The fact is, there are plenty of Christians—not to mention everyone else—who struggle to see the relevance of Reformation Day on October 31, and fewer again who could give a comprehensive reason as to why it’s so important. Who was Martin Luther? Isn’t October 31 actually Halloween? And why is he trying to hijack this popular day?
Reformation Day is the symbolic day on which the Protestant Church celebrates Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 theses to the castle door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. These theses were largely a protest against the current practice of indulgences, but included other calls for Christians to return to a more gospel-centric life. While Luther had no intention of sparking a revolution, his actions started a wildfire which spread all across Europe.
The truth is, I don’t know as much about Luther or the Reformation as I would like, but one thing I know for sure is that I’m thankful that I don’t have to pay indulgences. In a nutshell, indulgences were the practice that for a price, sins (either yours or your deceased family members’) could be forgiven for a sum of money, thus reducing or preventing time spent in purgatory (a place the Catholic church invented) before entering heaven. This money then went to help complete construction of St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. Seems like a good deal, right? Well, Luther was adamant that it was nothing short of blasphemy, and he said as much in his passionate denials throughout the 95 theses.
The Reformation also gave to the Christian church what have come to be known as The 5 Solas (they weren’t officially called that until the 20th century):
Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)—The bible alone is our highest authority
Sola Fide (Faith Alone)—we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ alone
Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)—that salvation comes as a gift of pure grace
Solus Cristus (Christ Alone)—Jesus Christ is the only Saviour and Lord
Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)—Glory belongs to God alone.
These 5 Solas sum up everything about the Christian faith and serve as the foundational pillars for the Protestant Church.
Salvation is by God’s grace alone,
on the basis of Christ alone,
received through faith alone,
to the glory of God alone,
made known to us through the authority of Scripture alone.
In addition to the Solas, I’m also grateful for Luther because on this side of the Reformation, we have the bible in our own language; we don’t have to pay financially to lift the guilt-trip (because money never saves); and we don’t have to go through a pastor, priest, or any other mediator to have access to our loving God. So this October 31st , as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation arrives; I’ll be celebrating Reformation Day. And there is much to celebrate.