The Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation; (the Protestant Faith; the breaking away from the established Roman Catholic Church), began over 500 years ago when Martin Luther, a Catholic priest; pinned his ’95 Thesis’ to the church house door in Wittington, Germany, on October 31, 1517. Brother Luther’s thesis was written to Pope Leo X. In it, was a complaint regarding the selling of ‘indulgences’ for the remission of sins. Once a substantive donation was paid to the church, they would provide the donor with a ‘Get out of Hell card’; to be used for the donor’s benefit, or for a relative.
Luther confronted the church as he was concerned about the souls of men and leading them in the wrong direction regarding ‘eternal life’. He believed it was only the finished and sufficient work of the Lord Jesus Christ that made it possible for men to receive forgiveness of their sins, not the Papacy. The original use of these funds from Indulgencies was to underwrite the cost of taking care of poor and homeless children. Some 1,000 years later, during Brother Luther’s tenure, Pope Leo X had commandeered the considerable revenue to pay for the expense of building St. Peter’s Basilica inside the Vatican.
Unfortunately, the selling of ‘Indulgencies’ continues today; donors are led to believe that once they die, they will need to spend a period of time in ‘Purgatory’ (that’s a transitional place of death, to purify yourself for a time) before you can be accepted into God’s Heaven… You cannot make this stuff up. Now, Luther’s considerable intellect and controversial personality eventually fueled a bonfire that provoked a serious debate with the Catholic church. At the ‘Diet of Worms’, he steadfastly said: “that unless he could be persuaded by plain reason and the Word of God, he would not budge from his position, and would stand on the Word-of-God, because he could do no other.” The papacy was not amused and finally decided to excommunicate Luther from the Catholic church. In retrospect, I find it interesting that nowhere in God’s Word, is the practice of ‘Indulgences’ found. And I can’t imagine that anyone, the Pope included, would try and discuss this practice with our Father-in-Heaven; I’m confident that God would have said NO!… but I digress.
It’s important to understand that it was Luther’s study of Scripture that led him to oppose the church on this issue; he was convinced, rightly so, that Scripture held sway over church tradition. It is only God’s Word that provides a clear path regarding Salvation; a sinner can only be made righteous through the sufficient and completed work of our Lord-and-Savior, Jesus Christ. It is also Luther’s re-discovery of justification by faith in Christ alone, that encouraged him to take on the Catholic church. Luther also translated the entire Bible from Latin into German, enabling the first copy of God’s Word to be read by the public. And less than 100 years later, the Bible would be translated into English, allowing it to spread around the world. Another aspect of Luther’s ministry was re-introducing the biblical view of a believer as a priesthood; acknowledging that all people and their work have purpose and dignity as they serve their Creator God. And finally, the Protestant Reformation spread across the world, as God wanted man to know Him personally, wanted him to focus on spiritual authority, not man’s ideology.