The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone, Christ alone, to the Glory of God alone

Today marks the 500th anniversary of, arguably, one of the most important events in church history: The Protestant Reformation.

On October 31, 1517, a man named Martin Luther nailed a piece of paper to the doors of the Wittenberg Castle church in what is now the nation of Germany. He may not have realize it then, but this piece of paper—his 95 Theses—was about change the course of church history around the world.

Reflecting back upon this period, Luther wrote that he had been wrestling with one particular phrase in the first chapter of the Book of Romans for quite some time: “the righteousness of God.” With great candor, he admitted in his writings that, “Not only did I not love, but I actually hated the righteousness of God who punishes sinners.” Despite his life as a faithful monk, devoted to piety, Luther could never see himself as anything but a sinner before the throne of God. Every religious observance and obedience failed to satisfy a righteous God.

Throughout this turmoil, Luther comments that he never left Paul’s writings in Romans, desiring to know what Paul meant by “the righteous shall life by faith.” Meditating day and night on Romans 1:17, Luther slowly came to appreciate their theological meaning and application: “There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely faith.”

Luther writes of this joyous moment when the veil lifted from his eyes: “The merciful God justifies us by faith.” This conclusion echoed across Europe and has continued to reverberate into the sanctuaries of churches around the world ever since. What we take for granted today, that salvation is by ...

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