Five Hundred Years

Today marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

October 31, 1517, marked the date when a Roman Catholic monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Luther never intended to leave the Roman Catholic Church. He wanted to reform it. He particularly wanted to end the practice of buying indulgences (remission of punishment for sin).

The result of that day in history has been one of the most significant events in (as a friend of mine has said) the last 1000 years.

Martin Luther came to this point by reading Holy Scripture. He was particularly moved to learn in Romans that we are justified (made right with God) by faith.

The significance of Scripture and justification by faith formed two of the most significant beliefs and results of what Luther did. The reformers believed with Luther that Scripture alone provided the basis for an understanding of God and what matters to Him. They also believed that salvation is by the grace (unmerited favor) of God as expressed in a faith relationship with God.

Sola Scriptura, a Latin phrase meaning “Scripture Alone,” became the best remembered phrase of the early reformers. Luther and the reformers meant that Scripture alone is the final authority for what The Baptist Faith and Message today calls “faith and practice.” In other words, Scripture, not opinion or feelings or learned experts, is the answer to what we believe and how we behave.

God’s Word continues to be the center of the debate of how we live and believe. It is the answer to the greatest needs of our life. It is the only book that when you are reading it, “the Author is present to teach you” (Shari Abbott).

Though five hundred years have passed, we still need the emphasis of Luther on the necessity of Scripture alone and the truth of justification by faith. Apart from these we can never truly understand God and His work in our world.

Do our churches need the emphasis from October 31, 1517? Do we need to look closely at our heart’s devotion to God and to the needs of a hurting world around us? Do we need to recognize anew that we cannot reform or change but that we speak in the name of the One who can both change and renew?


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