SERMON TITLE: “Saved By Grace: Our Way to Life”
SERMON TEXT: Ephesians 2:1-10
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: October 8, 2017, at First UMC
For the past several weeks, we’ve been celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. With people all over the world, we’ve been commemorating the fall day in 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Roman Catholic church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther had been a Catholic monk. He was very religious, and yet, he had struggled to gain a sense of his own salvation. He was plagued by a sense of guilt, and no matter how much he confessed his sins or acted in penance, he couldn’t seem to find a sense of peace.
The teaching and practice of the Catholic Church compounded the problem. Catholic leaders emphasized humanity’s sin and guilt as a way to make the people more dependent on the church’s means of grace—which, at that time, included the sale of indulgences. Supposedly a sinner could make payments to the church to purchase the excess good merits of the saints, and that act of purchase would then free the sinner from guilt. Eternal damnation would be kept at bay for a time, until the church needed further income, the sinner needed further absolution, or both.
Today, we could look upon that whole ecclesiastical business as corruption and abuse. But, of course, the church did provide many good benefits to the people. Even with a list of 95 complaints, Martin Luther wasn’t decrying everything that the church did. The reason he took all this so seriously was that he continued to hold the church and Christianity dear to his heart. It was just that, through his closer reading of the scriptures, Luther came to believe that our salvation doesn’t come through our own works of penance or righteousness or through the purchase of the extra merits of the saints. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, all that was necessary had already been accomplished. Our salvation was already freely offered as a gift of God’s mercy and grace.
Over the past weeks, we’ve come at this Protestant Reformation topic from a number of different directions. Today, I’d like us to look at Ephesians 2:1-10, which is one of the most important scripture texts for reformation theology. There, we see that, when we are saved by grace, we find our way to life.