October 31 reminds most of Halloween and of ghosts, goblins and kids dressed in costumes wandering through the streets on Halloween “trick or treating,” but most people know little about what October 31 means to the church. It means much more. For Protestants, October 31 is a very special date because it marks the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his famous ninety-five theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany (pictured here).
When the Reformation began in Germany, Dr. Rev. Martin Luther was a Catholic priest and theologian who only wanted to see the beloved church reform some of the ways it looked and practiced theology. The Church has gone astray because it began to attach a price to the salvation of souls. It taught people that paying for indulgences would earn them and their family a shorter stay in purgatory. The Pope encouraged the sales of indulgences and would even issue a certificate by the church. Behind this was the goal of raising of funds to help pay for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
At the core, for Luther, was the issue of trusting in God’s righteousness rather than doing good works to earn God’s righteousness. Luther saw this doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone as central to the gospel. This most important theological truth was being freshly revealed to generations of Christians in the 16th century. Luther identified this truth as the head and cornerstone of our church’s doctrine, and even of the Church’s very existence. He was convinced of this truth and was determined to defend it, preach it, and teach it so that the world may know the truth and be set free from the enslavement and guilt of their sins.
This theological issue justification by grace through faith became a big controversy that eventually grew into a huge movement that went even beyond Lutheranism. It brought about a great reformation and birthed the Lutheran Church and other protestant churches around the world. As the church on earth today, we must continue to defend, to teach and preach this doctrine for the glory of God and for the salvation of all God’s people. (pic1: door of Castle Church; pic2: sale of indulgences in a church)