Did you know that 31 Oct 2017 will mark the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation? It is one of the biggest transformational movements in church history.
Yet, as Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon (left) of The Methodist Church in Singapore observed, “most Protestant churches do not observe this day and most Protestant Christians are not even aware of the day”.
So what was the Reformation all about? What impact and significance could a movement that happened 500 years ago have on us today?
The seeds of the Reformation were sown by Martin Luther, a German monk who left law school and joined the monastery in 1505 after surviving a thunderstorm.
He lived a strict ascetic life — rigorously praying and fasting, spending cold nights in vigils without blankets, and making frequent confessions. However, he remained tormented by a deep sense of sinfulness and guilt before a holy God, and by his failures to keep God’s law blamelessly and be righteous.
As he pondered over Romans 1:17, he realised: “I grasped that the righteousness of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.”
With that, Luther was transformed, but his convictions would gradually lead him to take issue with many of the Church of Rome’s prevailing teachings and practices, especially the sale of papal indulgences.
On 31 Oct 1517, he nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, his parish, hoping to invite discussion and debate, and move towards reforming the Church to become more faithful to God’s Word.
However, Luther’s actions brought him into conflict with Rome and its leaders. Luther was later excommunicated from the Church of Rome as a result of his refusal to retract his message.
By then, his writings had begun to circulate around Europe. Many Christians in countries like Switzerland, England, Scotland, and Holland also eventually broke away from the Church of Rome and formed new communions.
This marked the beginning of Protestantism, and the movement reaffirmed key Christian doctrines such as justification by faith alone, and Scripture being the Church’s ultimate authority. The Reformation also had a societal impact, aiding the development of a modern system of law and governance as well as of modern science, and helping establish the liberty of the individual conscience.
The Reformation is a unique story of social upheaval and conflict, but also one through which the hidden hand of God guided the Church to return to His Word and the Gospel of Christ.
Do come for the above seminar and learn from the speaker, Bishop Emeritus Dr Solomon, about who the Reformers were, what they did and taught, and how the Reformation subsequently shaped world and church history.
Artwork courtesy of The Bible Society® of Singapore