What Is Reformation Day?
Reformation Day, annually occurring on October 31, honors Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the Castle Church doors in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. This holiday is largely exclusive to Protestants as a commemoration of the origin of the Protestant Reformation. Luther's 95 theses sparked the Reformation, as they were quickly translated and spread across Germany within weeks.
Dr. Ray Pritchard writes, on Reformation Day we pause to give thanks to God for Martin Luther and for the recovery of the gospel truth that we are declared righteous in the eyes of God solely on the basis of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us in his bloody death and victorious resurrection.
Reformation Day in 2020
Traditionally observed on October 31st, the same day as Halloween, Reformation Day is a Protestant holiday that celebrates the Reformation movement begun by Martin Luther in the 16th century. In numerous of the German states, it is a public holiday, and likewise, many branches of the government and court system are often closed. In the United States, this holiday is normally moved to the Sunday preceding Halloween, a day recognized as Reformation Sunday, which will be October 25 in 2020.
Origin of Reformation Day
On October 31, 1517, an obscure monk named Martin Luther, desiring to spark theological discussion over the medieval practice of selling indulgences, nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. That happened 503 years ago today. The spark he set off ignited a flame that spread across Europe and became known as the Protestant Reformation. By challenging the church's authority and its doctrine, Luther reclaimed for Christianity the central doctrine of salvation-justification by faith alone.
Luther took a bold and dangerous step as he nailed a paper to the door of a Cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany on which he had written 95 complaints against the only Christian community of his day - his own Church. It went down in history as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The protests that were written that day for the public to see began the most dramatic reform within Christianity.
Meaning of Reformation Day
The Protestant Reformation was the proclamation of the justification doctrine—that is, salvation by grace alone (Galatians 2:21) through faith alone in Christ alone. It was also an objection against degradation within the Roman Catholic Church. The century before the Reformation was characterized by public concern with the exploitation of the leaders in the Roman Catholic Church along with its false doctrines, biblical illiteracy, and superstition. Monks, priests, bishops, and popes in Rome taught unbiblical dogmas like the sale of indulgences, the treasury of merit, purgatory, and salvation through good works.
In Martin Luther's own words:
"I greatly longed to understand Paul's Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, ‘the justice of God,' [Rom. 1:17] because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him.
"Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that ‘the just shall live by his faith' [Rom. 1:17]. Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas the ‘justice of God' had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressively sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate of heaven…."(see Of First Importance)
Battle-Cry of the Reformation: A Mighty Fortress is Our God
Martin Luther believed that church music was for everyone to sing. "The devil who is the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless trouble flees before the sound of God's music almost as much as before the Word of God," Luther declared.
With that inspiration, he composed the hymn, "A mighty fortress is our God." It is a bold affirmation of our powerful and loving God:
"A mighty fortress is our God. A bulwark never failing.
Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe, doth seek to work us woe.
His craft and power are great, And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not His equal."
From the writings of professor Kenneth Osbeck in 101 Hymn Stories, we read that Luthers' famous hymn is the most powerful one of the Protestant Reformation. Osbeck writes: "It became the battle cry of the people, a great source of strength. This hymn has been translated into practically every known language and is regarded as one of the noblest and most classic examples of Christian hymnody."
This hymn covers the full sweep of the Christian's life. In it, we find the answer to conflict, striving, spiritual warfare, and at last, victory. The second verse describes it beautifully:
"Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing.
Were not the right Man on our side, The man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that might be? Christ Jesus it is He.
Lord Sabaoth His name, From age to age the same.
And He must win the battle."
Reformation Day: A Mighty Fortress is Our God | Christianity.com
Reformation Day by Dr. Ray Pritchard | Christianity.com
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