Do you know what October 31st is besides Halloween? Hint: it’s one of the most important days in the history of the Christian church and it affects everything about your life today. Everything!
It was on the 31st of October 1517 that a Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. By God’s grace, Luther’s courageous act of challenging corruption and unbiblical heresies launched the Great Reformation. But why is this legacy worth recalling and how does it affect us today?
On Reformation Days – October 31st – most American Christians seem more conscious of Halloween than of the Reformation. It appears that more of the children in our churches are celebrating pagan and dark, grotesque symbols for Halloween than the great spiritual Revival that led to the birth of the Protestant Reformation.
Halloween is celebrated by millions on October 31st each year with costumes and candy. Despite its Christianized name, Halloween stems from an ancient pagan Celtic religion that started nearly two centuries before the birth of Christ. The tribal Druids of Ireland and Europe offered end-of-harvest sacrifices at this beginning of winter to appease a Celtic demon they called Samhain (SOW-in), the lord of death, and of evil spirits. The early Gaelic Celts apparently believed that Samhain sent evil spirits into the world to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. Catholic Christians tried to form an alternative tradition by moving the celebration of “All Hallows’ Day” that celebrated the lives of Christian martyred saints from May to November 1st. So November 1st is referred to as “All Saints’ Day.” In medieval England that Catholic festival was known as All Hallows. The evening before (October 31st) was thus named “All Hallows’ eve” which became Hallow-een.
Reformation Day (October 31) commemorates Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. This one act triggered the Protestant Reformation because Luther’s challenges to the church’s practices were immediately translated and distributed all across Germany in a matter of weeks. The Protestant Reformation was the rediscovery of the doctrine of justification—that is, salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, like we read in Ephesians 2:8 and 9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one should boast.” It was also the protest against the corruption within the Roman Catholic Church. The century before the Reformation was marked by widespread dissatisfaction with the corruption of the leaders in the Roman Catholic Church and with its false doctrines, biblical illiteracy, and superstition. Monks, priests, bishops, and popes in Rome taught unbiblical doctrines like the selling of indulgences, the treasury of merit, purgatory, and salvation through good works.
All Souls’ Day
All Souls’ Day or the Day of the Dead is normally celebrated, primarily by Roman Catholics, on November 2. This is a day dedicated to prayer and almsgiving in memory of ancestors who have died. People pray for the souls of the dead, in their hopeful belief to hasten their release from purgatory to heaven by being purged and cleansed from their sins.
Treasury of Merit
Spiritually sincere people were taught to redeem themselves by charitable works, pilgrimages, and all kinds of religious rituals. They were persuaded to acquire this “merit,” which was at the disposal of the church, by purchasing “certificates of indulgence.” This left them wondering if they ever did enough or paid enough to appease God’s righteous anger and escape his judgment. That was the popular mindset that prompted Luther’s desire to refocus the church on salvation by grace through faith on account of Christ by imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us.
Think of it. Almost 98% of medieval people couldn’t read. They were spiritually oppressed by indulgences. They had no assurance of God’s grace. Doctor Luther proclaimed the grace of God’s acceptance for true saints.
Instead of the treasury of merit that was for sale, Luther protested, “The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God”
Life in Europe and England (not to mention the rest of the world) has changed drastically since 500 years ago. For both Christians and unbelievers, the time of the early 16th Century when Martin Luther lived was radically different and desperate. It’s obvious that modern technology’s conveniences were absent, but even common things we take for granted like clean water and comfortable housing were unknown.
Think of Productive Prosperity
Western civilization has been blessed with the greatest freedoms, productivity and prosperity ever known in history. The liberty, standards of justice and creativity enjoyed in Western civilization are direct results of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. Don’t miss why these amazing results occurred.
Our Lord Jesus Christ taught: “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
Think of Peace with God.
Martin Luther was passionate about finding peace with God. He studied the Bible so intently that it led him to challenge the unethical fund-raising tactics of the papacy. That’s what ignited the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s love for the Word of God and his dedication to truth led him to challenge the entire ecclesiastical and political authority of the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire.
Can we imagine a society without Freedom of Conscience?
Sometimes I think we miss the huge gravity of some things. Luther’s courage to stand against the political and religious might of Europe was one of the most incredible acts of conscientious defiance in the history of the world. He argued for freedom of conscience based upon the authority of Scripture. Until then the fear of man was preeminent. Luther feared God. All religions and cultures on earth bowed to a monarchy, aristocracy and authoritarianism. The formal Roman Catholic institution was corrupt. Luther and the Reformers were convinced that man without God is hopelessly depraved and no human authority could be trusted as absolute. He rejected ecclesiastical totalitarianism and championed the principle of Sola Scriptura – the Bible alone is our ultimate authority.
Education for All
Luther translated the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew into the common tongue. Everybody could now have access to it; both nobles and peasants. Luther championed education and literacy for everyone. He defended the Priesthood of all Believers. And what Revolutionary concept did that one biblical principle lead to?
Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Everyone is under God’s Law. The reformer’s principle of Sola Scriptura broke down ecclesiastical and political totalitarianism. The Protestant emphasis on the Priesthood of all Believers led to the concept of representative government and constitutional authority as the supreme law of the land.
What results from convincing society of the truth of Religious Liberty?
By emphasizing the Biblical doctrine of Faith as a gift of God, Luther undermined the Catholic Inquisition and provided the theological foundations for religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Religious liberty and freedom of conscience led to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association and all the other out-workings of political and social freedom.
The Reformation gave us the Bible – available in our own languages.
Few people today realize that the first Bibles printed in English had to be printed in Germany and smuggled into England in bales of cotton from Holland. The first Bible translator, William Tyndale, was executed by strangulation and his body burned at the stake for the crime of translating the Bible into English. Seven mothers and fathers were burned alive at Coventry for teaching their own children The Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles Creed – in English.
Courage and Sacrifice for Believers today?
The sacrifices made by the Reformers and the far-reaching impact of their courageous application of the Word of God to every area of life, needs to be rediscovered. The Christian Church has made more positive changes on earth than any other force or cause in History.
Blessing the Nations
Most of the languages of the world were developed into a written system by Christian missionaries. More schools and universities have been started by Christians than any other religion, nation or group. Christian Reformers and missionaries have succeeded in bringing about the abolition of slavery, cannibalism, child sacrifice and widow burning. Those countries that enjoy the most civil liberties, are those lands where the Gospel of Christ has penetrated the most.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is life-changing, history making and nation transforming. If it doesn’t change your life and the lives of those around you, then it’s not the Biblical Gospel.
Checks and Balances
The Reformers understood God’s Sovereignty. They courageously proclaimed that Scripture alone is our final authority. Christ alone is the Head of the Church. Justification is by God’s Grace alone, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, received by Faith alone. The Reformers’ teaching on the depravity of man, the New Covenant in Christ, and church government, have influenced positive political and social developments in liberty throughout the Western world and beyond, establishing checks and balances, the separation of powers and constitutional authority.
Faith and Freedom
All of us are beneficiaries of this tremendous movement for Faith and Freedom. If you love liberty, you need to re-examine the history and principles of the Reformation.
The Reformation took the Church out of gross ignorance and spiritual darkness.
Before the Reformation the church had no Bible. And a church without a Bible is as useless as a lighthouse without light, or a car without an engine. The priests and people knew scarcely anything about God’s Word or the way of salvation in Christ.
Now think of this: Our current generation of believers… not to mention the world learning corrupted revisionist history … is in danger of losing the profound legacy of courage that preserved Bible truths that are much forgotten.
The 16th Century was the pivotal generation of martyrs who willingly laid down their lives to preserve the scripture for us. That was providential! Why? Because the truths in the Bible are eternal and essential for communicating the heart of God and regenerating lost souls to gain eternal life.
Deuteronomy 7:9 says: “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
The second commandment contains both a severe threat and a most incredibly gracious promise.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in Heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to thousands who love Me and keep My commandments.”
A Solemn Responsibility
Parents have an awesome responsibility. We are to bring up our children “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) We are to “train a child in the way he should go …” (Proverbs 22:6) According to 1 Timothy 3:4, we are to manage our own family well and see that our children learn to obey with proper respect.
Psalm 78:4-8 tells us to…
“tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power and the wonders He has done … so that the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds, but would keep His commands. They would not be … stubborn and rebellious … (like previous generations) whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to Him.”
The Bible tells us to not just raise God-fearing sons, but sons who will become God-fearing fathers, who in turn will raise God-fearing sons to become fathers who will love, honor, trust and obey God. We are to raise disciples who raise disciples so that God’s generational blessing is passed down and the chain unbroken.
I invite you to visit our website www.ReclaimYourLegacy.com and share our resources with your family and friends. And if your church or group would like to have us minister in person, just contact me. I truly trust we can help you and your friends strengthen your life’s purpose and reclaim your legacy.
Martin Luther said:
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God’s Word, except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, then I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefront besides is mere flight and disgrace – if he flinches at that point.
Compromise and cowardice hurts everyone It’s short-sighted. The Word of God commands us not to be afraid of any man (Deuteronomy 1:17). We are warned that the fear of man will prove to be a snare (Proverbs 29:25). It is cowardice for us to remain silent when we should speak up. To be passive and inactive when we should fight for what is right. Isaiah 51:12-13 says:
“Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, and of a son of man, who will be made like grass? You forget the Lord your maker, who stretched out the Heavens and laid the foundations of the earth…”
The Bible tells us that God seeks “Godly offspring…” Malachi 2:15. It is the first priority of parents and teachers to ensure that children are taught to love God and His Word. Secular humanist education is attempting to kill God by eradicating Him from the classroom and from the minds of the next generation. By eliminating the Bible as the basis for all knowledge, humanists are removing the very foundation of truth. They are prohibiting the only objective standard by which reality can be evaluated.
In this culture war, it is vital that we understand the war between Creation and the theory of Evolution. Science textbooks and Museums are strategic battlegrounds in the world war of worldviews.
We need to know the Word of God and we need to know the God of the Word. We need to know God and to make Him known. It is vital that we know what we believe, why we believe it, and to practically know how to defend it in argument. It is also vital that we become effective soul winners.
Christians must recognize that we are involved in a world war of worldviews. There is a war against God and against His Word – The Bible. In this battle for the mind, classrooms and cinemas are battlefields. Education is a battleground. The textbooks and the teachers are frequently promoting evolutionism, situation ethics, sex education and values clarification. Reality is being rearranged by selective focus and in what Karl Marx declared “the first battlefield – the rewriting of history.” By twisting perceptions, secular humanists hope to steal our children and hijack our culture and country. Much of the entertainment industry has been so subverted as to glamorize evil, popularize profanity, and celebrate ugliness. It is the duty of Christians to support excellent Christian media.
The philosophy of Evolution that is called a theory is a vile attempt to get rid of God from society’s thinking. Evolution destroys all meaning, purpose, direction, justice and hope in life. The Scriptures declare: “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God’. They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” Psalm 14:1
We are called to be the light of the world. All the darkness cannot put out the smallest light. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
Young people have a far greater capacity for spiritual and social maturity than we give them credit for. Young people should be encouraged to go deeper, further and higher for the Lord. The recent phenomenon of age-segregated Sunday morning worship should be re-evaluated in the light of Scripture. The youth are not the Church of tomorrow, they are part of the Church today. The Church is one body. “For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that body being many are one body; as also is Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12
Parents should be raising up their children in the fear of God, in fellowship with all believers. Church social events should involve families. Youth ministry should be returned to where it belongs – to families and fathers. It is a sad fact that many youth groups are doing more harm than good. “Those who walk with the wise become wiser still, but the companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20
Many mainline denominations have been infiltrated by secular humanists, who have gutted the churches of the Biblical Gospel and produced generations of spineless quasi-believers. (Dr. Hammond calls them evangellyfish). Many churches are filled with pseudo-saved, semi-saved, half-saved, un-saved, pew-warmers who have never been truly converted, nor have they come into any real relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.