I had the opportunity to attend a "theological conference" in Austin recently put on by our district - the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Texas District. The theme of the conference was "True Concord." The reason for its timing was to review the documents of faith that were written and developed in the 1500s that gave rise to a movement we refer to commonly as the Reformation. The key speakers at the conference were Dr. Robert Kolb - Concordia Seminary, St. Louis and Dr. Zeigler - Ft. Wayne Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana (both LCMS seminaries). Dr. Kolb is considered the foremost expert on the book now known as The Book of Concord, a compilation of theological documents written most notably by Martin Luther and Philip Melancthon in the 1500s.
The lectures were enlightening even though I was one layperson in a sea (180 participants) of pastors with degrees and advanced degrees in theology. I would liken it to attending a conference led by key history professors covering the time of the United States between the Revolution and the founding of the nation, in which they discussed the founding documents in depth, including the Federalist Papers. Much of what they talked about I would know the names of the participants and the times, but much of what they discussed , especially in depth analysis of the Federalist Papers, would be challenging.
Dr. Kolb was particularly engaging because he was a very good deliverer in the Q and A format, taking the learner's question and forming it as part of his answer in humorous and enlightening ways. For example, when one participant asked him a question, he answered, "I'm going to answer the question I wanted you to ask, not the one you asked."
Dr. Kolb, however, had one comment that I wrote down that was profound and something for each of us to consider: "Luther was troubled by religious good works as opposed to ethical good works." Think about that as we near the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this October, which made each of you reading this regardless of your brand of Christianity possible. Luther was troubled, deeply troubled, by the good works imposed by leaders of faith that had little or no substantive support in scripture. Ethical good works? You do it because it's the right thing to do, but you don't view it as a work that will gain you access into God's favor. Religious good works? You feel the need to do it because you've been led, either by your own thinking or by someone else's teaching, into believing it needs to be done to gain access to God's favor.
"They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger," Christ said of the religious leaders of the day, specifically the Pharisees. (Matthew 23) From this desire to reform came a simple phrase: Faith alone. Grace alone. Scripture alone.
We pray that as people of faith, we focus on God's Word as the primary source of those beliefs we articulate, and that those articles of faith we adhere to are based on scripture. We also pray that we, and those we reach out to who do not know the gospel, are not burdened by any work other than knowing that faith and grace go hand-in-hand. "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) Nothing we do can gain access to God's favor, only faith in his Son Jesus Christ.
Hope Men's Ministry