Oct. 31-on this day, 500 years ago, a 34-year-old ordained priest and doctor of theology, posted an invitation to debate, publicly and orally, a number of items of contention of the church teachings where he, Martin Luther, Lecturer of Theology, taught.
These debates of theological disputations were an accepted practice in Europe at that time. Often announcements for such events were posted on the church doors for all to see. The timing of this posting coincided with the All Saints Day festivities, which were just beginning.
At the first posting of these "Ninety-five Theses," they received only a little attention. It was only after being translated into German and printed for the general public's reading, that they became more widely known. Then the debates began. Luther was later summoned to a hearing at the Diet of Worms, three-and-a-half years later, where he defended his stand and his writings. Following these hearings, he was taken into protective custody, because his very life was in danger. During his year of protective custody in the Wartburg Castle, Luther translated the New Testament into German and it was published in September of 1522. Martin Luther, who through his actions, gave birth to what is now known as the Protestant movement or Reformation.
A Minneapolis Star Tribune staff writer, Nolan Zavoral explained: "On Oct. 31, 1517, a monk named Martin Luther publicly took issue with Rome for the selling of indulgences, by which Catholics could pay the church to have sins forgiven." Nolan further states: "Luther believed that salvation came by the grace of God through faith in Jesus, a divine gift that humans couldn't earn. His doctrine of justification, a state of being right with God, was among the factors that set into motion forces that, combined with economic and political conditions, ignited wars and split the Western Christian world." (Star Tribune, Mon. Nov. 1, 1999, pg A9)
Luther has understood that all true believers when bestowed with the Holy Spirit are members of a universal priesthood, or as Peter writes: "ye are a royal priesthood, and a holy nation" and have access to the confessional keys, where scripture exhorts believers to confess your faults one to another, and to forgive one another through the redeeming merits of Jesus Christ. Luther understood that conversion, through the forgiveness of sins, is the key to membership into this spiritual kingdom. That is, through hearing and believing the oral proclamation of the gospel of forgiveness.
The Reformation and its cause still have effects in our day. It began as a reformation of the church, but also caused many other changes in the political, economic, social and cultural lives of all nations affected by its principles. Today, as we remember Oct. 31 and All Saints Day that follows, we should be thankful to God for all things in life. Our greatest reason of thanks is that God has prepared a way of salvation for mankind through His only Son, Jesus Christ. This gift is entirely God's work as Paul teaches: "For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God." (Eph 2:8) God still seeks those who are lost and without hope to that sheepfold where the voice of the Good Shepherd comforts with the gospel and leads and guides the flock of believers toward heaven's home.
(Condensed from an October 2007 article).