Chronologically, the fourth event that is important to church history occurred on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted what would become known as the Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Castle Church. Luther’s act of nailing a dissenting opinion was the event that finally precipitated the Reformation. Luther being cognizant that God was using him as an instrument of change is certainly something that he and God can only truly know. Regardless, Luther’s bravery or naiveté brought about a change that has not been seen since.
“Luther gradually found assurance that sinners won acceptance from God the Father – were ‘justified’ – not actively, through their good deeds, but passively and simply by faith that Christ had died on the Cross to save them.” (1)
The Most Important OpED of the Day
This posting would be considered in today’s terms more as an Op Ed or opinion editorial, with the difference being such an act was considered heresy in the Sixteenth Century. To be critical of the Catholic Church was heresy, which was similar to treason to one’s country of origin. Treason was and still is punishable by immediate execution in many parts of the world. Many of the forms of execution with respect to heresy were excruciatingly painful, some being burned to death.
To Luther’s Credit
Luther did garner public opinion, and his name is synonymous with the Reformation, however, there were many who came before Luther who were just as bold, and felt the torch as proof. For example, John Huss refused to recant the truth and on July 6, 1415 was burned at the stake. Luther certainly deserves the credit for making a public manifesto of the disturbance of his soul that no doubt had to be placed there by God. This event is significant as it forced Luther to take a stand on matters of his heart and his understanding of the scripture. Luther attempted to purify the teaching of the Catholic Church with his posting. Luther’s stand actually caused his seclusion.
Perhaps the Most Important 8 Months in the Modern Era
“Those eight months were some of the most profitable ever spent on behalf of the church.” (2)
While in seclusion, Luther translated the New Testament into the common German language of the day. The Catholic Church would come under scrutiny by many as a result. Luther did not stop here in being a trouble maker to the Church. He was the first to introduce congregational singing into the church. Luther would go on to question and even tear down many church traditions. He would challenge the need for a mediator between God and man. Luther encouraged priests to marry. He opened his home to many of the most talented men of the time. These actions and those of his predecessors paved the way for a new brand of Christianity later referred to as the Protestant Movement. Luther is given credit for four great pillars that would become the foundation of the Protestant Church. They were:
- First, Scripture alone as it relates to matters of doctrine;
- Second, Christ alone so people had direct access to God through Christ;
- Third, by grace alone as Christ initiates all relationships to God through Christ; and
- Fourth, through faith alone as man can be saved only through faith in God’s profound grace.
Luther’s stand for what he thought was right led to many great changes in Christianity. This is why this event is so important to Christianity.
(1) Mullet, Michael, Martin Luther’s ninety-five Thesis. History Review, Sept. 1, 2003
(2) Garlow, James, God And His People, 182