Happy Reformation Day!

With all the focus on costumes and candy, one would think that Halloween is the only significant event of any importance occurring on this date. But today is a day which had more impact on our history than almost any other besides the death and birth of Jesus. And not just for Christians, but for all Western Civilization as we know it.

On October 31st, in the year 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenburg, Germany. Because of his bold actions on that day and on others, the people were eventually set free from subservience to the papal doctrines of salvation by works.

After a particularly frightening experience during a thunderstorm in which he was almost struck by a lightning bolt, Luther became a monk. He faithfully practiced a life of fasting, prayer, confession and “holy” pilgrimages, as this was the practice of the day for Christians. But all this only served to make him more aware of his own inability to overcome his sinful nature.

“I lost hold of Christ the Savior and Comforter,” he once lamented, “and made of him a stock-master and hangman over my poor soul.” His Christian life had turned into a life of despair and uncertainty.

Having earned several high religious degrees and a teaching position by his early thirties, he came to the realization that, according to Scripture, Christians were justified by faith alone and not by works as the church of that day was teaching. He wrote a letter to Albert, the Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg protesting the sale of indulgences. With the letter, he included his 95 Theses, titled Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, which challenged the church to examine it’s doctrines of salvation and it’s practices for raising funds for building it’s churches.

Luther had come to believe that salvation was attainable through sincere faith in Jesus Christ as savior and not by works. By the end of 1571, the 95 Theses had been widely circulated throughout Europe. By 1520 Luther had published three of his best works. Three years after his letter and Theses were delivered, Rome responded to Luther’s writings with a papal bull calling for his excommunication unless he recanted particular written statements within 60 days. Luther burned the papal bull publicly in Wittenberg on the 10th of December, 1520, and was subsequently excommunicated on January 3rd, 1521.

While Luther remains a controversial figure because of some of his writings, his actions nonetheless were the pivotal point for all Christendom. It is a wonderfully liberating day to celebrate for anyone who calls Jesus their Lord and Savior.

Let’s share the gospel with those who come to our doors this evening seeking edible sweets – let them know of the sweetness of Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

The first and chief article is this: Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (Romans 3:24-25). He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works and merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood (Romans 3:23-25). This is necessary to believe. This cannot be otherwise acquired or grasped by any work, law, or merit. Therefore, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us … Nothing of this article can be yielded or surrendered, even though heaven and earth and everything else falls (Mark 13:31).

Martin Luther, in the Schmalkald Articles

Luther After His Death - Photograph by Paul T. McCain