October 28, 2007: Why Reformation Lutherans Cling To God’s Grace

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we thank You for restoring to us the pure truth of Your holy Word! We thank You for so ordering human history that we now know Your sacrifice on the cross was total and complete and through it all our sins and guilt have been covered over by Your blood. And we also thank You that our souls, our future, everything in our lives are reliant on the grace that You freely give us through faith. May we never compromise these facts and never take them for granted. Amen


TEXT: Ephesians 2: 8-10: “For it is by grace you have seen saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Fellow Redeemed Lutherans:

How can anyone who is deeply concerned about their soul not cling to grace alone? That question was the driving force behind Dr. Luther’s reformation of the church back in 1517. Grace is God’s undeserved love in Christ. It gives all glory to God for saving our souls. And it provides tremendous comfort to the struggling sinner.—The truth that our salvation rests in God’s hands and not ours takes away all fears. For it teaches that His love for us in Christ is greater than any sin, any evil, and any feelings of guilt we may have. It gives certainty.

Another mini-Reformation took place in America about 130 years ago. And the issue those Lutherans, our spiritual forefathers, confronted was: what is the true meaning of grace and why is it so vital? It began fairly innocently. Dr. C.F.W. Walther, a great theologian, delivered a paper about our election by God to eternal life. Correctly drawn from the Bible, he taught the same thing that our lesson encapsulates. That is, in eternity, before time began, God looked ahead, saw you and in pure love elected you to be his child and to come to faith in Him. Yes, “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.”

Well, throughout American Lutheranism, this teaching caused an uproar. And it led to the heresy, formulated by its detractors, that God elected you to salvation not by grace alone, but “in view of your faith.” That is, He saw something good in you that would make you easier to convert and because of that, He then elected you. The die-hard Reformation Lutherans said: “No way!” They said: “If you possess some sort of ability to link yourself to God, undeserved love, or grace, is no longer grace. Likewise, it takes away from and diminishes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for you.” This heresy split our old synod. Families were divided. Congregations were divided. And the synod split in half. For the next 40 years they disagreed. But, over time, they held talks to discuss the issue and try to resolve it. Well, in 1917 with the deaths of some great theologians who stood up for the truth about grace, finally they came to an agreement wherein they “agreed to disagree.” In essence, they gave up their spiritual heritage by giving up God’s grace. Six pastors and various laymen, under tremendous pressure, walked out of that meeting and re-formed our synod. The rest went their own way and today they are amalgamated into the large, ELCA synod where the Bible is taught to contain errors, the resurrection of Christ is taught as a fable, the miracles myths, and that God’s Truth is relative. In short, those folks gave up the heart and soul of the Reformation.

All this stemmed from a false view of grace and the lesson before us this morning. So, today, I want you to ponder these words from St. Paul and consider:



In Dr. Luther’s time, and still today, the Roman Catholic church officially taught that humans possessed a spark of goodness that they could use to initiate God loving them and forgiving them. The problem with that view is that: first, it denies original sin and the depth of our alienation from God; secondly, it diminishes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us (He didn’t do 100% in saving us, only 99% or less; and thirdly, it destroys certainty about our eternal soul’s welfare and thereby forces us to look for comfort not in Him, but in our life of good deeds which spawns a whole lot of guilt when we don’t see them.

God electing us to salvation in view of our faith, really does the exact same thing. First, it makes faith into a work of man, kind of like that “spark.” This flies in the face of Paul’s words when he says: “faith is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.” Second, if God chose you to be His child because you wouldn’t be harder to convert than the next guy, it denies original sin. And thirdly, it turns grace, or undeserved love, into deserved love. Grace is an all-or-nothing proposition. Either it is 100% or it is something else. And less than 100% love means God’s gift really isn’t a pure gift after all—thus making everything about Him relative.


It should come as no surprise to us that the Lutherans (in name only) that have given up grace alone, have also come to give up most other Godly truths as well. For if you can relativize how we’re saved, you can relativize everything else in Scripture, too. That’s why they tell us that the Bible is not the Word of God, but only contains the Word of God, and by our tremendous “wisdom” we can figure out what’s true and what isn’t. That’s why they deny the physical resurrection of Christ and the reality of His miracles, because they don’t jibe with human reason. That’s why they often rationalize away the 10 commandments and say: “O, they were created by Moses to keep people in line then, but we’re different today, so they really don’t apply.” That is why many of them never preach about judgment day or the reality of hell, because they say it is just an antiquated concept not applicable to our modern world.

The truth is: if you give up Grace, you give up everything. Human beings become their own little gods. They become the arbiters of their own little lives. That’s because original sin is alive and well and it always seeks to rob God of all the glory, just like Adam and Eve.

But, by God’s grace, you and I have been made different. Like Luther we know we’re saved by His pure love for us in Christ. We know it comes through hearing the believing the Bible, the vehicle through which the Holy Spirit changes us from the inside out. And as Paul says: such a total reliance on grace, on Christ, has now made us into new creations in the sight of God. It is His work, not ours that has done this. Yes, “we are now God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” This fact gives God all the glory! This fact comforts any and every distraught sinner because it means that the totality of our lives rest completely in His loving hands.

Today of all days, we must be careful not to turn faith into a work of man which is the cause, or reason behind of our redemption. No, grace alone is the cause of our redemption. Yes, “it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.” We Reformation Lutherans cling to grace alone because it is the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and because it gives all glory to God! It is because of that fact and only that fact that we rejoice today! Amen