There is no question that the Reformation was crucial to the development of Christianity and incredibly important in the recovery of the central teaching of grace. In Luther’s day, the Church had by and large abandoned a true teaching of the Gospel for something that was nothing more than buy-your-own-forgiveness. The Church under the guise of Christianity began selling people false hope.
The Reformation recovered what the Bible actually taught and this centered around what is traditionally called “justification.”
A great description of this justification can be found in a passage like Ephesians 2 when Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” This revolutionized the Christian Church at the time; it completely went counter to what the Catholic Church was teaching and threatened the institutions that were built on selling forgiveness.
The Reformation was all about justification because it was all about the Gospel. And that is still central to the heart of what the Christian faith is about.
But that’s not all that happened in the Reformation.
There’s another doctrine that gets left behind when we think about the significance of what happened in the Reformation. Justification is absolutely central to the shift in church history, but vocation is not far behind. Yet it has largely been ignored.
Vocation, or calling, was a key teaching and distinction in Martin Luther’s theology as he led the Reformation.
Not only was the Church at the time misinformed in their understanding of the Gospel, but there was a belief that the sacred callings were reserved for the priests, the monks, and the nuns. But Luther completely blew that thinking out of the water with what he called “the priesthood of all believers.” He believed that all Christians have a sacred, yet ordinary calling.
He believed that Christians are all called in their various places and stations of life. They are all called to serve and love their neighbor - in their homes, workplaces, and communities. This doctrine was unheard of at the time. Sacred work was the work of the priests.
Both of these doctrines are absolutely critical in our day and age. We cannot abandon the Gospel, in fact people need it now more than ever. And in a world that wants to think about what we should do and how we should live, no doctrine of work is more rooted in the Gospel and more freeing than a proper understanding of vocation.