Reformation 500—Your Seven-Day Countdown
Soon after Luther tacked his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Cathedral on October 31, 1517 the church ordered Martin Luther to recant and seek forgiveness. Instead, Luther penned an Open Letter where some of his most famous words were penned:
“Unless I am convinced of error by the testimony of Scripture…my conscience is taken captive by God’s word. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.”
As people flocked to acquire the German New Testament Luther had produced, the Word of God for the first time became available to the general public in their own native tongue. This revolutionary moment inspired five great doctrines (The 5 Solas) that undergirded the entire Reformation:
- Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)- The Catholic church of Luther’s day had elevated philosophical reason, church tradition and religious experience to equal standing with the Word of God. Luther changed all of this—elevating Scripture as the divine word of God and claiming it alone was the sole guide to life.
- Sola Deo Gloria (Glory of God Alone)– The clergy of Luther’s day had replaced the Glory of God with personal glory and the elevation of the priesthood. Luther argued that no one can bring glory to God and to self at the same time–and the leaders of the Catholic church were eaten up with personal pride, ambition and narcism. A burning passion for God’s glory–and His alone, field the Reformation.
- Sola Fide (Faith Alone)- The Catholic church taught that faith in Jesus, good works and right standing within the Catholicism were all necessary for salvation. This belief in meritorious deeds that could earn salvation led to the “Treasury of Merit” and the indulgences being sold. Luther stood on the words of Paul that the only way a person can be justified is by faith in Jesus Christ.
- Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)- It is by God’s grace alone and only by God’s grace that a person may be justified with God. There is nothing anyone can do to merit such a gift, and there is nothing but the gift of God’s grace that can justify a sinner. With this Luther demonstrates the Pope’s entire “Treasury of Merit” to be a sham and a fraud.
- Solus Christus (Christ Alone)- Nothing can save a sinner except Christ alone and he alone (and no other) is capable of saving a sinner. Nothing else adds to salvation found in Christ and it is only Christ who can save a sinner—and no amount of money can add anything to what Christ alone has done.
With these five central doctrines in hand, the “protesters” of the Catholic church ushered in a Protestant Reformation that has reshaped the landscape of the church—and elevated Christ alone to the highest place once again. If you “Speak where the Bible speaks,” follow “Priesthood of all”, believe only “Jesus saves” and find “nothing in your hand to bring, but simply to the cross to cling” you might owe Luther bigger thanks than you ever realized before!
But “protesting” Reformers did not always see eye to eye and nothing brought out a feverish debate like a discussion of the Lord’s Supper, also called “communion” or “Eucharist.” But that’s a tale for another day…How about tomorrow?
FACT & QUESTION TO PONDER: Did you know my freshman students at Lipscomb University are far more likely to base decisions on “personal experience” than upon the “Word of God”? Has Experience officially trumped Scripture for this emerging generation? If so, are we who are older to blame? Let me hear from you…