42 tweets the church needs now
What would Luther nail to your church door today?
On October 31, 1517, a young monk named Martin Luther nailed a document – his Ninety-Five Theses – to the door of the Castle Church in the small university town of Wittenberg.
It sounds more dramatic than it was. The door was essentially the place where you would post anything you’d like to discuss. Luther was basically offering these theses for debate in the theological academy.
The theses did address some controversial material, however, especially the selling of “indulgences,” which were tickets issued to the purchaser granting them (or their relative) fewer years in purgatory. This was a great fundraising scheme for the church authorities. But Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses were not just a random collection of irritations with current church corruption. They were an application of the principle of justification by faith alone to the church and the world of his time. Luther’s fresh reading of the Bible had led him to a deeper understanding of how a person comes to know the saving power of God.
So, what are the implications of justification by faith alone for today? What would Luther nail to your church door? I’ve had a go at drafting some Theses for Today (I only got to 42!), with a little help from old brother Martin:
1. When Jesus Christ called people to “Repent and believe the gospel,” he meant that their whole lives should be lives of repentance.
2. He calls men and women to repent inwardly, in our hearts, but to show our repentance in our actions by leaving sin behind.
3. To repent means to know that we have, on our own, no merit that can please God.
4. The only one who can pardon us from our sins is God himself.
5. God pardons us when we take hold of the cross of Christ, by faith alone.
6. God forgives the guilt of no one who he does not, at the same time, humble in all things.
7. We are saved by faith and not by works.
“The Christian church that celebrates the successful, the wealthy and the proud, has not understood the gospel.”
8. But faith without works is dead.
9. The gospel of Jesus Christ inspires us to many extraordinary good works.
10. The gospel of Jesus Christ makes us depend not at all on our good works.
11. Only God can forgive sins. A church body can forgive the breaking of its own laws but only those, though it can declare God’s forgiveness of sins.
12. Membership in a particular church body does not mean that a person’s sins are forgiven.
13. Making barriers to church membership and to full acceptance in the body of Christ, that Christ himself does not make, teaches that salvation is by something other than faith alone.
14. Adherence to a church vision statement does not save anyone.
15. We are not accounted saved because of our decent lives, or our Christian values, or because people like us.
16. We are not accounted saved because we are on a council, board of elders, ministry team, or denomination panel.
“The Christian church that does not see women as the spiritual equals of men, as “co-heirs in the gracious gift of life” has not understood the gospel.”
17. We are not accounted saved because we believe correct doctrine, even if we believe in justification by faith alone.
18. No matter how much time or money a Christian gives to the church, he or she is still justified by faith alone.
19. To teach that God will accept us on account of our good deeds and values is a doctrine of hell itself.
20. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not ever, anywhere, for sale.
21. Every Christian has a right to know that they have, in Christ, full forgiveness for sins and freedom from guilt.
22. Every true Christian has a share in all the blessings of Christ and the church, and this comes from God, no matter what a particular church or church leader might say.
23. A Christian is to be taught that there is no assurance of salvation except in Christ alone.
24. Any minister who teaches confidence in anything other than Christ alone is doing Satan’s work for him.
25. The sacraments of church, and other rituals and ceremonies, do not save us, though they represent salvation to us.
26. Believing that baptism or any other sacrament automatically saves is a gravely dangerous teaching.
“The Christian church that ignores the poor, the orphans and widows, and anyone else who is vulnerable, has not understood the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
27. The Christian is motivated by the gospel of free grace to give to the poor and the needy, and not by trying to win his or her salvation.
28. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.
29. But this treasure is not popular in the world or in the church, because it makes the first last.
30. The Christian church that celebrates the successful, the wealthy and the proud, has not understood the gospel.
31. The Christian church that ignores the poor, the orphans and widows, and anyone else who is vulnerable, has not understood the gospel of Jesus Christ.
32. The Christian church that is racially segregated or divided has not understood the gospel of Jesus Christ.
33. The Christian church that does not see women as the spiritual equals of men, as “co-heirs in the gracious gift of life” has not understood the gospel.
34. By faith, in Christ, a Christian has his or her identity above all other identities.
35. If justification is by faith alone, there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male nor female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
36. Preachers and theologians who teach that the cross is merely an example for us rob the cross of its power and steal assurance from ordinary Christians.
37. Preachers and theologians who remind the people of Christ of the cross continually and insistently are a great blessing to the church of God.
38. The Christian life as a life of repentance means that the Christian and the church freely admit that they have erred and sinned and depend only on the grace of God.
39. The gospel of justification by faith alone is opposed to human religions, which teach that we can save ourselves through efforts.
40. The gospel of justification by faith alone is for all nations, and needs to be preached to all nations, for “faith comes by hearing.” It is by definition a missionary message.
41. Christians are to be encouraged to be diligent in following Christ, their head, through every affliction and struggle;
42. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations of this life (Acts 14:22) than through false confidence in their own achievement.
Michael Jensen is the rector of St Mark’s Anglican Church in Darling Point, Sydney, and the author of several books.
Eternity knows a couple of these tweets are over 140 characters. We are counting on Twitter going to 280.