10 Facts You Need to Know about the Reformation (Rumors and Legends Dispelled)

The Reformation was not Luther’s personal achievement but rather the product of the Word.

Even at the Diet of Worms, Luther’s hope was not separation from Rome, but repentance. Luther argued that Rome had broken from the historic and traditional beliefs held by the church. In this, Luther did not stand alone but on the shoulders of believers who came before him in the history of the church who proclaimed the same truths of the gospel—that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. 

 

1. Martin Luther was concerned with reform, not breaking away from Rome.

October 31, 1517, is the day Protestants celebrate each year as “Reformation Day.” Yet, when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, he did not consider himself a Protestant, but rather a Roman Catholic seeking conversation and reform concerning the abusive selling of indulgences.

2. The Reformation was traditional.

Luther hoped Rome would agree with the 95 Theses, repent for the selling and commercialization of grace (indulgences), and make correction. As Luther wrote in Thesis 62, “The true treasure of the church is the most holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God,” which had traditionally been held by the church as indisputable.

3. At the heart of the Reformation was the belief that the Word alone is authoritative.

In 1518, the pope declared Luther’s theses in conflict with the teaching of the church—why? In part because of the content concerning indulgences and the church’s treasury of merit, but also because the theses were seen as questioning the Pope’s authority. Was the Pope authoritative alongside the Word of God, or was Scripture the sole authority over the tradition of the church? Luther chose to stand on the sole authority of the Word of God, and for this he was eventually excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Leo X and outlawed as a heretic by Charles V at the Diet of Worms (1521).

4. The Reformation was not individualistic, nor was it the achievement of one man.

Even at the Diet of Worms, Luther’s hope was not separation from Rome, but repentance. Luther argued that Rome had broken from the historic and traditional beliefs held by the church. In this, Luther did not stand alone but on the shoulders of believers who came before him in the history of the church who proclaimed the same truths of the gospel—that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Likewise, the Reformation was not Luther’s personal achievement but rather the product of the Word. As Luther said, “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept [cf. Mark 4:26–29], or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.” Continue reading…