Reformation Day

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Reformation Day Ė What is it?
Reformation Day, also known as The Festival of the Reformation, recognizes the start of the Protestant Reformation. It commemorates the act where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Church in 1517.

The holiday has been celebrated since 1567, but the exact dates have varied. In 1717, October 31 was set at the official day to commemorate the event, but churches often apply the Sunday prior to October 31 as Reformation Sunday.

Reformation Day and Martin Luther
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a revolutionary of his time, serving as a priest and professor of theology. He wrote his 95 Theses as an expression of his concern with corruption within the Roman Catholic Church. His ideas served as the catalyst for an eventual break from the Roman Catholic Church.

One of the major issues Luther had with the Roman Catholic Church involved indulgences. In 1517, before Luther wrote his Theses, Pope Leo X offered indulgences to those who gave alms to rebuilt St. Peterís Basilica in Rome. Johann Tetzel was the commissioner for these indulgences and was confronted by Luther.

Indulgences were full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven. In other words, a person could buy an indulgence, which would release him from having to exact penitence for his sins. An indulgence could also be purchased to reduce the amount of time a loved one spent in purgatory. Luther interpreted this practice as a way to buy salvation from sin and somehow purchase Godís favor. He denounced such transactions and called out the greed and corruption of such practices.

Instead, Luther taught:

  • Salvation is not earned by good works. He believed salvation to be a free gift of God and a result of faith in Jesus Christ.
  • The Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge, rather than tradition or papal decrees. Lutherís is often quoted as saying: ďI cannot choose but adhere to the Word of God, which has possession of my conscience; nor can I possibly, nor will I even make any recantation, since it is neither safe nor honest to act contrary to conscience! Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God! Amen.Ē
When Luther nailed his 95 Theses, he fully understood that he faced excommunication and maybe even death. To stand against the Roman Catholic Church, and create disenchantment among the people, was considered heresy against God Himself. In 1521, Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church by Pope Leo X. A death warrant was issued, but Luther was protected by Prince Frederick of Saxony. While in protection, Luther translated the Bible into German, making it available to the common people. Luther died in 1546.

The day we celebrate as Reformation Day continues to be a central rallying point for all of those who choose to follow Christ by faith according to His Word. Are you willing to stand against the popular ideas of your day and to present Godís Word as your guide for salvation and living?

Read the 95 Theses


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