- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: September 20 2016 September 20 2016
Attending a worship service in your own language, the freedom to have and even read your own Bible, and the teaching, the message, the truth, the comfort that you are saved by Christ alone, through faith alone, by grace alone would not have been available to you 500 years ago. What started on the Eve of All Saints Day, 1517, with Luther's posting of the 95 Theses against indulgences not only greatly impacted Western culture, but sent shock waves through the Church that would change it forever!
While the Protestant Reformation effected and changed the economic, political and social landscape of sixteen-century Europe, it was at the heart a religious reformation primarily concerned with the pure and clear teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What began as very personal matter—Luther’s struggle for a right relationship to God—became a public movement in the Church. Luther's rediscovery of a “gracious God” in Christ struck a chord with a Church and a people who were thirsting and yearning to be set free from the guilt and burden of their sins!
Of course, exposing and refuting teachings on indulgences, penance, praying to saints, purgatory, and “doing what was in you” for your salvation which were so deeply entrenched in the traditions, ways, and the authority of the Roman Church would not come without a fight. Yet, for Luther and the Reformers the freedom that comes through Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone as proclaimed by Scripture alone was worth the fight!
Even when faced with the threat of being excommunicated from the Church and the very real prospect of death, Luther would not back down as he stood on the Scriptures’ teaching of Christ alone! With his conscience captive to the Word of God, Luther’s brave stand before the Holy Roman Emperor at the Diet of Worms (1521) is seen as one of “the most magnificent scenes of human history.” 1 To this day, Luther is still considered a national hero for the German state. And yet, Luther himself would boldly and candidly argue that the Reformation was not about him, not about any man, or any man against the church or state, but was solely about the God-man Jesus Christ who alone gives true freedom.
To be sure, Luther did not want to start a new church nor see the Western Church eventually splinter into various denominations. He also did not support radical movements such as The Peasants’ War of 1525. Luther simply wanted Scripture’s teaching of Christ to be set free from the shackles of medieval theology and the teachings and practices of the Roman Church that had obscured, distorted and even obliterated His person and work for us!
The 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation is a most significant milestone in Church history. It is a significant anniversary for the church and God’s people. As we embark on this important anniversary, we give thanks to the Lord of the Church for His guiding hand behind a historic movement that unleashed the Gospel of Jesus Christ and has preserved the proclamation of this Good News for nearly half a millennium!
How should a church body, a church and its people remember and celebrate such a significant anniversary? In anticipation of celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Erik Herrmann recently reflected, “As with many big anniversaries questions of relevance will once again arise: Why does the Reformation matter? What was at stake? What was it all about? Was it worth it? Does anything that Luther said or taught have meaning for us today? … As we close in on the 500th Reformation Day such questions will even begin to interest those who have no religious commitment to what took place then.” 2
With these very questions in mind, our Board of Outreach has been hard at work planning an event for our congregation and our community. On Thursday evening, November 3, Rev. Dr. Rod Rosenbladt will be here at Saint John’s to give a special presentation on the ongoing significance and relevance of the Lutheran Reformation. I encourage you not only to join us on November 3, but to invite your friends, relatives and neighbors to join you for this special event. It promises to be a most appropriate event kicking off a year-long celebration of God's grace to us in Christ!
In Christ Alone,
- Lewis W. Spitz, The Protestant Reformation (Concordia Publishing House, 2001), 69
- Erik H. Herrmann, “Reformation Remembered” (LutheranReformation.org/theology/reformation-remembered/)