501 years ago today, Martin Luther, a German monk, confronted Roman Catholicism. His rejection of several of their teachings and bold obedience to Scripture caused a ripple of effects throughout Europe in the 16th century. Shining as a light in the dark, Luther spoke out against a church of the world and called for massive reform.
What I mean by “church of the world” is the Roman Catholic church was not Sola Scriptura. They did not fear God and keep His commandments; they did not revere the ultimate Truth of the Scriptures. The Protestant Reformation, as a whole, disputed with the Roman Catholic church about the sinfulness of man and the reality of grace given only through the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Martin Luther merely ignited a flame for intense conformity to the grace of God that the Catholic church rejected. Although he is known as one of the most important figures in the Protestant Reformation, he was not alone. Other saints in this era stood firmly upon the belief in the Gospel, and their faith rooted in the Truth has also transformed reformed Christianity as we know it today.
Reformed Christianity as we know it today is being reformed from a worldly church into a church that relies on the Bible as the ultimate authority. Unlike the Catholic Church in the 16th century, which looked to man as authority and merit for their own means of salvation, Luther called out this hypocrisy. It truly was a “trumpet of rebellion”. Luther’s 95 Theses proclaimed the Gospel, which disputed the man-made religion of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic church didn’t believe their helpless estate without Christ (Romans 3:23). They embraced the Gospel for secular advantage—believing mere indulgences could make them right with a holy and just God totally disregarded the all atoning death of His Son, Jesus.
Christians, we are dead in our sin without Christ. Nothing we do can bring us to life—dead men can’t raise themselves (Ephesians 2:5). It is only by the grace of God, which is made known to us through the Gospel, that raises the dead to life. Luther knew he was a sinner and could offer nothing to God.
It is finished. It is finished! Soli Deo Gloria.
Christ took the punishment and perfection for our wickedness against a holy God atoned for our salvation. Prideful, worldly, sinful men don’t want to believe that. It is in our sinful nature to want to fear man and keep their commandments instead of fearing our Lord and keeping His statutes. People want to hear from religion they are morally good people, but this is not what they need to hear.
We could never earn our salvation because of our “good works”, and Martin Luther exposed this heresy in Catholicism (Romans 5:9). The Bible gives us an accurate depiction of our fallen condition, and this is what the Church needs to be preaching. We don’t need a pope, a priest, or worldly pardons as atonement for salvation. All we need is Christ…His blood shed was the substitute for our sin. This is the good news.
I want to keep this short and sweet and leave you with some of the following Scriptures:
“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…” Philippians 2:13-16
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
“Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.” Malachi 3:18
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24
I urge you to be bold in your faith like our fellow brother, Luther. Conform to Christ and not to this world. Conform to grace. Conform to what the Scriptures say are holy and pleasing to the Lord. The Word of God is going to last. This world will not. God will reward His children, despite the trials of opposition they will face.
The Protestant Reformation was all about grace and the Gospel. Let us always remain dependent on the sovereign Word of God even when the world rises against it. God used a sinner like Luther to show us His Word is our rule, and His will is our security.
Martin Luther was a sinner saved by grace and sustained by grace, who happened to change the world for the sake of the true Gospel. When the truth of the Scriptures becomes the consciousness of our hearts, we can then have a transformed life.
“My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” – Martin Luther