Summary: Grace is one of the Five Solas of the reformation but what does that mean, and what does Grace have to do with our every day life?
I was sixteen when Gary Gilmore died it was January 17 1977. And maybe some of you are thinking: That name sounds familiar. Gilmore was a petty criminal from Texas who would have lived and died in complete obscurity except for one thing. He became the first person in the United States to be executed after the supreme court reversed a 1972 decision that had ruled capital punishment to be a cruel and unusual punishment.
In July of 1976 Gary Gilmore committed two armed robberies in the state of Utah and in both cases shot and killed the people he was robbing. He was sentenced to death and because he refused to appeal his sentence he was executed six months later. So we only know about Gary Gilmore because of the medias fascination with him being the first American executed in five years.
And even though it was forty years ago I still remember all the media hype that the case generated.
As a side note the United States has executed 1444 people since then and if you kill a white person you are 3 times more likely to be executed than if you killed a person of colour. Just saying.
The other thing that captured the attention of the media and society was that Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad. Which seemed to me as kind of strange at the time.
Utah and Oklahoma are the only two states that allow execution by firing squad and in this case Gilmore actually requested that he be allowed to die that way.
And there was a reason, you see Gary Gilmore’s mother was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, that is she was a Mormon, and that had a profound effect on how Gary would choose to die.
Gilmore’s brother Mikal would write that his brother’s decision was because he wanted “To spill his blood on Mormon soil, as an apology to God.”
Which might seem a little strange to us but was based on the LDS theology of Blood Atonement that had been taught by Brigham Young. And while blood atonement is no longer required by the church in 1978 LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie, claiming to reflect the view of church leadership, wrote that he still believed that certain sins are beyond the atoning power of the blood of Christ.
And while we might not hold to the theology of Blood Atonement there are those who still believe that some sins are beyond the Grace of God.
This is week four of our “Old Foundation” series. 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
In 1517 a catholic priest by the name of Martin Luther took the church to task for what he felt were theological errors that needed to be corrected. He wrote a list of these errors and nailed them to the door of the largest church in the area, the Wittenberg Cathedral.
Now a couple of things that we need to understand. Martin Luther did not start down this road in order to start a new denomination. His intention, as a priest and theologian was to start a healthy debate within the church which would ultimately bring the church back to its roots. It was “The Church”, after all.
The second thing is that the Catholic church of 500 years ago isn’t necessarily the Catholic church of today. Any more than the Protestant Church of today is the Protestant Church of 500 years ago. In both cases for better or for worse.
When theolgians speak of the central teachings of the protestant reformation they refer to them as the “Five Solas”.
Sola is simply the Latin word for “One” or “Only”. And while there was no attempt by men like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and other reformers to define what they were doing, church historians have gone back and kind of reverse engineered their beliefs and came up with the Five Solas.
And so, in week one we looked at Solas Fide, or By Faith Alone, and this was the belief that it is faith that is the main component of our salvation, not works or good deeds and certainly not a belief in purgatory. So, we are saved by faith alone.
Then we looked at Solas Scriptura, or in the Scripture Alone. And that was the belief that the final authority for our Christian life is the Bible. And while the reformers would allow room at the table for tradition and the teaching of the church only the scriptures would be considered infallible and it would be by scripture that those other traditions and teachings would be measured.
Last week we took some time with Solus Christus, through Christ Alone and looked at the power that is available only through the name of Christ. And that power that was there for the church in the book of Acts is the same power that was there for the reformers 500 years ago and the same power that is there for us today.