500 years ago Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nailed a document, known as ‘The 95 Theses’, to the church door at Wittenberg in Germany. It was an invitation to a discussion on the teaching and practice of the church on the subject of indulgences.
At that time another monk, Johann Tetzel, was in the area preaching about indulgences. The church, he taught, could grant a remission of the punishment for your sins, because it has the authority to apply to your benefit the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. The people eagerly bought ‘letters of indulgences’ from the pope, confident that by them they would escape the torment of the fire of purgatory.
Luther was worried about this practice. The 95 Theses was a call to the church to come back to the teaching of the Scriptures. One thesis read thus: ‘The right and true treasure of the Church is the most Holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God.’
The church possesses something of unique value. But it is not material riches – the cathedrals and beautiful churches, the gold and works of art. (Tetzel was selling indulgences to finance the building of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.)
The treasure of the church is the gospel of God! For by the word of the gospel the Holy Spirit gives life and the gift of faith, by which the sinner reaches out to Christ for salvation. By the gospel the lost is found, the guilty is forgiven, darkness becomes light, fear is replaced by joy, and despair gives way to the hope of eternal life.
The church ought to cherish the deposit of faith entrusted to her by God. She is duty bound to defend the gospel from corruption and to preach the message faithfully to all the world. The church lives by the gospel. If the church loses the gospel, she loses everything.
The same applies to every individual. What is the treasure that my heart yearns for? Do I know the true gospel taught in the Holy Scriptures? Have I learned about Christ, his death and resurrection? Have I turned from my sins in repentance? Do I believe on Christ alone for salvation? Am I following him in the way of righteousness?
We should answer these questions honestly before God. For he who ignores the gospel is poor and wretched even though he may possess the whole world. After death he will take nothing with him but a burden of sin to his eternal damnation. On the other hand, he is abundantly rich in grace who hears the good news of salvation and embraces Christ by faith.
Friend, what have you done with he gospel of Christ? Is the gospel your treasure?
(Gospel e-Letter - October 2017)