 and act as mediator for everyone who has come under the curse caused by Adam’s sin. So technically and theologically we no longer have direct access to the Father like Adam #1 but now we live thru the Mediator, Jesus, Adam #2.

Consequently, to live by faith in Another is to trust that what Jesus has done in his own physical body as a sacrifice for human sin and rebellion is utterly sufficient. And, not only to re-establish relationship with the Creator, but even further, to bring us into the very Being of God as He sends his Holy Spirit to live in us and fully unite us in and with this triune God. So Melanchthon and the Reformers were quite right in their cultural and theological context to center on this gospel truth and reality even as it calls each one of us to daily reaffirm our faith in Another as the only God-ordained path for a creature to live well with God

Ned Berube

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