What would you do if someone arrived in town who started selling official documents from church authorities that claimed the purchase thereof could liberate your dead relatives from the fiery torments of hell?  History records this was the situation in Europe in the 1500’s.  Medieval Christendom was dominated by the Roman Catholic Church and characterized by greed, corruption, and unbiblical practices.  The Bible and church services were also only in Latin, a language which few people could understand and fewer could read.  Men like Wycliffe and Tyndale believed the Bible should be in the language of the people so they could read it and enjoy the treasures of God’s Word themselves.  These men and others like Hus were condemned by the church and many were burned at the stake. 

An Augustinian monk named Martin Luther was disgusted by the abuses of the sale of indulgences and on October 31, 1517 posted his 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenburg, Germany detailing his protests against unbiblical practices of the church.  Luther later came to more fully understand while studying the book of Romans that sinners become right with God on the basis of their faith in Christ not their religious works (Rom.1:17).  Attending masses, observing rites, venerating relics, and the purchasing of indulgences have no merit in the sight of a holy God. 

Throughout Europe, men like Calvin, Zwingli, and Knox were raised up who along with Luther sounded five battle cries known as the “5 Solas of the Reformation.”  They taught that the Bible is the authority not church councils, tradition, and popes (“Sola Scriptura”: Latin-“by Scripture alone”).  Christ is the Head of the Church and deliverance from the penalty of sins in hell is only available through His sacrificial death (“Sola Christus”: Latin-“by Christ alone”).  This gift is freely available to everyone by God’s grace apart from religious works (“Sola Gratia”: Latin-“by grace alone”) and is received through faith alone in Christ (“Sola Fide”: Latin-“by faith alone”).  Salvation is for the glory of God alone as He is the Creator and Redeemer of mankind (“Soli Deo Gloria”: Latin-“for the glory of God alone”). 

Despite excommunication, banishment, and execution the Reformers’ influence spread like an “unquenchable flame” throughout Europe.  The Bible was translated into the language of the people, churches were founded that sought to be faithful to the teachings of the Bible, multitudes were saved, and Western Christian Civilization was eventually established in the New World. 

May we never forget that God’s grace is freely available to everyone on the basis of the shed blood of Christ and received through faith alone.  It is the prayer of many that the Lord would raise up a new generation of leaders who will courageously stand upon the authority of the Word of God and be used of Him to ignite a spiritual passion for reformation and revival in this era of history for His honor and glory alone. 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9

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