It might be worth taking the day off to celebrate Martin Luther.
Tuesday is a really big day. Say that to a culture obsessed with the macabre – with modern cult television series featuring zombies/walking dead/vampires/werewolves/witches – and attention shifts to Halloween. You can expect to find Costume Tuesday across the retail/commercial landscape this week, but that’s not the remembrance I’m addressing today…
Tuesday, October 31 marks the 500 anniversary of an event that triggered the theological earthquake that was heard around the world: on that date – in 1517 – a 34-year-old priest named Martin Luther nailed his epistle – the “95 Theses” – onto the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany and set in motion what history has long since branded as “The Reformation.”
How can one man’s grievances against the institution of power that was the Holy Roman Church catch fire and capture the minds and hearts of billions – billions – of people, over five centuries?
The movement that grew out of Luther’s labors came to include additional, like-minded leaders – some of whom emerged separately from Luther’s efforts, others on the heels of his momentum – who put their own lives at risk for the cause. Martyrdom is never one’s objective, but it is a powerful affirmation of commitment when the desperation of despots is exercised to quell opposition. Many died because they knew it was worth it. What was worth dying for?
Five tenets ultimately came to summarize what Luther’s original 95 Theses (about 2700 words – think five of my weekly Point of View narratives) called out. The tenets:
1. Sola Scriptura: the Bible Alone. The ultimate authority available to us – all of us – is the Word of God. The enemy’s strategy has been to promote human authority while dismissing the veracity of the Scriptures. The Reformation stands on the Bible Alone.
2. Sola Gratia: Grace Alone. God’s grace is the currency of redemption; we bring nothing of value with which we can transact our salvation. Without His unmerited favor – poured out to us by Christ at the Cross – we have no hope for standing with God.
3. Sola Fide: Faith Alone. There is no work, no contribution, no effort by man that can trigger the benefits from God that result in redemption. Faith is the only catalyst to unleash the abundance of salvation that God wants to pour out on the world He loved enough to sacrifice His Son.
4. Sola Christus: Christ Alone. There are no angels, saints or church leaders who stand in the intermediary position between God and men. Appealing to anyone but the Risen and Glorified Son who is the Savior is disallowed; our Advocate and Priest is the Second Person of the Trinity.
5. Sola Deo Gloria: to God Alone be Glory. Mankind stands before the all-powerful God who is the only being worthy of praise and honor and adoration. All that is thought, said or done in this life,
or in heaven, has validity only insofar as it directs homage to Him and Him alone.
Tuesday marks five centuries since young Martin put his professional future – as a priest of the Catholic Church – and his mortal life – as a prophet who was speaking truth to power – in the crosshairs. We are where we are today – as people, as Christians, as a culture – because of Luther and the Reformers who worked to recapture the essence of what God had revealed, from the beginning.
Sola Scriptura. Sola Gratia. Sola Fide. Sola Christus. Sola Deo Gloria.
Latin is no longer the language of the elite; today, English is the trade language of the world. The Bible Alone; Grace Alone; Faith Alone; Christ Alone; to God Alone be the Glory.
I can’t wait to meet Martin Luther – in the meet-and-greet of Eternity – to say, “thanks!” for his willingness to explore, expose and exploit his Kingdom Calling…