The 95 Theses
October 29, 2010
With everyone abuzz about costumes and candy this weekend, Bethel Grace is emphasizing another holiday. October 31 is Reformation Day, remembering a day to truly celebrate! Justin Holcomb explains…
“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 act triggered the Reformation, as they were immediately translated and distributed across Germany in a matter of weeks. The Protestant Reformation was the rediscovery of the doctrine of justification—salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone—and the protest against the corruption within the Roman Catholic Church.”
As we prepare for our celebration of this great day, I encourage you to read through the 95 Theses. Here is a more literal translation. Here is a very helpful paraphrase/summary of each one. As you read through them, I think you’ll be interested to find that Luther was still very much Roman Catholic when he wrote them. You’ll notice his lingering belief in purgatory and the authority of the pope. You’ll find unbiblical doctrine. But clearly, God was working in Luther to refine his theology, a work (as with us all) that was not complete until he went home to glory.
The statements that inspired me are found in 1, 3, 27, 28, 36, 37, 45, 48, 50, 51, 55, 86 (!), 90, among others.
And one more helpful item… Christi Eaton, one of the younger members of the Bethel Grace family (12 years old), also has provided a very helpful explanation of the history of Reformation Day in the paper wrote for school. See it below!
I’m looking forward to a great weekend!!!
Martin Luther and the Reformation, by Christi Eaton
On October, 31, 1517 the small plain town of Wittenberg, Germany was teeming with activity. The villagers were shopping, laughing and doing their usual morning rounds, but this morning there was more excitement in the air. The following day would be All Saints’ Day, a day when the churches would remember their heroes and martyrs, however this All Saints’ Day “Holy Relics” would be on display for all to see.
Martin Luther was nailing a peculiar document to the church door which was later called the “Ninty-five Theses”. He posted it so quickly and quietly that hardly anyone noticed him. One of the topics on this paper was about indulgences.
A few days before Martin Luther watched as a man named Johann Tetzel sold some indulgences.
“Hello, sir would you like me to forgive your sins?” questioned Tetzel.
“Oh yes please, I have said things I shouldn’t have and will pay you anything just name it!” exclaimed the man.
“Just put a coin in my little box and your sin is forgiven” replied Tetzel with a smirk.
Quickly the man put a large coin in the box and happily exclaimed “My sin is forgiven and now I can go to heaven!”
This made Luther furious. He knew that this went against the scriptures so when he returned home he wrote out ninety-five points that stated reasons why this was wrong. He also wrote about other issues the church had incorrect. He then nailed them to the church doors. This started a series of debates such as the Diet of Worms.
Martin Luther received a letter from the Emperor Charles V. This letter requested “Martin, I have set up a meeting and would like you to come to discuss the ninety-five theses you have written. I promise you safe travel coming and going, no harm will come to you. – Signed Emperor Charles V.-”
Martin thought for a moment, “I will go!” he proclaimed to his friends.
“Luther,” they cried “you can’t go, please don’t go, you know what happened to Jan Huss over 100 years ago, the emperor said the same thing and they killed him!”
“You are right.” He sighed. “But I must go.” His friends knew that they could not persuade the man so they gave up and let him go.
Over 2000 people greeted Luther at the City of Worms. Once the large crowd settled the Emperor Charles V suddenly declared “Martin Luther! You have been accused of heresy, and I order you to take back all your words and thoughts against the church.”
Martin broadly replied “Your majesty, you and your lordships demand a simple answer so here it is… Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by a clear reason, I cannot and will not recant anything since to act against one’s conscience is neither safe nor right. I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand, may God help me Amen.”
This simple statement made the emperor burn with rage and wanted Luther burned at the stake right there but, he had made a promise of safe passage.
Martin Luther continued to preach and teach in Germany and was able to translate the New Testament into German. This was just the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.