Last year was a landmark year for Protestant Christians. People from all over the world gathered in big groups and small groups and everything in between to recognize the achievements of the Reformation. This reached a climax on October 31, which marked the 500thanniversary of what many call the start of the Protestant Reformation. On that day in 1517, Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany. That event, though unbeknownst at the time, would go on to change the world.
Even though last year’s anniversary celebrations garnered a lot of attention, I believe that most Christians still don’t know what the Reformation was all about and why it was so revolutionary. I recently stumbled across a very helpful quote from historian Bruce Shelley that explains what was at the heart of the Protestant Reformation. It helps us understand what Luther and the many other Reformers were protesting against. Here it is:
Martin Luther….. “took four basic Catholic (Roman Catholic) concerns and offered invigorating new answers. To the question, how is a person saved? Luther replied, “not by works but by faith alone.” To the question, where does religious authority lie? he answered, “not in the visible institution called the Roman church but in the Word of God found in the Bible.” To the question, what is the church? he responded, “the whole community of Christian believers, since all are priests before God.” And to the question, what is the essence of Christian living? He replied, “serving God in any useful calling, whether ordained or lay.” To this day any classical description of Protestantism must echo those central truths.” (page 257 Church History in Plain Language – 4thedition, by Bruce Shelley)
We could take a lot of time to unpack the significance of these new answers to truly foundational questions. However, we will save that for another blog post at another time. I will commend to you the study of church history and the study of the Reformation in particular. This was titanic movement and work of God through the means of ordinary men and women. It is certainly something we can celebrate and praise God for, even centuries later.