By Brandon Lemons
We are in a series of articles on Friedens’ tagline, which is “Deep roots. Authentic relationships.” In recent weeks, I wrote about Friedens’ rich 167-year history, dating back to 1854. Friedens’ most important roots, however, pre-date the church’s founding. I am referring to the fact that we are rooted in the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ – both of which are multiple millennia old.
We refer to ourselves as a Gospel-centered church. The Gospel focuses on the work that Jesus accomplished, particularly through His death and resurrection. These historical events are crucial for Friedens’ sense of identity. If we forsake the Gospel, we have lost the core of who God calls us to be as a church. So in proclaiming that Friedens Church has deep roots, we include the fact that we are unashamedly devoted to Jesus, who walked the earth two thousand years ago and whose life, death, and resurrection continue to have unparalleled significance today.
The message of the Gospel got distorted through the centuries. Church traditions were piled on top of the Gospel, causing people to focus on their religious activities to earn favor in God’s sight. A watershed event came on October 31, 1517, when a Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed a list of 95 propositions (known as the “95 Theses”) to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther’s intent was to initiate a theological debate about the nature of the Gospel and how people can receive God’s grace.
What Luther sparked was not merely a debate, but a spiritual revolution. The Roman Catholic Church ordered him to recant the beliefs he had been spreading about salvation coming purely by grace and faith. Instead, at a trial before the Roman emperor and Catholic leaders, he declared, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise; here I stand; may God help me. Amen.”
Luther’s bold stand ignited the Protestant Reformation, which re-emphasized that: 1) salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and 2) the ultimate source of spiritual authority is the Bible. These emphases were present from the very beginning of Christianity and received renewed focus in the Reformation.
Friedens Church stands firmly on the Gospel and the Bible. These are deep roots that provide vital spiritual nourishment for Friedens’ ministry. We gladly proclaim the same thing as Luther: “Here we stand on the Gospel and the Bible. We cannot do otherwise, so help us God. Amen.”