October 31 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Why do we celebrate the Protestant Reformation?
The Dark Ages were dark because of the spiritual corruption, superstition, and oppression of the Catholic church. The Catholic church had ceased to preach the Gospel, and taken the Word of God away from the people. They taught unbiblical doctrines like purgatory, relics, and indulgences. Purgatory is the belief that we must be purged of our sins in a hell like place for literally thousands of years. Indulgences are the removal of the punishment for sins in purgatory. Relics is the viewing of “holy things” in order to receive an indulgence (at a cost of course.) The Catholic church of Luther’s day was overrun with greed, corruption, and sexual immorality.
Luther was born into this dark world. He became very convicted over his sins and sought desperately to find forgiveness from God. He became a monk and even travelled to Rome, but his sense of guilt only grew worse. While studying Romans and Galatians he realized that salvation was by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This finally gave him peace.
In response to the sale of indulgences Luther wrote 95 theses or points of debate hoping to reform the Catholic church and bring it back in line with Scripture. He did not realize how deep the corruption was, and he was subsequently excommunicated for seeking to bring the Catholic church in line with Scripture. This recovering of the Gospel is what we call the Protestant Reformation.
The Catholic church still stands in opposition to the doctrine of the Reformation. Very little has changed. The pedophilia scandal has shown that even the sexual immorality has stayed the same. Catholicism still holds to purgatory and indulgences. The Vatican is the smallest nation on the planet, yet is one of the wealthiest. Greed, corruption, and a denial of the Gospel still plague the Catholic church.
The central teachings of the Reformation center around five doctrines known as the Five Sola’s (sola is Latin for “alone.”) They are that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for God’s glory alone as revealed in Scripture alone. We would simply call this the Gospel. Reformed doctrine is nothing more than a belief in the Gospel. The division between Protestant and Catholic is over nothing less than the Gospel itself.
What it means today
We are still troubled by our sin, like Luther. Millions of people still feel the weight of God’s judgment. The Gospel still stands to proclaim forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ for all who believe. This is what the Reformation is all about. Forgiveness of sin in Christ. That is something worth celebrating!
Will you believe the Gospel? Will you give God glory for the recovery of the Gospel?