"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."" (Romans 1:16-17)
These verses so gripped the heart of Martin Luther that he was born again to new life in Christ! This led not only to a reformation in his own heart and life, but in the Church.
500 years ago on October 31, 1517 the Roman Catholic monk Martin Luther, seeking to address the corruption and injustices in the church and to stir soul-searching and repentance among his fellow Christians, posted a list of 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany. One of these simply stated, ‘The Church’s true treasure is the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ The reaction of the church (and the state, being one and the same) was to hunt Luther down so that he fled for his very life.
Less than 80 years earlier, Gutenburg had invented the printing press, making books readily available to common people and not just to the rich. Like the Bereans of the Apostle Paul’s time (see Acts 17:10-11), this enabled people to read the Scriptures for themselves to see if what they were being taught was really true. This resulted in a great recovery of the Gospel and many became true believers as the word of God birthed new life in them. Martin Luther would later say ‘See how much he [God] has been able to accomplish through me, though I did no more than pray and preach. The Word did it all.’
This revived a world changing movement of believers who have taken courageous steps of faith to break down barriers and make the Gospel available through the Scriptures to many. From Luther in Germany to Calvin in Geneva, to Wycliffe and Tyndale who translated the Scriptures into the common language, to Martin Luther King Jr. (named after Martin Luther!), I want us to honor those who have risked life and livelihood to faithfully pass the Gospel on to the coming generations, those who have addressed injustice and called us back to believing and living the Gospel.
I would recommend the following resources for learning more about this important time in history:
- What is Reformation Day? (from Ligonier Ministries)
- Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, Bainton
- Movie: Luther, starring Joseph Fiennes
At Jacob's Well, we want to be a church that follows their example as we live out the Gospel in our own time and culture. May the Lord by His grace make it so!