We are at the doorstep of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (Oct 31, 1517) where a monk with a hammer changed the course of the church. Martin Luther posted 95 theses to the door at Wittenberg castle in the hope of bringing an end to the abuse of purchasing salvation through buying indulgences. The issues of the Reformation are still essential today. Unfortunately, five centuries can dull our appreciation and understanding of the enormous impact that a monk and a hammer had.
The word “reformation” comes from the Latin verb reformo, which means “to form again”, or “restore.” At its core, the Reformation is about getting back to the true gospel of Jesus Christ that had been corrupted by the Catholic Church through adding works to salvation. However, we cannot earn or buy our salvation, but are saved solely on what Christ has done – salvation is by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9). Christ alone has paid the penalty for our sin and suffered on our behalf (Rom 3:24-28; 2 Cor 5:15-21).
The same issues that were at the heart of the Reformation during Martin Luther’s day are still issues today, only with different players and in a different cultural context. There is still a great chasm between the Catholic Church’s man-centered, works-based salvation and the true gospel of grace. Yet it seems some are wandering back to Rome and away from Christ and justification by grace through faith.
Martin Luther’s bold stand on the doorstep of Wittenberg brought about a seismic and colossal change—a move back to the biblical gospel of grace. It is through the Reformation that we have the five solas (Latin for “alone”): salvation is in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, standing on the foundation of Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone. We must not forget the lessons of the Reformation because the very gospel is at stake.