On October 31, 1517, an obscure priest and scholar named Martin Luther famously nailed 95 theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. Ordinarily Luther’s action might not have excited much comment. Scholars of the time who wished to debate an idea commonly posted their challenges to the doors of churches.
Luther’s theses, however, threw down the gauntlet at the feet of the Roman Catholic Church itself, calling out Church leaders about the widespread practice of selling so-called indulgences, a kind of certificate for forgiveness of sins. It also set off a religious movement that swept over Renaissance Europe, and eventually, the rest of the world. The Protestant Reformation declaimed the supremacy of God’s Word in all matters secular or sacred and challenged widespread corrupt practices of the Church of the day. It remains imprinted in our understanding of the Christian faith today.
The church of 500 years ago controlled nearly every aspect of Christian life. It limited who could become priests and lead in the church. It tightly controlled access to God’s Word and oversaw teaching and interpretation. It claimed authority to determine how a person’s sins were to be forgiven, and who went to heaven. But Luther and the reformers who followed wrenched the practice of daily faith from Rome’s grasp. With the Reformation each believer gained direct access to the Bible in their own language and were expected to participate in the life of the church.
The core of the Reformation’s teaching is often referred to (in Latin) as the five solae: sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”), solus Christus (“Christ alone”), sola gratia (“grace alone”), sola fide (“faith alone”), and soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”). Recognizing that the glory of salvation belongs to God alone, the reformers taught that Scripture alone is God’s Word to us, that Christ alone holds the key to our salvation, and that sinners are made right with God by grace alone and through faith alone. These teachings remain as vital as ever for understanding the good news of salvation.
Would you like to recapture the significance of the Reformation for your personal faith walk? I invite you to subscribe to Today devotional and download “The Reformation for Today” devotional ebook, written by Dr. Kurt Selles, Director of Back to God Ministries International. Each devotion walks through the five solae and why they matter to you today. Don’t miss it!