Why do we celebrate Reformation Day?
Jesus said: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).”
Jesus said: “Everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire (Matthew 5:22).”
Jesus said: “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned (John 15:6).”
The author of Hebrews writes: “If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries (Hebrews 10:26-27).”
Jesus said: “Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:40-42).”
Sin, death, judgement, hell, fire. No Christian can read God’s inspired Holy Scripture without being confronted with the threat of eternal damnation because of our sins.
At the center of the Lutheran Reformation was Martin Luther’s inability to avoid, ignore, explain away, or deny this fact. God’s Word clearly and strongly condemned Luther to eternal death in hell because of his sins against God. “The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).” “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).” “No one living is righteous before you (Psalm 143:2).” Luther spent a large portion of his life terrified that he deserved death because of his sins and that there was nothing he could do to deserve eternal life.
Yet Luther did find relief from the terror of sin, death, and the devil. He found rescue from his sins not by ignoring the Word or making up his own word; Luther found rescue by remaining faithful to the Word. The Word that told Luther of the death he deserved is the same Word that told him of the life that Jesus freely gave to him. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).” “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith (Romans 3:23-25).” “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:14-16).”
Christ, cross, blood, justification, grace, faith. This is the answer to sin and hell. That is, this is God’s answer to sin and hell. You have forgiveness, life, and salvation through faith: by trusting that Jesus died for your sins on the cross and rose again to open eternal life for you. This gospel message became Luther’s greatest joy, as it is the greatest joy of all Christians who take the Word of God seriously.
This is the answer to the title of this article: “Why do we celebrate Reformation Day.” When we celebrate Reformation Day every year at the end of October we join Martin Luther and all the saints past and present who have trusted in Christ alone to forgive our sins, rescue us from the eternal punishment of hell, and protect us from the constant assaults of the devil.
There are many in this world, however, who deny Christ, who reject his life giving sacrifice offered to all, and who will spend eternity in hell because of their faithlessness. As I celebrate Reformation Day this year I will be praying that God gives all Christians the strength and opportunity to confess the saving work of Jesus Christ to the unbelieving world. After all, the salvation of souls by faith in Christ alone is the reason why we are Christian, why we read the Bible, why we go to church, and why we celebrate Reformation Day.