Seven Lessons from the Reformation
By Kevin D. Smead
On October 31, when the world is celebrating the works of darkness, many Christian churches will be celebrating the light. The light I refer to is the light of Reformation. It was precisely October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther, the German monk, posted his 95 theses to the church house door in Wittenberg, Germany, primarily to challenge the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church. This date was chosen because the following day was “all saints day” and many people would be visiting the church to view the relics and to seek forgiveness of sins. Luther wanted to get as many people’s attention as possible, therefore, he posted his thesis the day before. This event is generally regarded as the birthday of the Protestant Reformation. Following this event, many others rose up to “protest” the abuses of a corrupt church and to proclaim the truths of the glorious Gospel of “Free Grace.”
The Reformation of the 16th Century, with the glorious message of “Believe and Live” that was rediscovered and republished to the world during this time, is one of the most exciting eras in the history of the church. While it is beyond the scope of these postings to do a thorough treatment of the Reformation, we will offer a few general lessons from the Protestant Reformation.
Lesson #1: The truth is important – even worth dying for if necessary. In the 16th Century the Catholic Church was the most influential and powerful organization on planet earth. To challenge their doctrines and practices ran the risk of punishment, perhaps even death. In challenging the teaching of the church, Martin Luther, and those who followed him, were hazarding their very lives for the sake of the truth. In fact, many of the early reformers and those associated with them died violent deaths at the hands of the leaders of the Catholic Church. This was a danger that they were willing to face, however, since they knew the value of true doctrine. The doctrine that they defended, of course, was the doctrine of Justification by faith alone. Since this doctrine goes to the very heart of what it means for a person to be right with God, they rightly viewed it as absolutely essential and more valuable than their own lives. One wonders how many modern churchgoers would even hazard a good night’s rest for the truth, let alone their life. We need to learn from the Reformers the value of true doctrine and the need for God’s people to defend the truth, learn the truth, and proclaim the truth for the glory of God and the good of our fellow man–whatever may be the cost. This is the first lesson of the Reformation. Let us learn to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).