While most people concern themselves with that other October 31 holiday (see previous post), I want to remind you that today is Reformation Day. On this date in 1517 an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of the cathedral in Wittenberg. The immediate cause of his frustration was clerical abuse – specifically the selling of indulgences. (Basically, an indulgence was a “get-out-of-purgatory-free” card; except they weren’t free. They were sold so people could spring relatives from purgatory or escape it themselves, with the proceeds used for various papal projects – in this case the building of St Peter’s basilica in Rome.
The Reformation, sparked by this German monk, was one of the great spiritual revivals of all time; one that continues to impact the world (and you and me) in a deep way. Of course there were a host of issues involved, but I submit that the chief benefit of Luther’s work was the return of the Word of God to the people. Prior to Luther, the Scriptures were not available in common language and most people, clergy and laity alike, had no access to them. Luther returned the Scriptures to the people and rediscovered in them the gospel by grace through faith alone.