I recently had the privilege of preaching a funeral in a nearby Lutheran Church building. We were there not because the deceased was a Lutheran—he wasn’t. But it was a large enough sanctuary to hold the expected crowd. As it turned out, there was standing room only as anticipated.
It’s pretty amazing to a guy like me to see such a crowd at a service of death and resurrection. I’ve been preaching funerals for about forty years, now, and crowds like that are few and far between. It’s not unusual to find oneself in a small room with an even smaller group of mourners. That’s especially true these days—a time when so many tend to, almost blindly, deny death.
In this case, the departed was young, well-liked, and rather well-known. He had served his community, made many friends, and had a lot of acquaintances. They came out in droves to honor his memory and pay their final respects—and, hopefully, to worship the Lord.
Not only is it a great privilege to be called upon to serve at such a time as that, but it’s a wonderful opportunity as well. Preaching the Gospel of Christ is one of those things I live for, and this was an extraordinary opportunity to do so. I sought to take full advantage of it.
A lot of things should happen in a service like that. The deceased should be remembered and honored; the family should be comforted with the hope that we’ve been given in Christ; and the Lord should be glorified. I think we were able to accomplish these things and give a dear Brother a beautiful good-bye.
Being in a building that carries the name of Martin Luther, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to mention the Five Solas— Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Christus, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria. These are Latin terms which basically mean that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in the Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone.
Earning Our Salvation
The Five Solas are the backbone of the great heritage we’ve received from Luther and his fellow reformers. The reformed theologians like Jean Calvin helped to transform and renew the church with this understanding. Their theology helped us to take note that Scripture is clear—we cannot earn our salvation—it is wholly and purely a gift.
The Five Solas help us learn that we receive the grace of God and the gift of faith in order to be drawn to Christ (the sole sacrifice for our sins). They point us to Scripture which is the sole authority for this understanding, and to the fact that all the glory for this belongs to God—not to any man or woman—certainly not to ourselves.
Scripture tells us that “the righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17). Faith is an indescribable gift from God. Without His gift, we’re hopelessly lost. May we live by that faithfulness to His glory alone.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]