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A Key Word: “ALONE”

(This is a portion of an address given as part of the 1994 Area Reformation Festival Service at Immanuel, Mankato, Minnesota — Ed.)

…Against (the) assaults of Satan we must pray for the spiritual strength to continue contending for the faith once delivered to the saints. For the cause and strength are not ours, but Christ’s. And this contending consists in nothing more nor anything less than continuing to believe, cherish, preach, teach, profess, and live the soul-saving and faith-strengthening principles of the Reformation — grace alone, faith alone, and scripture alone.

If there is one term in these principles which most identify us, truly separate us from the vast majority of Christendom today, it is the world ALONE. Many speak of grace, faith, and Scripture, and not only do they at times mean something different, but rarely would they add the word “alone.”

GRACE ALONE — undeserved love, we profess, is the basis for God’s favor, that which moved Him to reach out with and through His Son to fallen mankind. Grace alone — nothing else, nothing supplemental, nothing infused, nothing whatsoever in us.

FAITH ALONE — As the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts from degenerate to regenerate, faith alone is the gift by which the blessings of salvation come to us. By faith alone, not by works (as Ephesians chapter 2 and all Scripture proclaims), nor together with works (“lest any man should boast”) lest the Gospel be annulled and Christ be robbed of His full glory as our Savior.

The story is told of a converted Indian who was asked to show what he understood by grace and faith alone. Placing a worm on the ground, he surrounded it with a circle of dry twigs and then lit the twigs. Watching the worm squirm and wiggle as it sought an impossible escape, the man then reached down and lifted the worm out. So sinful man with all his “squirming and wiggling” cannot escape the hell-fire which surrounds him. Only the Hand of God reaching down from heaven to pluck him from these fires can rescue him.

SCRIPTURE ALONE — is the almighty God’s inspired and inerrant revelation to man and the only authority in all matters of faith. Not scripture plus supposedly harmless doses of false teaching; not scripture plus the thoughts and opinions of the proud and humanistic mind of man; not scripture minus that which conflicts with man’s reason or interferes with his desires or lifestyle. Only scripture completely and only alone!

“Jesus Loves Me . . . “

I have yet to find a more strikingly simple illustration of the principles of the Reformation and of the Christian faith than that simple verse of the children’s song all of us learned and loved in our childhood: “Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

JESUS LOVES ME — Isn’t that grace alone? He loves me, undeserving sinner though I am, “having been justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

THIS I KNOW — Isn’t that faith alone, the confidence and certainty of Christ’s love and my salvation in Him?

FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO — Because my God has said so in His Word and I believe it. Isn’t that scripture alone?

May the lyrics of this children’s Reformation song live in our hearts. For each Reformation offers us yet another opportunity to reaffirm our commitment, to write our own Formula of Concord.

The principles of the Reformation are not simply worth maintaining — there are no other options or alternatives. They must be maintained. They must be reaffirmed by each generation anew, by each of our churches anew, by each of our families anew, by each of our hearts anew. They must be renewed by faithful use of Word and sacrament, Luther’s source of strength and no less ours.

It is our privileged and honored calling to be Christ’s witnesses, His messengers, His reformers for our day. May we go forward in His name and to His glory with courage, confidence, and commitment. “The Lord of hosts is (still) with us; the God of Jacob is (still) our refuge.”

–Pastor David Schierenbeck