So I will start by saying that this is our first year (ever) that we are celebrating Reformation Day. I must admit that it wasn’t until recently that I even knew what Reformation Day WAS (funny as it is that our family has claimed to be reformed for the past couple years, LOL). This is our first year in an actual reformed church as well, so all of this is new to us. I must admit that I quite like the idea of celebrating a holiday that has to do more with God than one that is concerned with gouls, goblins, witches and demons. So, needless to say, I was thrilled and jumped at the idea of starting a tradition with our son where we could celebrate God and where the glory could once again be pointed back to Him.
In this post, I would just simply like to briefly go over what Reformation Day really is, a little of the history behind it and what truly is the purpose in celebrating it as a holiday.
Many of you who have heard of Reformation Day will automatically think of Martin Luther and the 95 Theses that he “nailed: to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. I say “nailed” because there really is no evidence that he nailed it to the doors (though it sounds really good) besides that of a man who sat under the teaching of Martin Luther. The thing is, the man who claimed that Martin Luther nailed them to the door wasn’t even a student of Martin Luther until a year or two AFTER the 95 thesis was “nailed” to the door. So, we can say that he nailed them to the door, and it makes a really good movie, but can we be 100% sure of it ? No. But we can know that it was common back in that day to nail to the door of the local church petitions and documents that you wanted to be seen and discussed, which is why we can probably safely say that it is likely that Martin Luther did nail the thesis to the door of the church.
A thing that I think some may miss is that really, the Reformation had been in progress for many years, even before Martin Luther. Though I believe that God used Martin Luther to set in motion a great awakening in many, there were many men that helped to build the reformation that do not get as much credit as they should. One such man is John Wycliff, the man who first translated the Bible into Engish. He was alive 200 years before the Reformation, and yet held to the same beliefs and worked hard to spread them – though much of his focus was on keeping to the truth and validity of Scripture and not twisting or distorting it in any way. He is actually known as the “Morning Star of the Reformation”. He so angered and upset men, that even after his death they dug up his remains, burned them to ashes and threw his ashes into a river, in hopes that they could rid themselves of his teaching. That is what you call a man who really spoke the truth of God!
Another thing that most do not realize about Martin Luther, is that he never intended to cause such an explosion with his 95 Theses as he did. Originally, he had only intended the thesis to be used a platform for a discussion and debate. He actually sent the thesis out to many men to be read before he even posted them on the door at Wittenberg. It is evident that what he wanted was a healthy discussion/debate with those in the Roman Catholic church, mainly over the issue of indulgences. This also was not the first thesis that Martin Luther wrote, actually just a month before, Luther wrote a document of 97 thesis, mostly about the nature of man, but that thesis simply did not cause as much friction as his 95 thesis did. This 95 thesis most likely caused so much friction and anger in the Roman Catholic church because #1 – it called out the Roman Catholic church for the heresy that they were in, which they did not want to be made know. #2 – it called the pope out by name. Here are just a few of the ones that call the Pope out :
#86 Again: since the pope’s income to-day is larger than that of the wealthiest of wealthy men, why does he not build this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of indigent believers?
#89 What the pope seeks by indulgences is not money, but rather the salvation of souls; why then does he suspend the letters and indulgences formerly conceded, and still as efficacious as ever?
For those of you who do not know what an indulgence is, it was the Roman Catholic churches way of selling Salvation. They would take advantage of people who were fearful of death and purgatory, and tell them that if they bought these indulgences they were in essence buying their salvation. Most indulgences were for a specific time period and event, and therefore would expire very quickly, thus forcing the people to have to purchase more. But then, the Roman Catholic Church came up with a great idea to sell what they called Jubilee Indulgences, which were a 1 time purchase that you could make to secure your salvation permanently.
It was finally the Jubilee Indulgences that broke the straw on the camels back, so to say, and what drove Martin Luther to write out the 95 Theses. In the end, though the Roman Catholic church was so very rich, because they wanted to build a huge new church, they decided to rob the poor by selling them what they knew was untrue and deception. And thus the frustration that Martin Luther went through in trying to get others to understand that what the Roman Catholic Church was doing was far from biblical and was actually heretical. I don’t think that Luther had any idea how much God would use him in sparking the Reformation and bringing people back to Himself.
So what then is the true purpose of Reformation Day ? Is it all about celebrating Martin Luther and the stand that he took against the Roman Catholic Church ? Well, though that is a small part of it, and it IS good to remember those godly men that paved the way – that is NOT the most important part of the Reformation. If we dig deeper and truly look at this from a biblical standpoint, we will realize that since everything that we do needs to point back to Christ – then that should be where Reformation Day leads us. Not simply in the celebration of a mere man that was used as a tool of God, but in the remembrance of where God has brought us and that He should truly be at the center of our lives.
Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone
Solus Christus – Christ Alone
Sola Gratia – Grace Alone
Sola Fide – Faith Alone
Soli Deo Gloria – The Glory of God Alone
This is ultimately what the Reformation is all about, and what should be the focus of our hearts and minds as we celebrate this Reformation day with our family and friends. Though it doesn’t mean that you cannot have fun, watching movies about Martin Luther or reading books about great men of the Reformation – but in the midst of it all, let us place Christ in the center and remember that rather than making this a day to celebrate what man has done, know that without God Luther, and any other man, would not have done anything at all. Luther was simply the catalist that God used to share His word, may you and I be the same today and everyday.
God bless you my friends and siblings in Christ!
HAPPY REFORMATION DAY!
*I am including some links at the bottom of this page where you can read more into what Reformation Day really is and where you can read the 95 theses for yourself*
Martin Luther’s 95 Theses - http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/history/95theses.htm