While the little ones are making plans to do their door-to-door candy scavenging tonight, let’s not forget that for Christians all over the world, October 31 marks Reformation Day.
It was October 31, 1517 – 500 years ago – that a monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany and set off a firestorm of controversy, but ultimately, changed the path of Christianity with what was the Protestant reformation. He also drew the ire of the Roman Catholic church, whose hierarchy had found the selling of “indulgences” to be quite profitable.
“Indulgences,” by the way, were bought from the church. For a price, otherwise unrepentant people could “buy” forgiveness for their sins, trading money for a get-out-of-Hell-free card.
Yeah. That’s not how it works, and I shudder to think of how many are in eternal agony today because the church cared nothing for their souls and did not do their duty to call them to repentance, but rather, took their money and sold them false security.
Once word of Luther’s 95 theses reached Rome, they were studied and deemed “heretical” to the church. He was given 120 days to recant by Pope Leo X. He refused, and in January 1521 he was excommunicated from the Catholic church.
I don’t think he really cared.
In April of 1521 he was asked again to recant, and his writings were ordered to be burned.
He hid out for a year in Eisenach, Germany and began the project of translating the New Testament into German. A transformative project that took 10 years to complete.
Luther’s later years were equally controversial, although, not in a good way. There’s no sense in visiting that part of his life, except to say that he was very much human, and we all are prone to stumble.
What he began with his theses, however, was a good that cannot be taken away.
From the Reformation movement, emerged the Five Solas, the very heart of the movement, and crucial to this Christian life.
Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone. The Bible is our highest authority, when it comes to the teachings of our God.
Sola Fide – Faith alone. Only faith in Jesus Christ saves us.
Sola Gratia – Grace alone. It is the grace of God alone, and not by the graces of any man, that we are counted as saved and forgiven.
Solus Christus – Christ alone. Only Jesus Christ is our Lord, our Savior, and our King.
Soli Deo Gloria – To the glory of God alone. It is for the glory of God alone that we live.
The Reformation became necessary because the church of the day had drifted from the purpose and intent of Jesus Christ’s teachings, layering over the simple truths of who He is, and who we are to our Father in Heaven with the ambitions and greed of men.
Today, I thank God for the Reformation, that the truth of Christ and his free gift of grace no longer be hidden from humanity, or distorted by politics.
God does have a way of working things out.
And if you’re interested in reading the 95 theses of Martin Luther, you can find them here.