Holidays (Other), Reformation Day

The Mailbag: What is Reformation Day?

Reformation Day is Monday, October 31.

Originally published October 10, 2014

reformation day

The Protestant Reformation. Outside of biblically recorded events and the closing of the canon of Scripture, it is arguably the most important event in church history, and one of the most important events in world history as well, yet many Christians today are unaware of this landmark incident in their heritage which birthed the Protestant church.

The year was 1517. A monk named Martin Luther gripped his hammer and nailed a list of biblical grievances against the Roman Catholic Church to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, much like we might post a notice to a community bulletin board today. These 95 Theses protested the Catholic Church’s unbiblical policy of selling indulgences,  part of an effort to raise funds for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Catholic Church had created the idea of the Treasury of Merit, sort of a “bank account” of merit deposited by Christ, Mary, the saints, and others as a result of their good works. When church members sinned, they could purchase an indulgence, which was akin to asking the Church to “transfer funds” from the Treasury of Merit to the sinner’s account. The indulgence basically excused the sinner from a certain amount of time in purgatory and/or temporal punishment for that sin.

In addition to protesting the sale of indulgences, Luther’s 95 Theses called the Catholic Church to conform to Scripture by abandoning its unbiblical practices and teachings regarding the doctrines of salvation, religious authority, the nature of the church, and the essence of Christian living.


Luther’s calls for reform spread quickly throughout Europe, inspiring the likes of church fathers Ulrich Zwingli (Zurich), John Calvin (Geneva), and John Knox (Scotland) to join the effort in their own locales. As they worked to address the issues raised in Luther’s document, these men codified what we know today as the “Five Solas of the Reformation,” the basis of Protestant church doctrine. The five solas are:

1. Sola ScripturaScripture alone is the basis for all church doctrine, belief, and practice. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

2. Sola Gratia– Salvation is by grace alone. It is an unmerited gift of God based solely on His goodness, not our own (because we don’t have any). (Ephesians 2:8-9)

3. Sola Fide– Salvation is through faith alone. Faith is a gift bestowed by God. We are saved only by placing that faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross, not by doing good works or by any other attempts to earn salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

4. Solus Christus– Salvation is found in Christ alone. As Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

5. Soli Deo Gloria– God saves man for God’s glory alone, and Believers are to live our lives to glorify Him alone. (Romans 11:36)

One of Luther’s most cherished ideals, from which we still benefit today, was that common people should have access to both the Scriptures and worship services in their own language. Prior to the Reformation, the Bible was only available in Latin. Likewise, all masses and other church services were conducted in Latin. Luther translated the Bible into German, and was later followed by William Tyndale, Myles Coverdale, David Brainerd, and others who translated the Bible into various languages.

On Reformation Day, we commemorate the work, zeal, and sacrifices of Luther and the other reformers. Reformation Day is observed on October 31.

Additional Resources:

Why do we celebrate Reformation Day? – A Word Fitly Spoken

What are the 95 Theses of Martin Luther? – Got Questions

Reformation 500: Can Roman Catholicism be Considered Christianity? – Berean Research

Protestant and Catholic: What’s the Difference? – Berean Research

NEW! Why We’re Protestant: The Five Solas of the Reformation and Why They Matter by Nate Pickowicz

Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer – Ligonier Ministries

Martin Luther (1953 movie)

Steve Lawson’s books on various Reformers

Luther: In Real Time (podcast)-  Ligonier Ministries

Reformation Resources to Feed your Heart and Mind– G3 Ministries

This article was originally published at Satisfaction Through Christ.

Holidays (Other), Movies, Reformation Day

Movie Tuesday- Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer

October 31 is Reformation Day. All next week, I’ll have a ton of Reformation resources for you, and to help kick things off, here’s the wonderful Ligonier documentary, Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer. Enjoy!

Guest Posts, Holidays (Other), Reformation Day

Guest Post: The Reformation – An Invitation to the Gospel

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at,
and let’s chat about it.

The Reformation: An Invitation to the Gospel
by Matt Shown

For most, October 31 is about costumes and candy. But something far more frightening and weighty is also celebrated on that day. October 31 is Reformation Day. On October 31, 1517, a hammer strike would echo through centuries – in fact, the echo is still reverberating today. In 1517, Martin Luther would nail his ninety-five theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany sparking the Protestant Reformation that shaped Christian history.

The Reformers sought to bring the church back under the authority of God’s Word. This wasn’t to say tradition had no value, but rather that the sole “God-breathed” authority for any believer was not the word of Popes or councils, but the words of the Bible. The Reformers echoed the conviction of Jesus when He responded to the Sadducees in His day, “Have you not read what was said to you by God?” (Matthew 22:31). The words on the pages of Scriptures were God’s very Word- God breathed and sufficient to equip believers to do every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Sola Scriptura – that Scripture alone is the supreme authority for faith and practice was the formal, or foundational, principle that sparked the Reformation.

But there was a second principle – a material principle- that dealt with the content of the gospel. This material principle was called sola fide. Sola fide was the confession that faith alone was the way in which mankind can be in right relationship with God. By grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone mankind can be justified, which means to be set in a right relationship with God. Romans 4:5 tells us, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” John 3:16, the most popular verse in the Bible, reminds us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Many misunderstand what sola fide means because we misunderstand what faith is. Faith is not a blind leap into the dark. Faith isn’t separate from repentance of sin (Mark 1:15). Faith isn’t simply beliefs in our head, but transformation of our head, heart, and will. Biblical faith is conviction rooted in assurance (Hebrews 11:1, Romans 4:21). It isn’t the empty profession that James 2 illustrates. Faith isn’t walking an aisle at church on Sunday and walking in darkness Monday through Saturday. Saving faith is conviction rooted in assurance that God’s Word is true. It is marked by a transformation of self (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus illustrates saving faith in parable about a tax collector and the Pharisee. Luke tells us he told this parable to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and we may be surprised what self-righteousness looks like. Both men entered the temple to pray, and the Pharisee gave lip service to God’s grace, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11-12). He recognizes God’s grace, yet ultimately found hope in his own works. While the tax collector displays reverence toward God by bowing his head and praying a simple prayer, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” The Pharisee recognizes God’s grace, the tax collector relied on it. It was the one who relied on God’s grace, through faith, that went home justified, not the man who simply gave lip service to grace while trusting in himself.

This is an illustration of why the Reformation matters. The church was making men into Pharisees rather than into justified tax collectors. The message of the Reformation was to cease simply recognizing grace, and to instead rely on it. The message was a confession of mankind’s ungodliness, God’s incomprehensible holiness, and the sufficiency of Jesus’ cross and empty tomb to save!

The Reformation is an opportunity to, by faith alone, rely on God’s grace. It is an opportunity to trust the promises of God in His Word because the Bible is enough for us. It is an opportunity to let go of unbiblical traditions and to embrace the apostolic traditions found in the pages of God’s Word. The Reformation is an invitation to the reader who may not have assurance of their relationship with God. It is an invitation to assurance through faith in Jesus Christ.

“How can I be right with God?” There is no more important question. It is that question that ignited the Reformation and it is a question all of us must answer.

Matt Shown has served as a bi-vocational pastor and church revitalizer for the past 4 1/2 years. He loves God’s Word, good preaching, and Mac N Cheese. He is married to his incredible wife Dana. Matt received his Master of Divinity degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He blogs at