October 31, 2015.
Do you know what today is? If you answered “Halloween,” you wouldn’t be wrong, but that’s not exactly the response I was looking for.
Today is also Reformation Day, which commemorates that time in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door at Wittenberg in Germany. Although this action was a customary way to initiate public debate, the content of Luther’s document was far from ordinary—his actions brought about great changes to Christianity, which had strayed from “the faith once delivered to the saints.” – Jude 1:3
Luther’s indignation began (but did not end) with the “sale of indulgences” by John Tetzel, a monk selling indulgence papers to lay folks who feared the fate of their dead loved ones and who were promised that “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”
The sale of indulgences was a means of raising money for the Church. Luther not only disputed this abuse of people (many of whom could hardly afford such an expense), he disputed what was, in effect, the “teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” (Titus 1:11)
Luther contested man-made traditions and church authority, both of which compromised the authority of God and the Bible, citing instead that:
the true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.” — Thesis 62 of 93
The results of the Reformation can be summed up in what are referred to as the Five Solas. The first one is this: sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone). From the authoritative nature of Scripture, the rest of the solas flow: sola fide (by faith alone); sola gratia (by grace alone); solus Christus (through Christ alone); soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone).
Great reformers, such as Luther, are not the only ones who can and ought to contend for the faith. Nor was the need for reforming Christian thought and practice a problem of the 1500s alone. Perhaps as you read the paragraphs above concerning indulgences, you were reminded of the pyramid schemes and prosperity preaching of today—or perhaps of more subtle “prone to wander, Lord I feel it” type of thinking that hits closer to home.
My hope is that Reformation Day is not only a day to be thankful to God for men like Luther, but that it also fans into flame a desire for us, as Christians, to think more biblically, be more discerning, and to boldly contend for the Gospel.
What is the Gospel? It can be summed up in this passage from I Corinthians 15:1-4:
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
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