October 31 — Reformation Day

On October 31, 1517, a little over 500 years ago, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther invited church authorities to debate some church practices which he believed were in violation of scripture. He nailed his 95 theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, where he was a university professor. These proposals were translated from Latin into German, printed, and quickly circulated throughout Germany.

Luther was objecting to the sale of indulgences by representatives of the church. These were certificates guaranteeing deliverance from Purgatory, and offering the false promise that salvation could be obtained by the payment of money. Having discovered the happy assurance that “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17), Luther protested that salvation is only through faith in Christ, apart from good works. “The true treasure of the church,” Luther wrote, “is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.”

This event is seen as sparking the Protestant Reformation which is being remembered this weekend in many churches around the world. The main themes of the Reformation have been summarized in five distinctive declarations about salvation: it is based upon scripture alone, through Christ alone, it is by faith alone, by grace alone, and thus all glory goes to God alone.

The beliefs we find in these five statements set Luther and his fellow reformers apart from the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. Scripture alone (sola scriptura), taught that the Bible as the inspired Word of God is the final authority, not  papal edicts and decrees. Christ alone (solus Christus) is the belief that it is only through Jesus that sinners may be justified and reconciled to God. Faith alone (sola fide) asserts that salvation is through faith in Christ, apart from works or human effort. Grace alone (sola gratia), means that salvation is a free gift from God. Because of this, God alone receives all praise and glory (soli Deo gloria).

One of the key texts on which the reformers’ doctrine of justification by faith rests is Romans 3:24, “…  and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” “Justified” means to be declared righteous. This involves the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer’s account. This is the basis for the believer’s acceptance before God. “Freely” means that justification is a gift of God’s grace, completely apart from human works or merit. It is possible only because of the “redemption” of sinners  by Christ when he died on the cross. His sacrifice was the ransom price to God to satisfy the justice required by his holy law.

When Luther studied the book of Romans and discovered the meaning of justification by faith, it set his spirit free. He learned that salvation comes not through vigils, fasts, pilgrimages, or monastic discipline, but by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. That same freedom of grace is available to you if your faith is in Jesus Christ, and in him alone.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

The Walk of Faith

“Enoch walked with God” (Genesis 5:22). For this reason “he was commended as one who pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5). He stands out in his generation because he walked with God. His name appears in a context where every life ended in death. Except for Enoch’s.

I heard about a man who said to his wife, “I think I will go to church with you today.” This was surprising to her because he had never professed faith in Christ and he had previously shown little interest in spiritual things. She started to worry. What will the sermon be about? What scriptures will be read? Will the people be friendly to him?

When the scripture reading was announced, her heart sank. It was Genesis 5. The chapter contains a long list of ancient names. There is no gospel in that chapter. Only the refrain after each name, “and he died.” Surprisingly her husband continued to go to church with her.

After a few more weeks he professed his faith in Jesus and became a Christian. She asked him what it was that got him thinking about his need of salvation. He told her it was the reminder of the reality of death in the reading of Genesis 5.

Enoch appears in that chapter which describes the generations on earth before the great flood. Everyone in that chapter experienced death. But not Enoch. He is described as the man who walked with God and then one day, God miraculously took him to heaven.


The New Testament compares the Christian life to a walk. Christians are called to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), to walk in love (Ephesians 5:2), to walk in the light (1 John 1:7), and to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). This is possible only if one has a relationship with God. Enoch was a man of faith. He trusted in God. Hebrews 11:5 says that he pleased God. He had a relationship with God.

The next verse tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). To seek God is to come to him on his terms and to trust in him. Enoch sought God and he was rewarded with a relationship.


The New Testament tells us that Enoch was a prophet who preached against ungodliness (Jude 14-15). We have no idea how Enoch prepared his sermons, or where he delivered them. But I believe nobody in his world would have an excuse for not believing in God. He was a faithful witness.


“By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away” (Hebrews 11:5). The account in Genesis says, “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24). One day Enoch went for his walk with God and he never came back home. God had taken him to heaven without his having to die.

This is a glorious picture of what will happen to the believers who are alive on earth when Jesus raptures his church. They will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air along with believers who will be raised from the dead. “And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Two questions

Are you walking with God? The word “walk” is a metaphor for faithful Christian living, or living in fellowship with God. To have fellowship with God one must have a relationship with God. That is possible only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Are you looking forward to Christ’s return? Jesus is coming again. Are you ready to meet him? Remember that God rewards those who seek him by faith.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


Only One Way

It has been said that true faith involves trusting God and obeying God in spite of feelings, circumstances and consequences. In fact, it is sometimes hard to live by faith if these three things are conspiring against us.

Feelings, for example, can be deceptive. They come and go. Some days we feel that all is well and others, well, not so much. Some people are tempted to doubt God’s love for them. I have found myself in spiritual conversations with folks who lack assurance of salvation because they do not “feel” that they are in a right relationship with God. Feelings can get in the way of faith when we put more confidence in our emotions than in the promises of scripture.

Difficult circumstances, such as illness, unemployment, broken relationships, financial hardship, grieving the death of someone close, or any of many possible disappointments, can sometimes be barriers to faith. Some people make excuses like, “If only this would work out for me then I would trust God more.”

Outcomes, results, or consequences may lead some people to try to bargain with God. “If I could just see ahead to how this would turn out, then it would be easier to have faith.” We don’t always find it easy to trust God for the outcome, but that is what he asks of us. He alone knows the future.

The men and women who are listed in Hebrews 11 are noted for their faith. They trusted God despite emotions, circumstances, and consequences of their decisions. The people in this biblical hall of fame built their lives on the foundation of faith. Because of this God was able to use them in significant ways, and they are examples to us of what it means to live by faith.

Take Abel as an example (Hebrews 11:4). He represents the right approach to God in worship. He is contrasted with his brother Cain. In this contrast we are introduced to two value systems, two religions, two means of worship. The background to their story is Genesis 4:1-7.

God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s. We are not told the reason why, but we may safely assume that God had called them to worship in a specific place and time and according to a prescribed procedure. The story in Genesis tells us that Abel’s offering involved blood sacrifice and this was acceptable to God.

Cain’s offering did not meet with God’s approval. He apparently assumed one way of approach to God is as good as another. The New Testament calls this “the way of Cain” (Jude 11). This self-righteous attitude is still with us today. There are many people who think they can approach God the way Cain did, by offering to God the works of their hands. But the Bible says there is no one who can be good enough or do enough good to be acceptable to a holy God.

If we read this story in the light of subsequent biblical teaching, it seems that Abel’s offering was acceptable because it involved substitution, an innocent sacrifice taking the place of the guilty sinner. “In fact the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). This is why “In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

The Genesis account of Abel and Cain did not end well for Abel. Cain murdered his brother. This shows that the life of faith can be costly and difficult. But in spite of feelings, circumstances and results, Abel worshipped God in a manner that was acceptable. God gave Abel the highest possible commendation. “By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead” (Hebrews 11:4).

Raymond Brown has written, “Although Abel was murdered by his evil brother, he is still speaking; the story of his faithful achievement speaks to people in every generation, not only about the quality of their offering to God, but also their motivation. Is the outward offering of worship, money and service a genuine expression of our love and commitment? God sees not only the value of the sacrifice, but the heart of the giver.”

Brown adds this additional truth for our learning: “Abel speaks to (us) still more clearly by reminding us of the most important offering of all, ‘the sprinkled blood’ of Christ” (Hebrews 12:24) who, although he was murdered by the angry and jealous successors of Cain, was not like Abel, the helpless victim of sudden hate. His entirely voluntary sacrifice was both determined and approved by God.”

Abel’s faithful witness is a reminder that for us there is only one way of approach to God. It is through the sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

A Sixth Sense

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)

There is a sense in which all people live by faith every day. Society is built upon a foundation of faith. We drink water from a faucet in perfect confidence that it is safe to drink. We eat food in a restaurant trusting that it is not contaminated. We place our lives in the hands of surgeons with faith in their training and experience, We board huge airplanes with confidence in the reliability of the airline, the pilot and the mechanics who serviced the plane.

This is how faith operates. It willingly accepts and acts on things it does not understand. The heroes of the Bible are distinguished by their faith in God. They had faith in the invisible God and they trusted him to keep his word. Their exceptional faith marked them as examples to us of how to live by faith in God. Hebrews chapter 11 gives us a list of some of these heroes of faith.

The chapter begins with an explanation of faith. It tells us what faith can do. The text says “Faith is being sure of what we hope for” (Hebrews 11:1).  “Being sure” is a translation of a word which means “to stand under.” In Bible times this word was used of a title deed which stood under and validated a commercial transaction. So faith is said to be the foundation upon which our future rests. It is assurance that God will give the eternal life that we hope for.

Abraham had this kind of assurance. “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded  that God had power to do  what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21).

Like Abraham, we are offered the gift of righteousness and acceptance before God. This comes through faith in Jesus Christ. “Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).

It is faith in God which gives us hope for the future. It is not faith in ourselves or other people, or faith in politics, or faith in horoscopes, astrology, or any other new age mumbo jumbo. People exercise faith in these things all the time. But to have acceptance with God our faith must be placed in the right object. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

When we exercise saving faith in this way, it leads to certainty. Hebrews 11:1 says we may be “certain of what we do not see.” What do we not see as yet? We cannot see the future. We cannot see God. He is invisible. We do not yet see the all the events connected to the second coming of our Lord Jesus. But by faith we live in confident expectation of the fulfillment of his promises. “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not already have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:24-25).

This is illustrated in the stories of biblical people who exhibited faith in God. “This is what the ancients were commended for” (Hebrews 11:2). They gained God’s approval because of their faith and they are held up to us as examples. To be sure, they were not perfect people. When you read their life stories in the Old Testament, you discover that they had moral blind spots like the rest of humanity and there were times when they failed spiritually.

But they were approved by God for one reason: their faith. That is what Hebrews 11 is  all about. It gives us the stories of people who were forgiven, restored, made new. In each of these examples, God gave witness to their faith. This was his stamp of approval on their lives.

One of the things we discover when we read about the faithful in Hebrews 11 is that faith is like a muscle. It must be exercised in order to grow stronger. For us now, it begins by having faith in Jesus as savior. Faith grows through the reading and study of the Bible. Our faith is nourished when we keep company with other people of faith. In addition, we may pray as the disciples of Jesus prayed, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5).

God has given us five senses by which to live on the human level, sight, hearing, taste, smell, and feeling. But they are not adequate to help us reach the divine. We need what John Wesley called “a sixth sense,” which is faith. It is faith which puts us in touch with divine reality. It is faith in the divine-human Jesus. It is faith in the promises to be found in the divine-human book, the Bible. It is faith which God approves. It is faith which God rewards. It is faith which makes us “certain of what we do not see.”

Pastor Randy Faulkner