October 31st what most people call Halloween was originally called All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints Day. The festival was initially instituted to remember the people who were martyred for the faith and the great men of women of faith that have gone before us.
On October 31st 1517, 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church castle door in Wittenberg. The 95 theses were points to be debated during a formal academic debate concerning the selling of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church. For Protestants, this day is now Reformation Day.
So how did a call for an academic debate in a small town start a reformation? The recently invented printing press aided in moving things along and escalating them to the leaders in the Catholic Church because the 95 theses were translated from Latin to the local German language, printed and distributed to the common people. This was the spark that started the Protestant Reformation.
Before we go much further many Protestants don’t even know they are Protestants. The word protestant was a derogatory term given to the reformers meaning “pro-test-ant,” someone who protests. The dictionary defines it as:
Protestant – a member or follower of any of the Western Christian churches that are separate from the Roman Catholic Church and follow the principles of the Reformation, including the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches.
The Protestant Reformation is an important part of our church history but many modern Christians have little or no knowledge of the reformers of the past and what principals they stood for. Why did they break from the Roman Catholic Church? Who was John Huss, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, John Knox and many others and what did they stand for? It’s a shame these men contended for the faith we enjoy and we don’t even know why there was a reformation. If we don’t learn what they fought for and against there is a danger we could go full circle and be under the same conditions today and not even be aware of it.
The big question of the Protestant Reformation was, “How is someone saved?” Another question was on the authority of scripture compared to the authority of the Church. Do church councils and papal decrees have equal authority with scripture? What if scripture does not support them? Can the church be in error or are church decrees divinely inspired similar to the scriptures?
How is someone saved? The reformers believed, man was saved by (1) Grace Alone, through (2) Faith Alone, and this faith is in (3) Christ Alone, for the (4) Glory of God Alone, and the proof and guide for all Christian beliefs is (5) Scripture Alone. The Roman Catholic Church has a system of 7 sacraments which are based on grace but also require works.
Did you know, at the time of the reformers, there was no such thing as a salvation prayer or a “repeat after me.” Today, we are highly focused on the person and the decision they make to follow Christ. The reformers were Christ-centered. Christ’s work is complete and perfect and this is applied to the sinner to save him or her. Consider the attitude in the Bible, not one time in the New Testament did Jesus, Paul, John, or Peter ever thank someone for having faith. However, Paul thanked God for the Colossian’s faith. The ESV Bible contains 65 verses with the word “thank” none of them thank the sinner for coming to Christ. All of them on this subject thank God for what He has done. If all thanks go to God, then the work is all God’s. God even gives us the required faith. See a sermon on God giving us faith here.
Notice above there are 5 statements with the word “ALONE.” These are called the 5 Solas of the Reformation. The word sola is Latin for the word alone. Read more about the Solas here.
The reformers were not unanimous on everything but on these 5 things they were in agreement. Maybe it’s time we looked at what they believed, compare it to what we believe and compare both of them to scripture.