The Protestant Reformation 1517 lead by Martin Luther, was the beginning of a whole new direction in Christianity. However, if we look closely, it is not entirely a new direction but a return to the Early Church. The Protestant reformation (1517) started with Martin Luther, publishing the famous Ninety-five Theses. He believably nailed onto the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. These changes were for the better. At that time, the Christian Church was amazingly powerful; there was only one acquired Christian faith in Europe: Roman Catholicism, directed by the Pope in Rome.
Therefore, the Eastern Church lead by Patriarch was also not a proper Christian Church. The first division of the Church happened in 1054 between the East and the West. Now, Luther’s protest started new the division of the Christian Catholics. This event is the defining significance when the West Christian Church separates into Protestant and Catholic. The reform started with nailing those Ninety-five Theses to the church door. However, the term Reformation was not used at that time but much later. Somewhere around the eighteenth century, the Reformation had been accepted as a process by which a large number of strong Christian believers form their redeemed faith.
They haven’t believed in the public abuses and fake beliefs of the Catholic Church. The word Protestant originally described the princes who stud by Martin Luther and protesting against the Catholic Church at the Imperial Diet (Parliament). People often enough think that word Protestant means the same thing as Lutheran. The word Protestant is for anyone who is opposed to the teaching of the Catholic Church. While Lutheran is a very particular term that we use to describe people who follow the teachings of Martin Luther himself.
So all the Lutherans are Protestants, but not all the Protestants are Lutherans. For example, there were other types of Protestants as Calvinists or Radicals. Of course, not all Protestants believe in the same things. Since there is no specific date when the Protestant Reformation starts, we generally accept 1517.
Timeline – The protestant reformation
There are several significantly crucial dates in the Protestant Reformation 1517, not only in 1517 but also:
1483 the birth of Martin Luther
1505 Martin Luther made a deal with God. While he was caught in a thunderstorm, he vowed to become a monk, and God would spear his life. Therefore he left a profession in law and became a monk.
1516 He decided that ‘faith alone’ is what gets a soul into heaven. Therefore a big deal of Catholic belief was wrong.
1517 the Ninety-five Theses
1520 He publishes three significantly important works, To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of a Christian. Also, he denied the authority of the Pope to interpret or confirm the interpretation of the Bible.
1521 Martin Luther declined to back down before the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, at the Imperial Parliament.
1522 German Bible. Martin Luther translates the Bible into German and publishes his New Testament translation.
1524–25 Thomas Müntzer used Luther’s ideas to encourage human and social equity.
1529 Six Lutheran princes opposed at the second Diet of Speyer against the Catholic Church
1534 Luther published the Old Testament translation in the German language.
1546 The reformer Martin Luther died at Wartburg Castle, Germany
Justification before God
Only a pure soul can enter the gates of Heaven and stand before God. How does a soul justify? Every Christian denomination believes that God created Heaven and Earth, the first man, and in the fall of the first man. Therefore, everyone believes in the original sin of Adam and Eve. As a result of the choices they made and people’s free will, God gives an ultimate sacrifice on the cross. It a place of absolute Grace from the Lord, and the only way how a soul can justify. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross made peace with God the Father so that Grace God used to save people from eternal damnation.
Everyone who calls themselves a Christian believes in death on the cross, and more importantly, in a resurrection! Because Jesus Christ didn’t just die, He overcame death and came back to life! If we all agree with the fundamentals of Christian faith, where are the differences? There is a different definition of the Grace of God, so there were different ways on the road to Salvation. The Catholic point of view is crystal clear: we earn Grace by doing good works. The best example is by giving to charity and going on pilgrimages. In other words, God gives us free will to make our way to heaven or hell.
he idea of Grace, in the Catholic church, is that Grace was also at the disposal of the Pope, unlimited, who could grant indulgences to Catholics exclusively. Indulgences were documents that people buy to Pope forgive their sins. In short: Catholics are going to heaven only if they do good. Protestants, well at that time Lutherans, believe they are Saved, by the Grace of God.
Salvation for Protestants VC Catholic
The idea for Salvation for most Protestants and all Lutherans is simple. Salvation is by faith alone (Sola Fide), as Martin Luther said, according to the Bible. (John 3:16) And many other Bible verses.
The Protestant Reformation in 1517 was mostly about that question. Martin thought since people are obsessed with good deeds, they forgot about Christ and His sacrifice. In their spiritual life, people become lazy. Worshiping the saints is opposite to the Bible. Why does someone pray to a dead person when they can pray to almighty God? It is one of the questions that I will probably never get a proper answer to. It is also opposite from the teachings of Jesus Christ and the importance of His sacrifice on the cross. For Protestants, there is no such place as purgatory because it was not mentioned anywhere in the Bible.
The idea of Salvation for Catholics is strongly connected with purgatory and good deeds. The more good deeds someone does, the more Grace of God earns.
They also believe that before entering heaven, most souls went to purgatory. It is a halfway place between Heaven and Hell, where souls are purified. In their last will, many Catholics, therefore, left money to chantries, where monks prayed for the souls. Their prayer is supposed to help them faster get out of purgatory and into heaven. The Catholic Church earned a fortune in this way. It seems like the rich could essentially buy their way into heaven since good deeds and faith are not conditional. There was an idea about the saints because of their pure lives. They went into heaven with a surplus of Grace, which they could offer upon worthy souls and their saint life on Earth.
Is Jesus’ sacrifice enough?
Luther said that good works might not bestow Grace in themselves, but they were natural. Once someone accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and a Savior truly in their heart and believes He resurrected from the dead, at that moment, that person is Saved.
However, that rise to another question, if someone has salvation as a gift, can they live the life they want? In short: No, they continue to do good deeds but only because it is natural to them. They want to do good just because it is good. There is no reword or anything in return. On the other hand, protestants have a personal faith and a relationship with God. For a particular group of Protestants Salvation, is reserved for God’s chosen people. It is like God chooses who will be saved and who will be doomed from the beginning until the end of time.
Book, 1517: Martin Luther and the Invention of the Reformation
DVD collection: Church History, Volume Two Video Lectures: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day
Sola Fide Reformation Board Game
A fairly engaging and entertaining game. Interesting mechanics and a good theme if you have an interest in Reformation history. If you are interested in this theme, then I think you will find the game to be a lot of fun.
For Catholics, the Bible was only for the Priesthood and the Pope. The language is exclusively Latin, and translation to any other language is considered a great sin. Unlike Orthodox Christians, who before that time translated the Bible into many different languages, Catholics didn’t want the people to have access to it. The Pope controlled Biblical text. The papacy argued that this was essential to avoid misunderstandings and uncertainty. It was also a way of preserving the power of the Church by preventing people from thinking for themselves.
The people only knew what the priests told them. And a lot of people didn’t understand the Latin language. For both Orthodox and Catholic churches, the Bible is in the Church, as they like to say. Not the other way around, therefore, the Church is above the Bible. For Protestants and Lutherans, the language of the ordinary people of a particular nation or region should be the language of the Bible.
So we have another sola, sola scriptura. Martin Luther said that only by evidence to scripture alone (sola scriptura) could each person decide whether they had faith. The downside was that people often developed different understandings of the Bible. And that is the biggest issue. Also, one of the key disagreements and reasons for the Protestant Reformation 1517 was a place for the Bible in the Church. For Protestants, the Bible is the true, direct, and trustworthy Word of God. Hence, the Church is in the Bible, and the Bible is above the Church. It is only by reading the Bible Martin Luther came to the reform and made different conclusions from existing.
The Protestant Reformation 1517 – Johann Tetzel
One of the triggers and inspirations for Luther’s reform was, for sure, Johann Tetzel. His activities were selling indulgences. Johann Tetzel was selling special indulgences. Not only could they secure justification for all the sins of the buyer, but they could also even secure the release from the purgatory of a friend or relative who was already deceased.
Tetzel, in his sealing speech, was using emotions. He often asked the people to show how much they loved their dead loved once by giving them the most valuable gift of all. A lot of people from Wittenberg who made journeys to reach Tetzel bought indulgences. When Martin Luther found out, he was furious. It was the event that helps Luther wrote his Ninety-five Theses. His thoughts were pure, as he only wanted to prove with the arguments to the Archbishop of Mainz, Albert of Brandenburg, under whose authorization Tetzel was selling, that indulgences are not providing real salvation.
His famous words: As soon as the coin in the coffer rings,
So the soul from purgatory springs
Martin was warning that simple souls believing that when they have purchased such peace of paper have secured their salvation. The Catholic Church with Pope Leo tenth was only worrying about money raised from the sale of indulgences to fill their pockets and to finance the rebuilding of St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. Many people agreed with Luther’s teaching, those who understood theology. There is a story about a Tetzel and a German nobleman. That man asked if indulgences could assure forgiveness for sins not yet committed? When Tetzel gave him a positive answer, the nobleman handed over his money and then beat up Tetzel. He was saying that this was the sin he wanted to commit all along.
Luther’s excommunication by Pope Leo X
They thought, especially, Pope Leo X, that kicking out Martin from the church would do him a lot of harm. They wanted him to suffer. Instead of sending him a legal document, a message saying that he was a refugee from the Church, they announced it to all Churches. It not only meant he is out but also all Christians to refuse to have any business with him. Moreover, his soul would burn in hell forever for his disobedience. At that time, ex-communication was not naive, Martin could face the inquisition. As we remember from history, the inquisition had only one answer to all questions: burn.
To show power, the orders were given directly by the Pope in Rome. Luckily for Luther, he had friends who were authorities, like Prince Frederic. He made sure that Luther has a fair trial. Even though the Roman church wanted to have a trial in Rome, prince Fredric convinced his cousin Charles to have a hearing for Luther in Germany. Because every German deserves to have a fair trial in Germany. The case took place in the city of Worms in April 1521. The Church officials expected that the Diet would condemn Luther without even giving him a hearing.
They argued that his publications were heretical compared to Holy Roman texts and that no defense was imaginable. But Charles decided to allow Luther to make an appearance so that there could be fair treatment. Martin saw himself as being in God’s hands, the safest place anyone can be, and he was sure that if God meant him to live, he would return harmlessly home. One thing he was sure of was that God wanted him to tell the truth as broadly as possible.
In his books, Luther was writing about the Bible as the highest authority. He firmly denied the so-called right of the pope, church councils, fathers, and kings to control their conscience in matters of faith. He tested every doctrine and every claim through the infallible authority of the Scripture. As well as the rules of faith and living, and by its teaching. Trust in God, and His Word, supported Luther when his life was at stake. Luther was asked to recant his work and all of his books. One of his books was declaring against the supporters of the papacy. These are they who try to maintain Roman cruelty and to destroy its holiness.
He was saying that he cannot recant his books because they are based on Scripture. His only intention was the teaching people of Christ. Abandoning his books was not an option for Luther. Roman church was afraid of Luther and his books because he was also able to build an authoritative position in the lives of ordinary people throughout much of Germany. Luther’s writings were widely bought and rapidly passed from hand to hand. Plus, his book was written in a common language so everyone could read them. It was one of the many reasons for calling them a heresy.
Luther ended his talk by asking his opponents to demonstrate that anything he said was against the word of God and the Bible. He questioned everyone, from most illustrious lordships, or anyone at all, whether of the high or low estate. Everyone was asked to look for his mistakes, and show his errors, defeat him by the writings of the holy people. He was more than ready, if the trial is proven, to be the first to throw all books to the fires.
Spreading the reform
Once the Protestant Reformation 1517 started, they needed to focus on spreading the word. It was a significantly demanding task considering the time and place. Five-hundred years ago, people were writing all the books by hand. They were, therefore, limited and costly. However, after Gutenberg’s discovery, in 1455, printing took place on folding printing machines in which he used a flat plate with metal letters. It was the best way of changing the rush of information and ideas. Because of the printing press, the reform was able to reach a lot of people over a much bigger range.
A printing plate with letters could produce a thousand pages at the same time it took a write just one. The number of printed pages from the presses was massive. Starting from 1517 and three years later, they printed about 300,000 copies of Luther’s books. They sold 200,000 Bibles in 12 years. The distribution was, however, very slow. It is because the printed pages were passed from hand to hand. About twenty days for Ninety-five Theses to get across the whole of Germany, and twice as much to reach Thomas More in Britain.
They didn’t print only Luther’s books but also the 1520 pamphlets, the German Bible, and the Catechisms. His pamphlets were essential in spreading his ideas and reform. In one of those pamphlets, Luther rejected the idea that Catholics had a special relationship with God. Alternately, Luther said that all Christians were equal in the eyes of God. Also, Luther argued that only two of the seven sacraments, baptism, and the Eucharist, were justified in the Bible. The other five were, hence, indefensible. All of his work was written in German so everyone could read and understand the content. Luther followed his ideas by rejecting the power of the Pope.
Summary – The protestant reformation
God works in mysterious ways. He leads Martin from a law career through a monk who changed the world. And all of that started from a thunderstorm. As a result of the Protestant Reformation 1517, we have Luther, who raised the relationship between man and God to a new level. Man can now turn directly to his Creator, for which he does not need a church, priests, or saints as intermediaries. He is thus free from any decisions imposed on him by the Church. Such teaching destroyed the position of power that the church hierarchy had. That doesn’t mean that people don’t need the church, but that the Church, is a people gathered around Christ.
Therefore, for Luther, the interpretation that the pope is the authority above the Bible is also wrong. The Bible is the ultimate word of God, and it unquestionably true. Luther’s knowledge is revolutionary, and it destroys all moral principles of the entire Middle Ages. At the same time, that priest, a monk, and doctor of theology do not think that he created something new, but only that he wiped the dust from what was written a long time ago. He was committed to the truth that leads to a desire for change.
And indeed, in the whirlwind of critical thinking and worship of God, the reform of the soul, the reform of man’s relationship to himself, his neighbor, nature, everything created, and the reform of man’s relationship to God begin! Protestants around the world celebrate the 31st of October as the date when reform starts. The same day when Martin nailed down the Ninety-five Thesis. One man who changed the world and without whom the Protestant Reformation 1517 would probably not exist.