Writing to the church in Rome, St. Paul wrote, “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.” These words written by the Apostle became the scriptural basis on which Martin Luther, the namesake of our Lutheran tradition, framed what we today call The Doctrine of Justification by Grace Through Faith. This is what fueled the Protestant Reformation.
Justification by grace through faith is the foundation on which Lutheranism was built. How foundational? The Fourth Article of the Augsburg Confession states concisely, “it is the article by which the church stands or falls.”
Justification is the belief that we are not saved by our good works or our own efforts, but by what God has done for us in and through Jesus, the Christ. The rest…how we live, how we treat others…is important in that it’s a response to the freedom from sin we have been given, but we don’t earn our way to heaven on some sort of ladder to faith success.
Our justification is all gift. We are saved only by God’s grace and the salvific work of Jesus, not by our own works or understanding, and certainly not by purchasing the forgiveness that the church of Luther’s day touted.
Today we’ll unpack how Luther came to understand justification and how justification shapes our faith 500 years later as we celebrate Living Lutheran.