This year marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther making public his 95 theses. Born in Eisleben, Germany, in 1483, he went on to become one of western history’s most significant figures.
Luther spent his early years in relative anonymity as a monk and scholar. In these days God was regarded as a stern judge to be feared.
The popular belief was that the Plague, which had wiped out a third of Europe’s population a hundred years previously, was God’s judgement. Luther himself said that at this time he thought of Christ only as a judge to be feared.
It was in response to a pastoral problem that he composed his theses. The church at the time was selling indulgences – in other words people were led to believe they could buy their salvation.
It was because Luther was coming to realise, by reading the Bible, what a wrong view this was that he put together his protest.
On October 31, 1517 he published his ’95 Theses’ attacking the church’s teaching. This began to unlock for the ordinary people, the important view that salvation was through faith in Christ and by grace alone.
Within four years of the 95 theses Luther was defending himself before the Holy Roman Emperor, refusing to change his view unless it could be disproved by scripture.
Martin Luther is one of the most influential figures in church history.
His writings were responsible for sparking the Protestant Reformation. His central teaching was that the Bible is the main source of religious authority and that salvation is reached through faith and not deeds.
In other words, we don’t get to heaven by good works or buying our way.
We come to God through faith and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God.