More than 500 years ago on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Challenging the Catholic Church's doctrinal practices and perceived authority, this bold act sparked a movement now known as the Protestant Reformation.
Luther's Theses made the proclamation that salvation comes by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:21) - a statement in direct opposition to the common practices of the Catholic Church at that time. This Reformation Day, we hope you find a moment to share with your family the significance of this bold declaration for truth.
Five fast facts about the Protestant Reformation
Martin Luther did not intend to start a new church, but this act evolved into what we now know is the Protestant Reformation, which includes evangelical church denominations.
Luther completed his Greek to German translation of the New Testament in 1522 and with the help of scribes and assistants completed the Old Testament in 1534, completing his German Bible that played a major influence on English translation and the King James Version.
Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press around 1448 had a significant impact on the spread of ideas in Europe and beyond, including those of Martin Luther. This invention also aided in the printing of many Bibles across Europe.
It propelled the spread of literacy. Most scholars have concluded that the Reformation greatly advanced literacy because Protestantism, much more than Catholicism was religion of the Word, and therefore of reading, and because it insisted on every individual’s right to experience the Word for himself. Reading was promoted to enable to exercise this right.
Women were instrumental in the advancement of the message being conveyed through the reformation, often speaking out in public places that would go on to become Protestant republics.
Three easy ways to acknowledge Reformation Day
Check out these tree easy ways to recognize the day and learn more about the life of Martin Luther.
1. Wear red.
Plan to wear something red on Reformation Sunday. Red is the liturgical color that represents the Holy Spirit. It also reminds us of those who have been martyred for their faith in Jesus.
2. Read the 95 Theses.
Luther's Ninety-five Theses focused on three main issues: (1) selling forgiveness (via indulgences) to build a cathedral, (2) the pope's claimed power to distribute forgiveness, and (3) the damage indulgences caused to grieving sinners. You can read all 95 here.
3. Listen to "A Mighty Fortress is Our God"
This song is commonly referred to as the "Reformation Song." Many recognize this day by singing Martin Luther's most well-known hymn. Luther wrote both the lyrics and the tune to this hymn in 1529.
As you take time to celebrate on October 31, my hope is that you will also take a moment to acknowledge this momentous occasion that led to many of our common evangelical church practices today.