Much of our world has forgotten that today – October 31 – commemorates a significant event for those of us who are Protestants. Five hundred and one years ago (1517), a courageous Martin Luther nailed a document – his 95 Theses – on the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany. His declaration began the debate that would become the Protestant Reformation.
As Luther, a former law student tuned monk, studied Scripture, he realized the Church had strayed from the teachings of the Bible. He did not intend to divide the Roman Church. He simply wanted leaders to return to the authority of Scripture. Through greed, arrogance, and church corruption, church leaders had substituted God’s inerrant Word for man’s ideas, doctrines, and decrees. People had been led to believe that good works and giving to the Church could secure their and their loved ones’ eternal destinies. Luther, however, rediscovered a basic principle found in both the Old and New Testaments: “… the righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17). (See other Scriptures below.) Finally he was forced to choose the gospel over man’s laws and was excommunicated from the Church in 1721.
Luther realized that the common person – not just the priests – needed to know God’s Word. He translated the Latin Scriptures into German so that any literate person could study the Bible for himself. Many people, however, could not read, so Luther and several of his followers wrote hymns to teach God’s Word. These paraphrased the Psalms, taught doctrine, and celebrated special occasions such as Christmas and Easter. Luther loved to sing and introduced congregational singing as part of worship, and the first Reformed hymnal was produced in 1529.
Today we look back on those days in the 16th century with great joy as we realize that Luther and many others paved the way and sacrificed much so that we can enjoy reading Scripture and worshiping in our own language.
And he (Abraham) believed the Lord, and he (God) counted it to him as righteousness (Gen.25:6).
…but the righteous shall live by his faith (Habakkuk 2:4).
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).