The apostle Paul told a young Christian named Timothy to continue in what he had learned because he knew those who taught him. Timothy had learned from some reliable and God-fearing people. Who were they? Paul mentioned his grandmother, Lois and his mother Eunice. We don’t know very much about them but Paul was confident that they knew and taught the truth. So he tells Timothy to remember them and what they had taught him. Later on in his life, Timothy was also taught by Paul. Timothy knew Paul to be reliable.
People can make mistakes and be misled. So if their religion is based only on their opinions, they don’t have a strong basis for their faith. But if the person who taught them is shown to be reliable, they have every reason to hold on to what they learned until they are shown to be wrong.
His grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice had been shown to be reliable and so Timothy should remember what they taught. The things we believe and teach as Lutherans is mostly due to a man named Martin Luther. What kind of man was he? First, he was a man who was concerned about the truth and his own relationship with God. That caused him to give up his ambition for a secular career and enter the service of the church. He became a priest, then a professor of theology.
He was a man with tremendous talent. He was also a man of courage. He stood up for what he believed at the risk of being put to death. His obvious faith and concern for the truth proved his ability as a teacher. We have every reason to remember what he taught.
Most important was what motivated him. He was not motivated by personal ambition. He didn’t want to start a new church. He didn’t want to teach something new. He wanted to rid the church or error and return to the truth of God.
People often say, “I remember what my mother told me,” or “I remember what my father used to say.” They find from personal experience that the things they remember their parents saying to be good and reliable. So they don’t easily give up what their parents said.
It should be the same with those who have taught us. If you simply ignore the teachings of reliable people and go off on your own, you neglect a priceless heritage.
That is why it is important that we remember the Reformation and the men who brought it about. What are the things that have been handed down to us through the Reformation and which we should remember? Three expressions summarize what they taught. At the seminary I attended these three phrases were engraved on the cornerstone: Scripture alone; grace alone; faith alone.
Scripture alone is the basic principle of the Reformation. Everything must depend on Scripture. The Bible was given by inspiration without any errors or contradictions. The Bible alone is the basis for what to believe, not traditions or decisions by the church. The reason we should remember the Reformation is: Scripture alone.
Grace alone is found in Scripture alone. We cannot earn our salvation. Salvation is given to us, we don’t deserve it. God gives is to us by his grace, his grace alone.
Faith alone tells us that we are saved through faith alone, not by anything we have done.
These three teachings were the basis of the teaching of Jesus, Paul, and the rest of the Bible. But these teachings had been lost. It is important that we continue in these things.
Timothy had been taught something solid that he could depend on. There were no guesses and no theories. He had the assurance that these things were right. He had been taught them from childhood and now he was told to continue in them. He was told “Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” He was to continue in those things not to be loyal to Paul but because his salvation depended on it.
And that is why we remember the Reformation, not because of Luther, but because the Reformation brought to light and stressed the teaching of the Holy Scripture, “which are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Let’s appreciate the treasure that has come down to us through the Reformation that began October 31st, 499 years ago.
(Pastor Marc Frey is the pastor at Peace of Our Savior Lutheran Church and Preschool (WELS) New Carlisle, OH www.peaceofoursavior.net)