Martin Luther & The Ninety-Five Theses

But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith'” (Titus 3:5 ESV).

ON THIS DAY, October 31, in the year 1517, Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk, posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther’s intention in posting this placard was to produce reform within the Roman Catholic Church; however, the result was a cataclysmic shaking of that church’s very foundations and eventually creating a movement that spread across Christendom, forming a fresh stream of renewed and reformed Christianity, forever affecting the Church.

Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses were a set of propositions condemning the corruption, excesses, and heresies within the Roman Catholic Church. After receiving his intellectual and spiritual enlightenment that his works of righteousness do not justify a person, but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Martin Luther—a scholar and professor—labored tirelessly to bring about reform, appealing to the pope, bishops, and all clergy to search the Scriptures themselves and discover where tradition had usurped the authoritative Word of God.

Among Luther’s list of grievances against the church was the practice of selling indulgences, which Rome said provided the forgiveness of sins and would reduce the punishment and amount of time one’s relatives and friends would spend in “purgatory.” Luther condemned preachers who had been promoting indulgences as the greatest of all graces available to the Christian, and he insisted that the practice was unscriptural and encouraged greed. These indulgences, as then practiced, required monetary payments to the church. Of course, the more indulgences required and received, the richer the church became. Many of the beautiful church structures in Europe were funded by such a heretical practice.

Thanks to the invention of the printing press, Luther’s Ninety-five Theses were quickly printed and distributed far and wide. Luther was finally excommunicated, but the errors he addressed and the truth he proclaimed produced what we know as the Protestant Reformation—protesting error and reforming the church. The worldwide Church is a debtor to the Wittenberg monk, Martin Luther, who allowed God to use his pen and voice to cry out against the errors within the Roman Church.

This article is taken from “On This Day in Church History: 365 Daily Vignettes” by Larry D. Smith & Ralph I. Tilley (Sellersburg, IN, LITS Books, 2021), October 31.

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