“For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17)
This October marks the 500th anniversary of the spark which ignited the Protestant Reformation. Legend has it that on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. The strokes of the hammer upon that door echoed throughout Europe, and still reverberate to this day. While there is some debate as to whether the nailing of the Theses was literal or figurative, the 95 Theses were included in a letter Luther sent to his superiors on that date.
Romans 1:17 was identified by Luther as one of the key inspirations for his work. In it Luther saw a powerful reminder that it is through faith in God’s grace, and not through good works, that humans are justified before God.
Just over 200 years later, John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist Movement, would write famously citing Luther’s influence in his journal:
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt that I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. (Wesley’s Works, Vol. 1: Journals. May 24, 1738, ¶14)
Luther’s influence is still felt today. Many look to his courage to stand in faith against the powers of his day as inspiration for a continuing call to always be reforming. We hear it in our longing to “Rethink Church,” and to experience revival. We see it in a longing for renewal, and a passion to reach others with the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We see it in our longing to be transformed into the people God is calling us to be.
As we celebrate the Reformation 500 during October, it is my prayer that our hearts will be strangely warmed as God’s Spirit breaks into our lives renewing, reviving and reforming us.