Reformation Day? I thought it was Halloween?
Actually, October 31 is Halloween, but it’s also Reformation Day. And since I don’t celebrate Halloween, this post is about Reformation Day and what difference it makes in our lives. I know many of you are thinking “Reformation Day? So what?” Believe it or not what happened on October 31, over 500 years ago matters.
On October 31, 1517 the priest choose to debate like a lawyer.
Martin Luther nailed 95 points for debate on the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany.
The world was ready for a change, and in fact change had been coming. More and more men around Europe were taking the Word seriously and believed they were seeing differences between the traditional views of the Roman Catholic Church and their understanding of Scripture. Discussion turned to debate. In some places the religious debate mixed with politics and the results were explosive.
Now, let me post a disclaimer. Luther was not the first or only reformer. He was however one of the most influential. Dr. Luther was one of the men that ushered in what is now known as the Reformation.
That is a reason to celebrate! So, after you read this post, go celebrate and eat some candy!
What needed to be reformed?
The church of Martin’s day, was full of ideas and teachings that we would strongly disagree with today. For example, they believed and taught that salvation was earned in various ways and was not by grace alone, through faith alone. Scripture alone was not sufficient. It even seemed that Christ’s death on the cross was almost sufficient, but not quite.
What did Luther do?
A lot, but I want to focus on one. He was one of several reformers who focused on a method of interpretation of Scripture called in Latin sensus literalis or the literal sense of the Scripture. By interpreting the Word through the literal sense of the text, the Word surprisingly makes sense. This method seeks to discover the author’s intended meaning, and then make application to our lives accordingly. Luther’s method let the plain sense of Scripture be the main sense of Scripture. The idea is not only radical, it also leads to other radical ideas.
Studying Romans 1, verse 17 he discovered “… the righteous man shall live by faith.” In other words salvation is by grace through faith, not by works of any kind. For us today this sounds normal, but in Luther’s day it was radical.
Soon Luther came to believe in Solo Scriptura, that through the Scriptures alone do we come to understand that salvation is through:
Solo Christo – Christ alone
Sola Gratia – by grace alone
Solo fide –through faith alone
And that is enough to make us shout Soli Deo Gloria – to God alone be the glory!
And this led to the nailing of his 95 theses or points of debate on the castle church door in the village of Wittenburg and ultimately helped spark the Reformation of the church.
FYI – What is the cry of the reformers from Luther’s day forward? Post tenebras – “After darkness, light!” They fell like they had come out of the darkness into the light.
Wrapping it up
What difference does this make for us? The things that you and I take for granted in our Christian experience – freedom to worship anywhere we wish, a Bible in our own language, pastors and teachers who explain the Word of God in context, the idea that every person who repents can have a personal relationship with God, and the concept of salvation by grace alone –were shaped by the Reformation, and therefore partly by Martin Luther.
There were many other reformers. And, of course it was God who was bringing the change to purify His church and set His people free. But God used Luther, and Luther cooperated with God.
Honor to whom honor is due.
One final disclaimer. No doubt someone will feel the need to point out Luther’s sins and inconsistencies. He was not perfect, not even especially close. But he was a man who stepped up to challenge the status quo, the systems of his day, and insist that that God alone was the author of our salvation.
Guest blogger: David Lawson