Christians around the World Celebrate 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

Christians around the world today are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  Several martyrs were burned at the stake for questioning the authority and practices of the church, which set the stage for Luther’s official “protest.”  In his theses, Luther questioned and refuted some of the benchmark practices and theology of the Catholic Church at that time.  At the heart of his 95 Theses were the issues of selling indulgences for absolving sin as well as obtaining salvation by works, rather than relying on God’s grace and mercy alone.

Out of the Reformation we received the 5 Solas (Latin meaning – alone or only) which are now guiding principles in most Protestant and Evangelical churches today:

  • Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone)
  • Solo Christo (by Christ alone)
  • Sola Gratia (by Grace alone)
  • Solo Fine (by Faith alone)
  • Soli Deo Gloria (by Glory to God alone)

We are blessed by the fact that we can teach these Latin phrases as well as the significance and outcomes of the Reformation this week in our classes and chapels.

The Reformation revolutionized Western civilization and God’s Word became considerably more accessible to the common people. Up to 99% of people living during the sixteenth century were either illiterate or did not understand Latin, the primary language in which the Bible was read. 

We should not only look back with gratitude for people like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Wycliffe and so many other martyrs who often gave up their lives for the accurate teaching of God’s Word; we also look to the present as we see how the Gospel has transformed the world.  Pastor Kevin DeYoung (Matthews, NC) powerfully describes this change as he states, “Who but God could have foreseen the triumphs of the Gospel in the last 500 years – from the planting of Reformation Churches in the New World, to the explosion of Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa, to revival in Korea, to the endurance (and now spectacular) growth of the church in China…. Who but God could have known that once the Bible was translated into English and German and French it would also be translated into Albanian, Cambodian, Japanese, etc.”  

As unworthy as mankind is, God in his infinite power and mercy provided access to the most cherished message in the world today that only Christ can save and redeem us. His grace, our faith, and our repentance work in a beautiful way that brings salvation to us for all eternity.

As we ponder the significance, meaning and application of the Reformation that began 500 years ago, may we all “look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” for all of us.

Dr. Rob Brown
Head of School