What comes to mind when you hear “October 31st”? Most people in America will say, “Halloween”, or “Trick or Treat”, or “Candies”. You will rarely hear “Reformation Movement”, or “Martin Luther” even among professing Christians. Many Christians today don’t know their root, or for that matter the 16th century history of the Reformation movement.
It was October 31, 1517 when the Reverend Father Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses onto the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. This simple act started the reformation movement that changed the face of religious life and politics of the western world. His movement was quickly spread throughout the Europe and was carried on by men like Philipp Melanchton, John Calvin, John Knox, Huldrych Zwingli, Theodore Beza, and others.
The tenets of the movement, known as the 5 Solas of Reformation are Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria.
The formal cause of the Reformation movement was Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) where the reformers believed that Scripture is the sole authority in doctrinal matters. The material cause of the movement was Sola Fide (Faith Alone), that is justification is by grace alone through faith alone. The conflict over justification by faith alone boils down to the difference between the words “Imputed” and “Infused”. Is the ground of our justification the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, or the righteousness of Christ infused within us? Sola fide declares that the ground of our justification is solely the righteousness of Christ. It is apart from or outside of us, not a part of us.
Today as we commemorate the Reformation movement, we need to reflect and ask ourselves, “Is the cause of this movement still relevant today?” My answer can be read here.
We cannot divorce Martin Luther from the movement, and our mind will immediately remember him at the Diet of Worms where he delivered his the famous defense, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”
Below is part of the “Martin Luther” movie showing Luther at the Diet of Worms.