It is October 31, Halloween. It is also Reformation Day and longtime readers (anyone? anyone?) know that I have devoted space here at the blog in years past to posts highlighting Reformation Day and why it matters to you and me. I do so for a couple of reasons. What happened this date almost 500 years ago carries profound significance to us and we are indebted to the courageous reformers who risked so much. Yet a lot of us, most of us perhaps, who profess Christ are largely uninformed about the Reformation. I know I knew little to nothing about it growing up.
On October 31, 1517 a monk named Martin Luther nailed a list of 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany. His theses comprised his objections to many of the practices of the Catholic church. The church had grown quite corrupt, the sale of indulgences being perhaps the grossest contradiction to the teachings of the Bible. Church leaders were in effect selling forgiveness and assurance of salvation, often at very high prices.
Luther in the meantime had been engaged in a serious and diligent study of the Scriptures and began to realize the truth of justification by faith alone. He began to teach that salvation was not a product to be sold or purchased but a gift of God’s grace through faith in His Son. This teaching was revolutionary, indeed it sparked not just a revolution but a Reformation and forever changed Christianity.
It seems a little obvious to us and we may be tempted to be a little blase about the whole thing. I mean, seriously, hadn’t anyone read Ephesians 2? Actually, they hadn’t. Not the common Joe. The Bible at that time, and in fact all church services, were in Latin, the language of the educated and not of the ordinary man and woman. Luther and other reformers not only fought for the doctrine of salvation by grace but also for the Bible to be translated into the language of the people so that the common man or woman could not only read the Bible for himself or herself but could also hear and understand it being taught. This too was revolutionary.
So revolutionary in fact that many reformers were imprisoned and many others were murdered. That’s right, some of our brothers and sisters in the faith died a martyr’s death because they fought against the sale of salvation and proclaimed God’s free saving grace instead. Others died because they believed you and I should have access to a Bible in the language we speak, read, and understand.
Luther was arrested, brought before a council at the Diet of Worms, and offered the chance to recant his teachings. After taking some time to consider, he famously replied, “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.” In the providence of God, he managed to escape custody and teach for several more years.
As I sit here at my laptop there are two Bibles within arm’s reach. They are mine; I not only own them but I can read them. This past Tuesday I taught from Philippians 3 and I joyfully and passionately testified of the grace that is ours in Christ Jesus. On Sunday I will gather with my church that I love and we will sing together of the glories of Christ and I will have the privilege of hearing God’s Word preached and the gospel proclaimed.
Today I thank God for the reformers who fought the good fight with great courage and faithfulness and at great risk for these privileges to be mine.
For more information on the Reformation, I encourage you to check out these links:
- What Reformation Day is All About
- Women of the Reformation
- The Bohemian Morning Star
- Luther’s 95 Theses: What You May Not Know and Why They Matter Today
- The Reformation: Trick or Treat?
- Free ebook on Martin Luther from Desiring God
- Free Reformation Day Friday resources (only free for today!)
And here’s a clip of Luther’s refusal to recant from the movie Luther:
Happy Reformation Day, friends!