Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Over a thousand years later, Martin Luther, a German Augustinian religious monk and Roman Catholic priest at Wittenberg appeared.  He was a bible scholar, so that biblical influences dominated him and his followers.  The epistles of Paul showed that righteousness was a gift that was not earned.  Faith alone, not works or even indulgences to be used in purgatory, was necessary for salvation.  In 1517, he posted his printed objections, since half a century earlier the printing press had been invented.  He translated and published the New Testament in German, so that people could read the Bible themselves.  This led to the Protestant Reformation, which actually maintained many of the medieval Catholic practices.  The Counter Reformation resulted in the Roman Catholic Council of Trent.  Instead of just accepting being excommunicated, these protesters formed their own community in northern Germany and Scandinavia.  Other groups also broke off from the Roman Catholic Church.

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Inclusive Model of Salvation

The inclusive model holds that Jesus Christ is the normative expression of God’s will for all people.  The problem is that many people have never known Christ.  What role has the God of love for them?  Is Christian faith offered to everyone?  Some Christians believe in predestination so that only a few are chosen.  Christianity has always been missionary, sometimes overly zealous, as in the Crusades and the Inquisition.  What about those who have never heard of Jesus Christ?  The Catholic Council of Trent (1545-1563) in the 16th century talked about a baptism of desire.  You will be saved by Jesus without knowing him.  Salvation is fully found in Jesus, but offered to everyone in all genuine religions who live the good life, who sincerely seek God, moved by grace, and strive by their deeds to do his will as they know it.  Sometimes we call them like Karl Rahner (1904-1984) “anonymous Christians.”

The need for courage (Bar 4:27-4:29)

“Take courage!

My children!

Cry to God!

You will be remembered

By the one

Who brought this

Upon you.     

Just as you purposed

To go astray

From God,

Return

With tenfold zeal

To seek him!

The one who brought

These calamities

Upon you

Will bring you

Everlasting joy

With your salvation.”

This is almost a repeat of what was said earlier in this chapter about courage. These exiled children of Jerusalem should have courage. They should cry to God. Then God would remember them, since he brought these calamites on them because they went astray from him. Thus they should return to God with a tenfold zeal, so that he would bring them everlasting joy and salvation.

More beautiful than ever (Isa 60:17-60:18)

“Instead of bronze

I will bring gold.

Instead of iron,

I will bring silver.

Instead of wood,

I will bring bronze.

Instead of stones,

I will bring iron.

I will appoint peace

As your overseer.

I will appoint righteousness

As your taskmaster.

Violence shall no more

Be heard in your land.

Devastation shall no more

Be within your borders.

Destruction shall no more

Be within your borders.

You shall call your walls

Salvation.

You shall call your gates

Praise.”

The new Temple will be more beautiful than the older destroyed Temple of King Solomon, if that is possible. Instead of bronze, there will be gold. Instead of iron, there will be silver. In the place of wood, there will be bronze. In the place of stones, there will be iron. Peace and righteousness will be the overseer and taskmaster for this project. There will be no more violence, devastation, or destruction within its borders. The walls will be called salvation and the gates praise. This will be some great place.

Blind darkness (Isa 59:9-59:11)

“Therefore justice is far from us.

Righteousness does not reach us.

We look for light.

See!

There is darkness.

We look for brightness.

But we walk in gloom.

We grope along the wall

Like the blind.

We grope

Like those who have no eyes.

We stumble at noon

As in the twilight.

Among the vigorous,

We are like dead.

We all growl like bears.

We moan mournfully like doves.

We wait for justice,

But there is none.

We wait for salvation,

But it is far from us.”

Third Isaiah paints the Israelite community as in a blind darkness. There was no justice or righteousness. They were waiting for light, but there was only darkness. They wanted brightness, but they only had gloom. They were like blind people groping along a wall, as if they had no eyes. They stumbled at noon as if it was twilight. They were like dead people among vigorous live people. They were growling like bears and mourning like doves. They were waiting for justice and salvation, but there was nothing near, only far away things. They were in a dark place.

Yahweh blesses the happy ones (Isa 56:1-56:2)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘Maintain justice!

Do what is right!

Soon my salvation will come!

My deliverance will be revealed.

Happy is the mortal

Who does this!

He holds this fast.

He keeps the Sabbath.

He does not profane it.

He refrains from doing any evil.’”

This is the beginning of what is often called Third Isaiah, after the Israelites had returned from the Exile and settled in Israel. Here we have a brief description of the happy blessed ones. Yahweh set out the rules they were to follow. They had to maintain justice and do what is right. Salvation and deliverance were soon to come. These happy ones would have to keep the Sabbath, by not profaning it. They also had to refrain from doing any evil. This seems simple enough.

Singing (Isa 52:8-52:10)

“Listen!

Your sentinels lift up their voice.

Together they sing for joy.

In plain sight,

They see the return of Yahweh

To Zion.

Break forth together into singing!

You ruins of Jerusalem!

Yahweh has comforted his people.

He has redeemed Jerusalem.

Yahweh has bared his holy arm

Before the eyes of all the nations.

All the ends of the earth shall see

The salvation of our God.”

Second Isaiah wants a grand celebration of singing as Yahweh leads his people back into Jerusalem. First, the sentinels at their watch posts somehow see Yahweh coming to Mount Zion as they burst into joyful singing. Then everybody else should break out singing, especially the ruins of Jerusalem itself. Yahweh has comforted his people. He has redeemed Jerusalem. He has showed his bare holy arm to all the nations of the world. Everyone will see the salvation of their God, even to the ends of the earth.