This past Tuesday was the 500 year anniversary of Martin Luther’s famous 95 Theses.
According to tradition the German Monk and Bible Professor challenged the Pope to a debate on 95 issues by nailing them to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. His revolutionary opinions would spark the Protestant Reformation and alter the course of history.
Whether Luther literally nailed these 95 Theses to the door or not is subject to debate, but he did submit them to the archbishop on October 31, 1517. Specifically, he challenged the infamous sale of indulgences which was basically a money raising scam for the rich to supposedly buy their way into heaven.
Luther had begun to read the Bible for himself and believed the Catholic Church taught and practiced many things contrary to the Scripture. His plea was for people to return to God’s Word. Ultimately Luther was excommunicated by the Catholic Church.
With the invention of the printing press and Luther’s translation of the Bible into the common language of his people, a movement began, wrote historian Philip Schaff, that next to the birth of Christianity was “the greatest event in history.”
As the movement gained momentum and people began to name Luther’s followers after him, be begged them not to do so.
- “The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians.
- What is Luther? The teaching is not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone.
- How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name.”
While Luther’s quest to return to the Scriptures fell short in a number of areas, there is much to admire. And principles that we need to emulate today in our search for Truth.
Christian is the “new name” (Isa 62:2) given by God to identify followers of Jesus Christ. “The disciples were called Christians (Ax. 11:26). The apostle Paul condemned those in Corinth who divided the Body of Christ with human allegiance.
“Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor. 1:12-13).
The apostle plead for the Corinthian Christians, and by application and implication Believers today “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the religious world and its leaders abandoned all human names and simply returned to honoring the name of Christ and wearing only the name Christian?
Luther’s work also reminds us of the need to search the Scripture for ourselves. Like the open-minded Bereans of old, we should “receive the word with all eagerness” and “examine the Scriptures daily” to verify what we’ve been taught (Ax. 17:11).
Individually Christians are responsible for their own faith, ministry, and spiritual growth. The Bible challenges “grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18) And to examine ourselves to see whether or not we are “in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). There’s an old Irish proverb that says, “You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your Grandfather was.” This is true spiritually.
Luther’s work reminds us that no man or religious leader should stand between us and God. There is only one mediator, Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5). He is the way. The Truth. The life. The only way to the Father (Jn 14:6). And it is in His name only that salvation is possible (Ax. 4:12).
500 years later it’s time for a new movement in the religious world. Not a reformation of corrupt Christianity. But a restoration to the New Testament plan, purpose, and pattern ordained by God.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman