I had to skip over the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses publication last week for an urgent message about Georgia football…
In the 16th century Christianity was in trouble. The Roman Catholic Church refused to let the Bible be translated into the common tongues of the people, preached that good works would lead to eternal life, and sold indulgences to forgive sins in record numbers.
On this day in 1517 it would all change.
Enter Martin Luther, German scholar and monk. His Latin education and rare access to the scriptures themselves led him to question the teachings of the Catholic Church. He says:
For a long time I went astray [in the monastery] and didn’t know what I was about. To be sure, I knew something, but I didn’t know what it was until I came to the text in Romans 1 [:17], ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ That text helped me. There I saw what righteousness Paul was talking about.
– Luther’s Works, Volume 54, P442
It was faith, not good works, that made one righteous.
In Wittenberg Germany, on the eve of the All Saints Day service, where Catholics gather to remember the recently deceased among them, Luther hung a document on the door of the church.
In his now famous 95 statements, he rebuked the sale of indulgences and pointed the church back to repentance and grace for salvation, not good works.
If indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
The protestant revolution had begun.
Soli Deo gloria.
I advice no one to enter any religious order or the priesthood, indeed, I advise everyone against it – unless he is forearmed with this knowledge and understands that the works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but that all works are measured before God by faith alone.
– Martin Luther