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Saturday, 31 October 2015

Reformation Day

It was 498 years ago, today, that the German Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, nailed his now-famous "95 theses" to the door of the church building in Wittenberg, in his native country.  These "theses" are really a series of statements that Luther wished to discuss with others.  They are, however, also his response to the sale of "papal indulgences" - written documents that were supplied by the pope and not only provided for past sins to be forgiven but for future sins to be forgiven as well.  These indulgences also allowed the buyer to get his relatives out of purgatory!

Luther realised that, according to the teachings of the New Testament, such "indulgences" were a fraud.  In Theses 20 and 21 he writes:
"20. ... the pope, when he uses the words "plenary remission of all penalties," does not actually mean "all penalties," but only those imposed by himself.
21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences."

Luther had read the New Testament in Greek, and realised that the Latin language translation, the Vulgate - which was the official text of the Roman church - was wrong in a very important aspect.  In Matthew 4:17, the Greek word 'metanoeite' was translated as "do penance", when it should have been translated 'repent'.  Thus his first two Theses read:
"1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" ( Matthew 4:17 ), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy."

The Reformation had begun - even if Luther was not fully aware of the impact that his theses would have.  He was, effectively, bringing the Word of God to the fore, rather than the sacramental system of the church.  He had discovered, as a monk that, for centuries, the true teachings of the Word of God had been hidden by tradition. That’s what Reformation Day is about: it’s about pulling back the covers and releasing the power of the Word of God and the beauty and the truth of the gospel.

That’s why Reformation Day is celebrated - and I would suggest that, for the true disciple of Jesus, it is something much better to celebrate on October 31st than the modern "Hallowe'en" with its connections to the occult; to demons; to the satan himself!   Oh, I know that "It's only a bit of fun".  However, the same thing might be said about a seance, the use of an ouija board; and a number of other activities that no Bible-believer would even think of countenancing.  Instead of "trick or treat", why not spend some time, this evening, carefully and prayerfully reading the Word of God.  It will be "... a lamp to [your] feet, and a light to [your] path." (Ps 119:105).

Happy Reformation Day!

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