Pride, Part 68

If Luther thought of Christianity in terms of being God-centered and then man-centeredness as being in reality a different religion, then it would behoove us to seriously consider these things. If in fact his real opposition to Roman Catholicism was due to its man-centeredness, then we must know that Luther would oppose virtually all that goes on today under the guise of Christianity. As the quote below says about Catholicism, “it is in the last analysis man who occupies the centre of the religious stage.” That is an accurate description of most of what passes as worship, preaching, and activities in the churches in modern American. It is not that we are children of the Reformers because we are not Roman Catholic, but we are not children of the Reformers because we hold to the man-centered teaching which was the heart of Roman Catholicism though we have different rituals.

“In Luther, the theocentricity of primitive Christianity returns; and it is the determining factor of his whole outlook. His opposition to Catholicism is due ultimately to nothing else but this. In the Catholic conception of Christianity, it is in the last analysis man who occupies the centre of the religious stage; in Luther’s reforming conception it is God. Luther seeks to eradicate every vestige of the egocentric or anthropocentric tendency from the religious relationship. There is no place for the slightest degree of human self-assertion in the presence of God. Here, man must be content to receive undeserved the gifts God wills to bestow on him, and to obey without thought of reward the commandments God pleases to give him. In other words, he must let God really be God, the center around which his whole existence moves. This theocentric emphasis can be described as the fundamental motif of Luther’s entire thought.” (Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther)

There were five points that came out of the Reformation. 1) Scripture alone 2) Faith alone 3) Grace alone 4) Christ alone 5) To God alone be the glory. It is true that many think that the Reformation’s main teaching was justification by faith alone, but there are underlying reasons for that as well. The last sentence of the actual quote from above seems to be right on the money. It was a thorough God-centeredness and emphasis that was “the fundamental motif of Luther’s entire thought.” What needs to be done, however, is to demonstrate that in the five points as listed above. We can call those the Five Points of the Reformation. Why was there such an emphasis on Scripture alone? It was because Scripture is the Word of God and men and their councils do not always follow the Word of God. Scripture was to be the authority that was appealed to because God spoke in His Word and He was and is the final authority to be appealed to. The reason that people reject Scripture alone is because they want to insert themselves or human authority in some way into the picture. Justification by faith alone is the Gospel that preserves the Gospel of the glory of God. When people want to assert free-will or some form of human authority, autonomy, or works as having to do with justification, that is rejecting the Gospel of the glory of God alone. Anytime the justification is moved from faith alone, it is moved away from a Gospel that glorifies God alone.

God’s glory is seen ever so brightly in His grace. The grace of God tells us how unworthy human beings are to receive the presence of God but also how God saves sinners and dwells with sinners based on Himself rather than human beings. The whole reason that justification is by faith alone is so that it would be by grace alone (Rom 4:16) and can be by the promise of God. Anytime someone tries to assert something of works into justification, even if it is under another word, that turns grace into something other than grace (Rom 11:6). God saves to the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph 1:5-6) and will not share His glory with another. The reason that He saves by grace alone is so that it will be a salvation to His glory alone. All of God’s grace comes to human beings by Christ alone. It is no contradiction to say that the love of God comes to human souls by Christ alone and then to say that the Spirit sheds abroad the love of God in human souls (Rom 5:5-8). The Spirit only sheds the love of God in human souls because of what Christ has done and because of who He is. Christ has purchased sinners and their release from their sins by His work on the cross. All that He did and all He does is to the glory of God. The primary motif in Luther’s theology was the glory of God. Because of that he was opposed to pride and self in all that he did as well. It is pride that opposes the teaching of Scripture alone. It is pride that opposes justification by faith alone. It is pride that opposes grace alone and Christ alone. That is because pride wants all things to be centered on it and because it wants the honor and glory for itself. Pride also wants to dispose of self and be in control of self. Pride and human self-assertion oppose the heart of the Reformation even if it holds the same doctrines in creedal form.


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