Philippians 1: 1-11 500 Years of Grace and Peace to You

Philippians 1: 1-11 500 Years of Grace and Peace to You

It started in 1517, with a 34 year-old monk named Martin.  Martin Luther.   He had grown up in a poor family, but they all had high hopes for him to become a lawyer.  One day, walking with a friend, a storm hit them and his friend was killed by lightning.  Believing his friend was being punished for some sin, Martin turned his life around, and entered a monastery.  He was very serious there, praying and fasting regularly – but one thing was missing – he didn’t feel close to God.  A wise monk suggested he turn to the Bible – he read the story of Jesus and Paul’s letters and realized Christianity was a welcoming and forgiving faith.


Now he began to teach about the love of God – but he did not see that love in the church around him.  Soon a monk came to the monastery from Rome selling indulgences which promised forgiveness – and were really raising money for the Church in Rome.  This was so wrong!  And there were other wrongs as well.


He wrote a parchment listing the wrongs he saw in the church and nailed it to the church door.  Very quickly his faith and courage became famous.   Needless to say the church authorities (right up to the Pope) became angry and tried to defrock or excommunicate him – or worse.


He replied: “Unless you prove from the Bible that I am wrong, I cannot take back a single word.  I must obey Scripture.  Here I stand.  God help me.”


Soon he was able to escape to a castle where he stayed for the rest of his life, studying, praying, writing books and spending time translating the Bible into German.


This Reformation could not be stopped.  Changes were made to the selling of indulgences, and Martin Luther’s desire to purify the church led to the first of the protestant denominations – the Lutheran Church – a liturgical denomination like our Presbyterian denomination – with whom we are in Communion.


Within the next 50 years the Reformation developed and spread.

  • Thomas Cranmer in England supported King Henry VIII in breaking from Rome and he also wanted worship to be in the vernacular – so he produced The Prayer Book for public worship – in English.
  • About the same period in Paris Luther’s books were widely studied, especially by John Calvin. It was here that the word Protestant became used for “these protesters”.  But such was the reaction to their protesting that Calvin had to flee to Geneva in Switzerland.
  • And it was thanks to a student of Calvin’s – John Knox – just 4 years younger than Calvin – that the Protestant faith was brought to Scotland – and hence to America.


And it all developed through the faith of Martin Luther.




Luther realized that forgiveness could not be bought.  Indulgences were wrong.  There was only one way for people to be made right with God and have their sins forgiven – and that was through the freely given gift of forgiveness – given only by God – God’s Grace.


Luther’s Biblical studies took him to the story of Jesus and the letters of Paul, focusing in on God’s Grace:

7It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me…               Philippians 1:7


Luther kept coming back to the same basic truth – it is only through the incredible “Grace of Almighty God” that are a part of God’s family.  And God’s Grace cannot be bought or earned or traded – it can only be received through the gift of God through his Holy Spirit.  So we end most Church services:

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all….” 


These are all words that we use to help us to understand how we can exist in God’s family.  Grace is that something extra, something totally outside our experience, beyond our grasp or understanding, which enables us to cross over and be welcomed into God’s kingdom – acceptable to God.


It was Grace that enabled Martin Luther to step out from the shadows of his monastic life and become the instigator of the Protestant Reformation.


Grace means so much to you and me.


  • God’s goodness is given freely to us – even though we have no right to that favor;
  • There is no way we can earn his favor;
  • We have no claim to his favor, no right to his favor, no reason to expect to receive his favor;
  • Grace is God’s gift to you and me, ONLY because God wants us to have it.
  • Grace cannot be bought.
  • Grace is the gift of God, the unmerited favor of God, freely given, without any cost to us.


The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all….”