Oct. 31 is celebrated as Halloween. But the 31st is much more importantly known as Reformation Day.
Most of you probably know what took place on that day in A.D. 1517. The Augustinian monk and theology professor, Martin Luther, posted his famous 95 Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther challenged the Church for making people pay to be forgiven of sin, and his action is credited as a catalyst that changed the church and society.
Both peasantry and aristocracy had become aware that they had placed their faith in an organization, but they reformed their belief system and began placing their faith into Jesus Christ and in Scripture. Therefore, every facet of Western life -- economics, education, politics, science, religion, lifestyle, music -- was impacted in some way by that event.
The Reformation, of necessity, reformed their theology. Some Reformed Theological points are:
• The heart and soul of Reformed theology is the glory of the triune God.
• Reformed theology builds its doctrines upon the study and interpretation of the Bible, the written Word of God.
• It removes the emphasis from traditions of men.
• It affirms that we are saved by the gift/grace of God; salvation cannot be earned.
• It reaffirms the Biblical doctrines of God and Christ that form the backbone of true Christianity.
• It reestablishes Jesus Christ as our only mediator between man and God.
• It instructs us to live to please God, for Who God is.
• And, of course, this required the Bible to be available to the common folks in their own language.
The Reformation set people free from organizational bondage to the Augustinian-Roman Catholic Hierarchy. (However, as is the nature of man, Reformation leaders immediately began adding their own man-made traditions to Reformed Theology, but that's another story for another time.)
Martin Luther was an interesting person. One opponent said Luther was a demon who looked like a man; and a friend, who at first doubted Luther's beliefs, declared that Luther, alone, was right. Refusing to break from the Roman Catholic Church, Luther exclaimed that a simple layman armed with the Scriptures was superior to both pope and councils without Scriptures. That angered both pope and cardinals to no end, and he was threatened with excommunication from the Church.
Excommunication is intended to frighten people into submission because the Church was the center of social and spiritual life. But that didn't faze Luther. Called to Worms, Germany, in 1521 for what Luther thought would be a debate, he realized that he was on trial and was commanded to renounce his stand.
Luther replied, "Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds of reasoning ... then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience." After a powerful, yet carefully-worded speech, he added, "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen."
Receiving a summons from Rome to appear before the Pope, Luther prepared to go, thinking he would finally be able to convince the Holy See of the truth found in the Bible. But Luther's friends learned that the summons was a ploy to murder him, so they intercepted him and hauled him to safety to the Wartburg Castle in Saxony. Not a man to waste time, Luther spent the next year translating the New Testament into German.
He said, "It is the duty of every Christian to espouse the cause of the faith, to understand and defend, and to denounce every error." But Luther didn't mean to fight in war. He meant to stand on principles. Nevertheless, many who listened to him took the idea too far and incited a failed rebellion. In the German Peasants War (1524-1525), almost 100,000 peasants were slaughtered.
Luther died in 1546, but his words live on. However, the seeds of the Reformation had already been sprouting. Peter Waldo in the 1100s, John Wycliffe and Jan Hus in the 1300s, Luther and Arminius in the 1500s, Zwingli and Calvin later in the 1600s, and hundreds more were involved in the Reformation because people and God wanted change.
Positive change happens when people understand Christ's teachings and stand firm. Therefore, we need to be strong in the Lord and be of good courage. Our mighty defender will see us through to the end.
Take note: The Reformation is still in progress.
--S. EUGENE LINZEY IS A TEACHER, AUTHOR, AND MENTOR. SEND COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS TO [email protected] VISIT HIS WEBSITE AT WWW.GENELINZEY.COM. THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR.Editorial on 10/30/2019
Print Headline: Reformation Day -- 2019