This week I’d like to teach you about something you may not have heard of before: The Protestant Reformation. It happened 500 years ago on October 31, 1517, when a man named Martin Luther (not to be confused with Martin Luther King), who was a priest and professor in Wittenberg, Germany, had some new ideas different from the church back then. He wrote them all down, 95 of them, and nailed them on the church door there. Now, he knew when he did this that everyone would see and read them and most of the other priests would disagree with him, but he was very brave anyway.
His act started a reformation, a “re-forming” or making corrections as he understood the views of the church. The people who agreed with Luther came to be known as Protestants because they “protested” the beliefs of the church at that time. There were others who joined with Luther. Another famous reformer was John Calvin, a Frenchman. He also helped to redefine the views of the church.
There were five main parts to this movement. Today, we mostly take them for granted in our Protestant churches, but back then, these were new ideas. 1. Scripture Alone. We believe that the Bible is God’s holy word, and it is our ultimate authority. Not any church, church leader, church council, or our own personal feelings is above the Bible’s teaching. 2. Christ Alone. Our salvation is entirely by Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection for our sins. He lived and died to save us. 3. Faith Alone. We are saved by our faith in Jesus Christ only. We cannot earn our salvation through good works. If we are Christians, we will want to do good things, but that is not how get salvation. 4. Grace Alone. We are saved because God loves us and forgives us through His grace. We don’t deserve it, but God is gracious and claims us as His own when we repent and believe on Him. 5. Glory to God Alone. All honor, glory, and credit go to God and only God – not any human being or organization. We only worship and praise Him.
These truths still apply to us today. Many people rely upon their own thinking or tradition for spiritual instruction instead of Scripture. Many look to human achievements instead of God’s grace alone through faith alone in and because of Jesus’ work alone. Many desire the applause and credit themselves instead of desiring the glory of God alone.
We owe much to the Protestant Reformers who rethought the way Christianity was being practiced. Many “Protestant” denominations were begun because of these ideas. Enjoy this Sunday as we commemorate the Protestant Reformation’s 500th Anniversary!
Let’s say a prayer together. Father God, thank You for giving us salvation and forgiveness through Your love and grace. We know Your Son Jesus died for our sins, so we might be saved. We give You all honor, glory, and praise now and forever. Amen.
Ann Moody is pastor of Wilkesville First Presbyterian Church.