October 31 is a day of great celebration among Christians. We anticipate, or at least we should anticipate, this day every year. This day marks a great recovery of the gospel. No, I am not referring to Halloween, but the Reformation.
On October 31, 1517, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. What may have seemed insignificant at the time sparked a movement across Europe and the world that impacts us still today, as the strike of his hammer would lead to the great Protestant Reformation.
What was so significant about that day? Well, Martin Luther was essentially protesting the pope’s attempt to sell salvation to the people. He was attempting to bring back the biblical understanding that we are justified (made right with God) through faith alone in Christ alone. Justification is God’s way of legally declaring that we are not guilty, our sins are forgiven, and that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us based solely upon faith in Him (Rom 3:28; 2 Cor 5:21).
Justification, therefore, as another has said, is the hinge upon which everything turns. Recovering the truth that people are made right with God by a means other than themselves is literally life changing. This truth shook Europe in the 1500s and still shakes the world today.
In fact, missions is simply going and telling people all over the world that they can be right with God not through what they do, but through what was done for them. It is quite liberating to be able to tell people from every tribe, tongue and nation that they must simply believe this message about Jesus and they will be made right with God.
Today we stand on the shoulders of men like Martin Luther who got it. He got it that we can do nothing to earn God’s favor. God’s grace is a gift that we receive through faith alone in Jesus alone (Eph 2:8-9). While the world may look different in many respects to that day in 1517, the world is really quite the same. People are still trying to work their way to God. How they attempt to work may look different from culture to culture and place to place. But they are seeking to work nonetheless.
During this October 31 celebration let’s remember that we are to call people from all nations to stop working and to start believing. Let’s go this coming calendar year to those who are trying to earn their way to heaven and tell them that the way has been earned for them through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus if they will simply believe.
After all, the just shall live by faith (Rom 1:17). But, with the apostle Paul, how will they know that the just live by faith if we don’t go and tell them (Rom 10:14-17)? I am grateful that Martin Luther got it, and by God’s grace I pray that we never forget it!