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Protestant Reformation

The Protestant Reformation

In Wittenberg, Germany a man by the name of Martin Luther walked over to the castle church and nailed a paper to the door. It is recorded that this occurred on October 31st, 1517, a date which will live in infamy, a time that changed the world.

Community messages were often posted on the doors of the church. So Luther’s actions would not have seemed strange to anyone watching. The message on that paper, however, would alter history.

As a professor of theology in the Catholic church, Luther spent a lot of time studying the Bible. As the consequences of a life changing event Martin Luther was seized even more by the Words of the Bible. The more he studied, the more he found he disagreed with the doctrine of the Medieval Catholic church. The paper he nailed to the door of the Castle church listed 95 points of disagreement. Luther wasn’t’ necessarily trying to start a public dispute with the church. He didn’t realize that those 95 points, (now referred to as the 95 Theses), would spawn a revolution of thinking in Germany and across Europe and a revolt against the church establishment. Luther simply wanted to express his newly-discovered views of the Bible. He wanted to discuss them with other church leaders.

Without Luther’s knowledge, someone printed copies of his message on the newly-invented Gutenberg press. Those copies were distributed all over Germany. Within weeks, Luther’s list of differences became the talk of the day. It was at this point that The Protestant Reformation begin to pick up momentum.

Just what was the Protestant Reformation all about? What did Luther and others protest? The primary debate was the matter of salvation; how man could have his sins forgiven and be restored to a right relationship with his Creator-God. The established Catholic Church had taught that people could literally buy forgiveness for their sins with money given to the church hierarchy for that purpose. Luther’s 95 Theses protested this teaching. Luther and other reformers taught that God alone could grant forgiveness.

The reformers also taught that religion and good deeds could not save people. They taught that salvation came only through faith in God’s Son, Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus the Christ).”Through faith alone in Christ alone” began to be heard all over Europe. The reformers urged people to transfer their confidence for salvation from the church and its religious traditions to the Messiah alone. They encouraged people to read the Bible. They also preached that the Bible should serve as the Christian Believer’s final authority.

Of course the established Catholic Church of the day violently protested this rebellion of the authority that they had manipulated and held so dear. Many believers paid the price of this rebellion with deep, deep sacrifice to include torture, loss of loved ones and life itself. The Reformation not only gave birth to Protest-antism, but also brought about social, political, and economic changes.

One of the changes that the reformation produced is the Protestant doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. This concept later became the foundation for modern representative republics which is the governmental system of America. The equality of all men before God and the law undermined the absolutism of monarchs and popes who set themselves above the law.

Great sacrifices even of life and liberty were made so that common people could learn to read the Bible for themselves. As more people learned to read, more people also began to write in common languages. And as literature increased, public education followed. Primary schools began offering basic education in reading, writing, math, and religion.Educated people began to pursue careers outside the church. Protestantism taught that work was a gift of God. So people worked hard. This work ethic led to scientific discovery, inventions, and wealth.

Politically, the religious debate spurred the Eighty Years War and the Thirty Years War. It also influenced the English Civil War. These conflicts forever changed the face of Europe. The Reformation also spawned men such as John Wesley, George Whitefield and others who would later initiate The Great Awakening which occurred later in the American Colonies. Thus, the Godly principles that were introduced during the Reformation had a very direct relationship to the Biblical understanding of America’s founders. And of course the Biblical understanding of America’s founders had a great influence upon their approach to forming America as a Republic (as opposed to a democracy or monarchy), America’s Godly Heritage, and then subsequently basing America’s laws upon The Ten Commandments.

These great men were not the only influences.  The Baptists of the day also had an EXTRAORDINARY influence upon America in those early years

Historically Reformation Day commemorates Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses. While we do not hold to all of Luther’s theology, we do appreciate his contribution to Christian History. One of the many things that surfaced from the Protestant Reformation is “The five Sola’s”. The five Sola’s have come to be known as the defining description of a “Protestant”.

Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone
Solus Christus – Christ Alone
Sola Gratia – Grace Alone
Sola Fide – Faith Alone
Soli Deo Gloria – The Glory of God Alone

Today, all Believers owe these dear saints a debt we could never repay.  Still, I am confident that they would all say that the best way we could honor them to to continue advancing and maturing the True faith, absent the religious trappings that they all fought so hard to break off.

I’ll see you out in the field,
Parson Rayphe


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