October 31, 1517, is traditionally considered the day that German priest and scholar Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses for consideration at All Saints’ Church (more commonly, Castle Church), in Wittenberg, Germany. Legend suggests that he did so by nailing them to the church door, although this cannot be proven. In so doing, Luther aimed to bring about reformation in the church by addressing widespread abuses in his day. Furthermore, his emphasis on justification by faith was never intended to abandon consideration of faithful witness, but just the opposite.

As Luther writes in The Freedom of a Christian, union with Christ by faith involves caring for our neighbors in love. To care for our neighbors, that is for those very different than us as defined by Christ (Luke 10:25-37), and thus to fulfill the whole Law beyond mere love for God (Matthew 22:40; Galatians 5:14), requires proximity (Ephesians 4:1-13f.).1 For Christians, fundamentally, this means walking, working, and worshipping God together as one in and through local churches beyond the distinctions of this world that so often and otherwise divide. In so doing we provide a credible witness of God's love for all people on earth as it is in heaven.

This biblical expectation, i.e., this specific mystery ("of Christ," Ephesians 3:4; "my (Paul's) gospel," Romans 16:25, 26; "the word of God in its fullness, the mystery," Colossians 1:25-27), was first revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:2-6) with the intent that "...through the (local) church, the manifold (Gr. polypoikilos -> "much-varigated: marked by a wide variety of colors, i.e., of cloth or a painting." Thayer's Greek Lexicon) wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms," (Ephesians 3:10). Therefore, as the Apostle Paul challenged the collective church at Ephesus (Ephesians 4:1-6ff.), and today as well, believers are to walk worthy of this calling: namely, to be one in the church for the sake of the Gospel.

500 years later…

 

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