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What was the Reformation and is it important today?
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31st October 2017 marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of university church in Wittenberg. Luther didn't want to separate from the Roman Catholic Church, but rather wanted to highlight some of the beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church at the time in order to inspire change.
Rather than changing the Bible in order to accommodate his beliefs, Luther was a monk who studied the Bible for himself and came to the same conclusion that millions of people do today: there is nothing I can do to save myself, I am only saved through the work of Jesus Christ alone.
At the time, the Catholic Church were in need of finances for their building projects. To fund these projects, indulgences, paying for less time in purgatory for yourself or a loved one, became common place. Johann Tetzel was responsible for collecting these indulgences in Germany, and his actions led Luther to respond by writing his 95 theses, 95 points or arguments to raise thought and objection to this non-biblical practice. Nailing them to the church door, the common place for notices, meant that when people would go to church, they would see his arguments.
It was only when these 95 theses were copied on the printing press that Luther's actions became well known. People were able to read his arguments far from Wittenberg, and the result led to the Diet of Worms (Assembly in Worms, Germany) in 1521. Standing before Emperor Charles V, Luther was asked to renounce or reaffirm his beliefs. Refusing, Luther declared:
I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.
Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. Concerned for Luther's life, Fredrick III faked a highway robbery and hid Luther in the castle at Wartburg. While in the castle between 1521 and 1522, Luther translated the New Testament from ancient Greek into German, allowing many people to read the Bible for the first time in a language they understood. His hiding also allowed him to publish other documents to spread biblical theology.
This, coupled with many other people growing with dissatisfaction at the Catholic Church's teachings, led to groups of people being referred to as Protestants, starting churches that were absent of the Pope's authority and with a strong emphasis on the teachings of the Bible, not on church traditions.
Today there are millions of people who continue the same premise idea as Luther: that salvation is found in Christ alone, not in our own works.
It is important to understand that the Catholic Church underwent its own reformation, known as the Counter-Reformation. Although largely an attempt to strengthen the beliefs practised before the Reformation, it does highlight that the Reformation affected all sides substantially with far reaching changes that are still in place today.
In summary, the Reformation took place because of the dissatisfaction at some beliefs within the Catholic church. Martin Luther, although not alone or necessarily first of the Reformers, did lead the start of the Reformation by nailing his 95 Theses to the Church door in Wittenberg. Today millions of people around the world declare that salvation is found in Christ alone through faith alone by grace alone and we find this in the scriptures alone. It is my hope that you will agree with this statement, regardless as to your current place of worship.
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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