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The Lutheran Thread

• Greg Boyd

There are many values of Lutheranism that flow through the life of Woodland Hills Church. In this sermon, Greg talks about these threads and how they impact our way of doing church. Whether it’s sola scriptura or the faith/grace interaction, we are not alone in our use of Luther’s teachings.

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Luther had a very important part in the development of Woodland Hills Church. We draw many things from Luther and the Protestant Reformation, and they define some of what we do in church. To understand the Lutheran thread, we first need to understand Luther.

Luther was originally going to be a lawyer. In 1505, he was caught in a thunderstorm and thought he was going to die. He prayed to a saint and vowed that if he lived, he would dedicate himself to the church and God. Surprise—he lived! He went to a monastery and started living the life of a devout, sometimes OCD, monk. After spending some years in that monastery, he studied theology in Wittenberg. It was there that he came to see the corruption of the Catholic Church during that time.

In 1517, he went public with his thoughts on the corruption, and he nailed the 95 theses to the door of the cathedral. This was thought to be the “shot heard round the world” for the start of the Protestant Reformation. His teachings spread like wildfire, almost cost him his life, and eventually led to how we see church here at Woodland Hills Church.

The core of Luther’s theology was centered on “the four alones”. He said that we are saved by Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, and ground on scripture alone. We at Woodland Hills Church also believe in these four alones.

Christ alone is the belief that we have direct connection with Jesus Christ. We do not need any intermediary like a priest or a pope. Instead, we can pray and have direct contact with God. There is no need for saints or any other intervention. Also, we all then play a part in the building of the Kingdom. There are no ministry people that do all the work but rather a priesthood of all believers who build the Kingdom together and everyone has a part to play.

Grace alone is the belief that we are only saved by grace through Jesus Christ. There are no works that can be done to get us into heaven. It is solely by grace through Jesus that we live in him and are a part of the Kingdom. Faith alone is not a belief, but rather a trust and trustworthiness in a relationship with God. We trust in him like a spouse trusts another spouse. When we choose to accept this grace, we enter into a new life where we then become transformed by our heavenly spouse.

Finally, scripture alone is the belief that only Scripture is inspired and God-breathed. The Catholic Church at the time of Luther believed that Scripture, Tradition, and the Pope were all on level ground when it came to saying what God’s word was and how to follow it. However, Luther said that only Scripture was God-breathed, and that we must regularly go back to it in order to find the true way of following Christ. If it’s not in the Scriptures, then we have to seriously consider it to not be the way of following Christ.

Our scripture has been manipulated throughout the generations, and it is our duty to not allow culture to steal the Scripture message, twist it, and make it seem like the message of God. A few weeks ago, we talked about the Stoicheion influencing the things of this world. These powers and authorities here on Earth seek to use Scripture to affirm their own beliefs and values, whether it’s the use of force against our enemies or embracing individualism and consumerism.

In these four alones, we find a significant portion of our thought at Woodland Hills Church. We do believe in Christ alone, by grace through faith, and solely based on Scripture. While we may not agree with everything that Luther did (and we don’t), there is a lot of good in what the Protestant Reformation and Luther contributed to Woodland Hills Church.

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Topics: Faith, Grace, Nationalism

Sermon Series: Tapestry


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Focus Scripture:

  • 2 Timothy 3:16

    All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

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4 thoughts on “The Lutheran Thread

  1. T L says:

    Really good sermon with great historical information! Thank you!

    I always wonder though, why rarely does anyone mention that Luther became a rabid, foaming-at-the mouth anti-Semite in his latter years. His teachings were foundational to the proproganda used by the Nazis during WWII. (See “On Jews and Their Lies” – Martin Luther)

    Maybe the reason this is rarely mentioned is because speakers are trying to be gracious (and maybe I should be more so), but I think that this fact about Luther provides a great lesson. At first, Luther was kind and reached out to the Jewish people. When they rejected his message, he turned on them…and vehemently so. I think this shows what can happen when we make our ministries performance/results based instead of love/sacrifice based.

    Luther had a great bit on the front half..and then seemed to kind of lose his mind at the end.

  2. Seana says:

    I always find good stuff from Pr. Greg’s messages…I come from an agnostic/atheistic, (mom’s side..who had been Lutheran), and a culturally Catholic influenced, (dad’s side), background. I wonder what my blind spots are…I know we all have them, but since I came to a biblical understanding of the Gospel I have been freed from many misconceptions about God’s character. The idea that humans have an “immortal soul” is not found in Scripture, and I have been freed from thinking that the lost will be in eternal torment, (the choice is btwn. LIFE and DEATH!), I have found that the Sabbath is eternal and speaks of a relational Creator, it is HIS day, not one we choose, (or a power that thinks it can change God’s laws…a power Luther was all too familiar with), and that the Laws of God are unchangeable, (the 10 C’s), and that includes Creation in 6 literal days, (otherwise the Sabbath commandment and many other doctrines of the Bible are meaningless…the material planet could have been floating in space for some eons…tho’ at some point it was created ex nihilo by God, but death was brought about by sin, there were no millions of generations, with death built into the equation, that produced beings called Adam and Eve. Read the 4th Commandment, the language hearkens back to the creation and this and only this commandment identifies the Law Giver…it has the seal of God, His Name (Lord), Title, (Maker), and Territory, (Heavens and the Earth=Universe). I would agree with Pr./Dr. Greg that love in the heart is the most essential transformation that God wants us to possess, and to respect and serve others, no matter what they beleive, but since this sermon was on authority, solo Christos, fide, gace, and SOLO Scriptura, I respectfully challenge you to consider the claims of Scripture that God can create with His Word, create full-grown and fully human beings out of the dust of the ground, and He can choose a day, built into the very structure of His creation that is an eternal sign of His creative authority and relational character, and never need to change it, in spite of some mere creatures thinking that they can. (Read Isaiah 66:23) It’s not about the 1st day vs. the 7th day, it’s about authority, and God being the One Who chose it and blessed it, not the creature deciding, but choosing to enter into God’s love and rest. Please consider watching “The 7th- Day” hosted by Hal Holbrook on youtube.com. God loves us and takes us where we are at, I know He has winked at a lot of my blindness, and is still very patient with me. Woodland Hills Church seems like a very loving place and that love and openness is the greatest asset…those who are teachable will be taught of the Lord. Shalom and Joy!

  3. David says:

    I’d be interested in knowing why the 5th sola: Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be the glory) was skipped. Do Open Theists believe that God receives all the glory?

  4. Paul Eddy says:

    Hi David,

    Regarding the number of “solas” that Greg mentions in this sermon — the listing of the Reformation solas is sometimes numbered as four (scriptura, Christo, gratia, fide), and sometimes as five (the prior four, plus Deo gloria). By using the four-count, Greg certainly wasn’t trying to imply anything about his rejection of Deo gloria! At Woodland Hills, we would affirm all five solas, properly understood. For example, among many contemporary Reformed-Calvinist people, “Deo gloria” is virtually equated with God’s sovereignty, understood as exhaustive and meticulous divine determination of all things. We would disagree with this interpretation of Deo gloria. This has nothing to do with “open theism.” Among the leadership here at Woodland Hills, when it comes to the question of divine foreknowledge, some of us are open theists and others of us are not. But all of us would disagree with the Reformed-Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty as exhaustive, meticulous determinism.

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