On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door. Martin Luther, a monk and university professor, wanted an open discussion about selling indulgences, a practice that allowed people to “buy” their salvation from the church. He did more than start a conversation, Martin Luther sparked a reformation.
Why did Luther act on October 31? On the church calendar of Luther’s day (still celebrated by Western Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church), November 1 was All Saints’ Day. On November 1, 1517, a massive exhibit of newly acquired relics would be on display at Wittenberg. Many planned to make the trip as an act of devotion and in attempt to “earn” grace. Luther felt compelled to act.
The very first thesis said: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Luther makes reference to Jesus calling people to “repent” in Matthew 4:17.
This first thesis likely stems from Luther reading the 1516 publication of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament. In reading the New Testament in the original Greek, Luther realized that the Latin Vulgate – the official text of the church – was wrong. The Vulgate had translated the Greek word in question as “do penance.” This translation had served to support the Roman Catholic sacramental system.
Devotionally reading the New Testament allowed Luther to see that God’s Word had been clouded by tradition. He wanted common people to read the Bible in their own language.
The reformation sparked by Luther’s 95 Theses was centered around what we now call the Five Solas.
The Five Solas:
- Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): Scripture alone is our highest authority.
- Sola Fide (“faith alone”): Jesus alone is our salvation.
- Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
- Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
- Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live solely for the glory of God.
Eat a bunch of candy today. But also crack open your Bible.
"You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me." - Jesus in John 5:39