Next Thursday, October 31st, will mark much more than a dress-up day that keeps dentists in business. Halloween (or “All Hallows’ Evening,” the night before All Saints’ Day) was the day on which Martin Luther lit a match that set the church ablaze. The fuel and kindling that carried the fire had nothing to do with Luther. Calls for reformation in the church had been articulated for 150 years by the likes of John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and many others. But when Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church on October 31st, 1517, the political, economic, technological, and religious forces were such that the spark took. The Western world would never be the same.
Even contemporary Catholic voices agree that the church of Luther’s time was in need of significant reform. Money and power had so corrupted the institution that an alternative to the gospel was being sold to the uneducated, trusting masses. The infamous and unscrupulous Johann Tetzel distributed the Pope’s alleged power to forgive sin in the form of indulgences. With the purchase of an indulgence, Tetzel preached, a sinner could be “cleaner than Adam before the Fall.” One could even purchase such forgiveness for dead relatives, so that “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” Most blasphemous was Tetzel’s claim that “the cross of the seller of indulgences has as much power as the cross of Christ.”
Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and a host of others joined the voices of their forebears to proclaim that, by Scripture alone, we believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, all for the glory of God alone. This was a recovery of the biblical gospel, and while the Protestant Reformation had plenty of imperfections, we owe much of our spiritual inheritance to their labor.
There are two specific ways you can engage these recovered truths in the upcoming days at Whitton Avenue: study and share.
First, study. On Sunday, November 3rd we will being “The Story of the Church, Part II.” The first three weeks of this training course will overview the history and theology of the Protestant Reformation. The weeks that follow in this 8-week class will show how the recovery of the gospel played out in the Puritans, in early American life, and in the great revivals. Bill Curd and I will be teaching this during the Training Hour (9:30 – 10:30 AM) in the Fireside Room and hope you will join us.
Second, share. On the 496th anniversary of Luther’s game-changing deed we will be handing out hot dogs and candy in hopes to get to know our trick-or-treating neighbors. This will save no one, but it should give us great opportunities to meet neighbors, initiate or build relationships, and communicate to our neighborhood that we want to show God’s grace to them in tangible ways. In all of this our prayer is that God will build more inroads for sharing his glorious gospel that the reformers fought to defend.
I pray that you will join us in studying and sharing this grace.
To God alone be glory,