October 31st, in addition to being Halloween, is known as Reformation Day. In 1517 a German monk named Martin Luther was appalled by the Catholic Church’s sale of pieces of paper signed by the pope that claimed to provide indulgences, that is, forgiveness of the penalties of sins, to free souls from Purgatory. On October 31st he posted an invitation to debate the practice. In it he suggested 95 points for discussion. The world has never been the same, because, looking for a debate, he got a revolution.
Printers translated and issued copies of the 95 Theses, as they were called, and Martin Luther’s arguments took Europe by storm. The last thing Luther had in mind was to start a new church. But when the Catholic hierarchy refused to deal seriously with the problems that concerned Luther—and hundreds of thousands of other Christians—the church split. The Lutheran Church came into being. In the years that followed the movement spread. Some felt Luther didn’t go far enough with his reform ideas and started their own movements.
Luther’s insights sprang out of one of the most important teachings of the Bible: “The just shall live by faith”—a thought so important it is repeated four times: Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38.
As Luther developed the meaning of those verses, he stressed that salvation is by faith alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone. We cannot work for salvation or buy it. It is God’s free gift. When the pope and other churchmen pushed back, citing tradition and the pope’s authority, Luther said the clear teaching of Scripture trumps both pope and tradition.
Now 500 years after the Reformation, you can learn about many of the changes that Luther set in motion by watching our award-winning video This Changed Everything. Among the changes Luther brought about directly or indirectly are thousands of different Protestant denominations, marriages made for love rather than for social status, and a greater say by individuals in their personal beliefs.
This post is part of an ongoing series sharing the lasting impact of Torchlighters heroes. You can introduce children to Martin Luther through the Torchlighters episode portraying his life story and our free downloadable curriculum and our custom Five Solas coloring sheet!