Prior to the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic teaching stated that faith alone cannot justify a man before God.
The Roman Catholics believed that justification depended on charity and good works.
However, the benefits of good works on earth can be obtained by donating money to the church, rather than actually doing something charitable and that is what Martin Luther “protested” against.
Martin Luther was a German priest, a professor of theology, and an iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation.
When he was younger, he dedicated himself to a monastic life, fasted, prayed a lot, and always confessed to keep himself clean from sin.
Sometime after becoming an ordained priest, Luther led the protest against the doctrines and rituals of the Catholic Church in a movement (later) called the Reformation.
He did not agree with the idea that sins could be forgiven by paying money, then called indulgences.
Today, the Protestant Church is back in the business of indulgences, yet in a different and subtle package.
In theory many evangelical Christians confess the reformational doctrine of justification by faith alone. If you were to ask the average churchgoer about the doctrine of salvation, like how can a sinner be forgiven of her/his sins before God? Without any hesitation, they will give an answer that salvation is by grace.
Ephesians 2:8 is memorised and can be referenced by folks who don’t attend church services. ( “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”
Ephesians 2:8 NKJV)
But on the functional level things are not so, while during the medieval period the question was the problem of sin, without fully understanding the truth of the forgiveness of sin, today the church is bent on the question of favour/better life.
Is there something one can do or give in exchange for favour or abundant life (prosperity) from God? On the surface no one is asking that question, but if you look beneath the lives of many Christians, that is exactly what they are wrestling with.
As usual the church is promising a solution to this problem, and yes, the answer is give money (sow a seed) and in return God will bless you materially!
The gospel is not like that, the forgiveness of sin, victory over the devil and death, blessings in this world and beyond are solely by faith in the finished work of Christ.
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”
Colossians 2:8-10 NKJV
The gospel is a word of promise, a word of comfort and rest. There’s no command or threat in the word of the gospel. It doesn’t make any requirement at your hands; but only to bring you a free gift.
In his wonderful book titled ALL OF GRACE , Charles Haddon Spurgeon said something like this;
(He makes those just who are unjust, forgives those who deserve to be punished, and favors those who deserve no favor. You thought, did you not, that salvation was for the good? that God’s grace was for the pure and holy, who are free from sin? It has fallen into your mind that, if you were excellent, then God would reward you; and you have thought that because you are not worthy, therefore there could be no way of your enjoying His favor. You must be somewhat surprised to read a text like this: “Him that justifieth the ungodly. “ I do not wonder that you are surprised; for with all my familiarity with the great grace of God, I never cease to wonder at it. It does sound surprising, does it not, that it should be possible for a holy God to justify an unholy man? We, according to the natural legality of our hearts, are always talking about our own goodness and our own worthiness, and we stubbornly hold to it that there must be somewhat in us in order to win the notice of God. Now, God, who sees through all deceptions, knows that there is no goodness whatever in us. He says that “there is none righteous, no not one.” He knows that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” and, therefore the Lord Jesus did not come into the world to look after goodness and righteousness with him, and to bestow them upon persons who have none of them. He comes, not because we are just, but to make us so: he justifieth the ungodly.)
The gospel is unlike any other philosophy out there of coming before God. In the gospel, God himself comes down to us, works for us, forgives us, and rewards us for free!
It is called grace simply because we are not deserving of any love from God due to our sins and in Christ, God the father pays for our redemption and through faith we are forever loved because of His defiant grace.
If you are to give money to any church or charity organisation, it must come from the understanding that you are completely blessed and forgiven in Christ and everything else is a mere ‘thank you Lord’ for the glorious gift!
Soli Deo Gloria!