Anniversary of the Reformation

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October 31, 2017 is the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant reformation, the truth of which are those upon which we today stand to enjoy the love, grace, and salvation of God. The date was October 31, 1517; the location was Wittenberg, Germany. This day would be pivotal in the great Reformation. On this day Martin Luther, a Catholic Augustinian monk and university lecturer, nailed his listed Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church. From that day, great theological changes – necessary changes ensued as the Reformation grew. Five hundred years later, we need to stop and remember the roots of the great Reformation.

Three Medallions of the Reformation:

In the Library of Prague in the Czech Republic, there are displayed three medallions dated 1572. The first is engraved with the figure of John Wycliffe. He is depicted as striking a spark from a stone. The second is engraved with the figure of John Hus kindling a fire from the sparks Wycliffe had supplied. The last medallion shows Martin Luther holding high a flaming torch ignited by the previous reformers.

These three; an Englishman, a Bohemian, and a German were used of God to bring about the Great Reformation. There were others of course, like Peter Waldo who preached a simple faith in God’s word. Waldo and his followers, (the Waldensians) the unbiblical practices of the Roman Catholic Church such a prayer for the dead and the Catholic teachings of sacraments (religious ritual and rites), purgatory, and transubstantiation. These same issues also troubled Luther. Many of the reformers ultimately died by execution at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church… for their faith.

At that time, the Roman Catholic Church controlled the masses of people. It was a far cry from the New Testament Pauline church of “the body of Christ.” Its traditions and ecclesiastical structure had replaced the once vibrant Spirit-led church of the 1st century. While Luther was reading the great Bible book of Romans – a book he had read, translated, and taught many times before – he could not leave Romans 1:17, which says, 

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.(Romans 1:17 (KJV).

Questions then exploded into Luther’s head; “What does it mean that “the just shall live by faith?” “Could there be a righteousness found in faith alone?” The answer is, Yes! As the Apostle Paul unequivocally wrote;

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV)

Luther started to see Paul’s teaching – that our righteousness before God comes only “by grace through faith” – it is not tied to religious works that we have done, which is what Luther had been previously taught. He now saw that a man, woman or child could be declared righteous before God simply on the basis of grace through faith in Christ’s cross alone, not on the basis of religious performance. The righteousness of God is revealed, Paul said, “from faith to faith.”

Luther continued his studies. As he did, he saw abuse and contrast to Biblical teachings within the Roman Catholic Church. His goal was to bring to light that which the Holy Spirit had revealed to him. He chose of his writings, in particular, the now famous Ninety-Five Theses to express his newfound revelation.

His goal was that the Roman Church see that they had wandered from the sacred Scriptures and would return again to a Biblical based theology. Instead, there was parting of the ways and Luther was summoned to the Diet (Dee-et) of Worms to explain and recant his teachings, He was glad to openly defined his beliefs. In so doing, he hoped to convert them to the revelation of “justification by faith.” Instead, he was declared a heretic and an enemy of the church.

The subsequent separation from the Roman Catholic Church and the addition of more reformers brought forth the label “Protestant,” for they protested the doctrines and ecclesiastical abuse found within the formal church. The counter-reformation by the Roman Church and subsequent persecution of the protestant guaranteed the 500 years of separation to this day.

Thank you, Lord, for the Reformation cry of “Sola fide,” the Latin term for “by faith alone” – we stand justified, having right standing before God by “by faith” alone.