Pastor's Blog

A World-Changing Halloween Posted 10.29.2015

It has been 498 years since we experienced a “Halloween that changed the world.”  On that particular Halloween something happened which began to shift the balance of theological power in the world.  It was the day Martin Luther requested a theological debate.  His plea?  Let’s chat.


Luther’s faith came out of Romans 1:17, "The just shall live by faith."  He thoroughly believed that he could be justified (declared not guilty and seen as righteous) before God only by faith (putting his trust in Jesus Christ as His Savior), not by any works he could do.  He had found the truth, and the truth had set him free!


As he taught what he believed, he found himself in conflict with many Roman Catholic doctrines. He thought a rational discussion of the issues would result in a renewed and refreshed Church.  So he nails his ninety-five points for debate to the church door in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.  Let’s chat.


But the pope wasn’t interested. He had no intention of chatting with a German monk!  But the citizens of Wittenberg began reading what Luther had written and agreed. Luther’s ideas spread like wildfire throughout Germany.


Meanwhile, the pope was trying to raise money to build St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. Much of their income came as they sold indulgences. A friar named Tetzel came to Wittenberg hawking these slips of paper. He taught the common people a jingle that said something like, "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs." You see, many people assumed the pope had authority over them. The only way to have forgiveness of sins, they believed, was to get it from the pope. The people were eager to buy these indulgences to free their loved ones from purgatory and to give themselves license to sin. As Martin Luther spoke out against this practice, the pope found his sales dropping off and decided to put a stop to this Martin Luther!  There would be no chat.


Luther’s opposition became a threat to Papal authority.  They accusing him of heresy and sought to have him arrested. With the support of the faculty at Wittenberg University and the Elector, Prince Frederick III of Saxony, Luther avoided imprisonment and a trial that most likely would have ended with his execution. However, by 1520, he was excommunicated from the Church and labeled as a heretic and fugitive. 


The reaction of the Church against Luther and its refusal to discuss (chat about) his theses prompted an internal schism that eventually became the Reformation movement. By 1530, the division was set, and an official statement of faith, known as the Augsburg Confession, began the first Protestant Church. 


The revival of the doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith alone has become the cornerstone of the modern evangelical church. It is a day which has changed the world. We are still in a state of reformation, as the Savior continually restores the teachings and gifts that He blessed the Church with at its birth.  Let’s be faithful to the Word in our generation.  Just like Martin Luther.


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