As October 31 nears, it is good for those who hold to the Lutheran Confession of the Christian faith to remind themselves of their heritage. It isn't as important to remember the individuals who participated in the Reformation as to remember what they confessed, what they believed with heart, mind, and soul. The fundamental beliefs of the Reformers are seen in the Augsburg Confession of 1530. In its first 21 articles, the Augsburg Confession spells out the teaching of the Reformers based in Wittenberg, Germany. These articles serve as an expansion of the creeds that came from the first four centuries of the Church's history.
At the heart of the Augsburg Confession is Article Four on the theological topic of justification. This article tells how sinful human beings are considered righteous in the sight of God, the same God whose Divine Law they have broken, but who acts to redeem them:
"Likewise, they [the Lutheran congregations] teach that human beings cannot be justified before God by their own powers, merits, or works. But they are justified as a gift on account of Christ through faith when they believe that they are received into grace and that their sins are forgiven on account of Christ, who by his death made satisfaction for our sins. God reckons this faith as righteousness (Romans 3 and 4)."
That truth was repeated throughout the Reformation; it is also meant for our day. It cannot be spoken enough, as we sin daily and deserve nothing but punishment from the Lord God. But from the prophecies of the Old Testament, the Gospel accounts, and the apostolic witness, we learn that we have been redeemed through the Son of God's sacrificial death on our behalf. As we believe, trust, and rely on that, our sins are absolved and our guilt is not counted against us. Everlasting life is given to us who deserved punishment without end.
Because it is the way to forgiveness, life, and salvation, such a confession of faith in what the Lord God has done for us is worth holding onto without compromise. And if remembering the events and figures of the Reformation helps us to do so, then the Lutheran Church's commemorations in this last week of October have served their purpose. May it be so for all of us who have made that confession of faith our own, and may others be led to the same faith!