“The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.” – Luther, Thesis 62
Luther, who sparked off the Reformation when he nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, was highly indignant at the Roman Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences. The warped theology behind these indulgences was that they were some form of treasure to be purchased and stored in one’s treasury of merit. This treasury of merit was to appease the anger of a righteous God and thus escape his judgment. But the problem was many were left uncertain and fearful of whether they had enough treasure to ‘buy off’ God.
Against this, Luther proclaimed justification by faith by grace alone. Man did not, and could not, earn sufficient treasure to appease the wrath of God and escape the judgment to come. The only treasure of enough value to do so cannot be earned or deserved. It is given to the undeserving. And the Church is the means by which God dispenses this grace of salvation to everyone. The treasure of the Church lies not in the grandeur of the building, the assets of the people, the skill and intellect of the preacher, the warmness of the community or the richness of its heritage, but solely consists of the grand, rich, wise, loving and timeless gospel of Jesus Christ, who came to us full of glory and grace and truth.
This is a treasure that does not diminish and cannot be willfully taken. It is given to us in ever increasing measure by God. The church does not need to hoard and safeguard this treasure, but it must prize this treasure, and this treasure is best prized when it is given to those who do not have it.