On October 31st 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Although not Martin Luther’s intention at the time, it triggered the Protestant Reformation. Luther confronted teachings of the Roman Catholic church that had no basis in scripture. Some of the most significant and fundamental theological reforms were the rejection of the authority of the papacy (based on the argument that there is no biblical authority or principle for a ‘pope’) and the proclamation of the doctrine of justification i.e. that man is saved by faith alone in Christ alone. Many had been denied this wonderful biblical truth that salvation is an unmerited gift of grace from the Lord, a biblical truth plainly stated:
For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.– Ephesians 2:8-9
The great wonderful news had been, for reasons such as greed and the desire for power, denied to the people.
Around the time of Martin Luther, emerged another ‘father of the reformation’, John Calvin. Considered by many to be one of the best bible teachers of all time, he wrote ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’, a body of work which clearly and profoundly explained biblical doctrines. His aim was to explain the Christian faith to those who had little to no understanding of it. His influence in the city in which he later pastored, Geneva, was immense. His theologically uncompromising and bold preaching influenced not only Geneva, but spread in its influence across Europe. In Geneva, today, stands the Reformation Wall, a tribute to the reformers and it depicts in the centre: William Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza and John Knox. Their influence cannot be denied.
The reformers and the Protestant Christians were faced with heavy opposition but by the grace of God, they stood firm on the truth of God’s word. The desire of the reformers to be obedient to the word of God and to declaring that the authority of the bible alone is enough for all theological matters created for them many enemies.
But the boldness of the reformers led to the spreading of the true gospel of Jesus Christ and a transformation of Europe, and later on, the world. The latin phrase, ‘Post tenebras lux’ (After darkness, light), is said to be the ‘motto’ of the Protestant Reformation. A continent once living in darkness and ignorance towards the gospel, now can hear the good news and come into the light.
Today, we live in a world which calls for us daily to deny Christ. We live in a world that tempts us daily to compromise. May we stand firm in our faith and may we be encouraged by the miraculous work God did through those men to bring about revival and a radical reformation; a return to biblical Christianity.