500 years ago on October 31st, 1517, the man Martin Luther walked to his local church. With bold conviction in his heart, he nailed a letter to its door.
This document, called the 95 Theses, would kickstart a movement that would change history, shape Christian doctrine, and impact what we believe today. In its essence, it asserted the truth every Christian holds dear – we are saved by grace alone.
As our country happily partakes in Halloween festivities and thrills, this historical moment calls for its own attention, especially from those who love the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
By God’s loving sovereignty, this remarkable piece of His redemptive plan began to pull the world out from the spiritual darkness of legalism and back into the light of experiencing salvation by faith.
I am talking about the Protestant Reformation, the 16th-Century period that we may briefly learn about in school history books, but if studied further, could greatly strengthen our zeal for Christ now.
This is about the legacy of our faith – the saints, or believers in Jesus, that walked before us and savored the truth of God’s Scriptures and proclaimed it boldly in the face of opposition – even to the point of death. Our churches can trace their theology all the way back to these faithful men and women.
In recognition of this, I desire to share the time’s key theological breakthroughs that we can celebrate and infuse into our spiritual growth, this Halloween and beyond.
These reformers realized you have to preach the Gospel to yourself everyday – and what a lesson that is for us! Part of that is remembering the core of what it is.
Below I’ll also provide resources for further study, and for celebrating it in your own home!
Key Points to Know: The 5 “Solas”
Society revolved around the Roman Catholic Church in 1517, when Luther posted the 95 Theses. It was steeped in empty religious ceremonies, unbiblical beliefs like purgatory and worship of relics, and corrupted leadership, among other things.
By this time access to the Bible had been lost or denied to the people, and it was reformers like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and many others who brought it back into the spotlight and into the hands of the common people.
Later, when confronted by Catholic and State authorities to recant his newfound, understanding of the true Gospel, Luther proclaimed:
“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason — I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other — my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”
As reformers studied the Word, their writings united under 5 principles. They are summarized as such: Salvation is by God’s grace alone, on the basis of Christ alone, received through faith alone, to the glory of God alone, with Scripture alone as the only, final, decisive, authority on truth.
Sola Gratia (By God’s Grace Alone)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
It is completely by God’s grace—that is, His unmerited kindness toward us—that we receive salvation from our sin. We are not at peace with God and saved from punishment from sin by anything we do or are, but by the Lord’s total compassion on the cross.
Understand that good works are not required to receive salvation, but are natural effect of it. Out of love for God and the grace He gives, we obey His commands and serve others as He instructs. True Christians saved by grace show it with their obedient and honorable walk.
Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
God’s grace of salvation is only offered through Jesus, who lived a sinless life we could not live and took upon Himself the death we deserved for our sin.Jesus took what we deserved and gave us what we didn't deserve. Click To Tweet
Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
“We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” Galatians 2:16
Jesus saves because He gives us His perfect righteousness to us, through belief in His sacrifice and resurrection. We’re redeemed and forgiven when we acknowledge our sin, repent, and trust in His name. Our works cannot give us a pure heart, only faith in Christ can.
Soli Deo Gloria (to God’s Glory Alone)
“In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:5-6
This grand salvation we have in Christ shows the infinite nature of God’s glory. Our the new life in Jesus is also to be for His praise!
[To learn more, read: What You Need to Know About God’s Love]
Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
We know all of these truths because of the foundational authority of what God has spoken and shared with us in the Bible. Through the writing of faithful servants like Moses all the way to the Apostle Paul, God has revealed Himself to us and made known His plan for mankind.
These principles may seem basic to you – perhaps they are well versed in your church. Hallelujah! The key is knowing God’s power preserved them through men and women who served Him with tremendous courage and love.
We cannot take them for granted, and we must live with this understanding of our salvation daily.
We only have the Bible in our hands, the Good News of Jesus still alive around the world, because the Holy Spirit has carried it through the centuries through Christians who dared to speak and share it despite the dark and delusional cultures around them.
How to Celebrate
In light of the incredible 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s pinning of the 95 Theses, many churches and believing homes are hosting parties to celebrate!
Consider doing this instead or in addition to your normal Halloween fun. Have your kids study the reformers, watch the movie Martin Luther, or have people dress up like the reformers and reenact significant historical moments with discussion afterward.
To Learn More:
I highly recommend the following by Desiring God – Here We Stand: A 31-Day Journey with Heroes of the Reformation (available in digital and podcast form) and What Are the Five Solas?
Also check out the Christian women’s podcast Revive our Hearts by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, which has a current series: Celebrating the Reformation.
Family Studies & Activities
Animated Kids Video – Torchlighters: The Martin Luther Story
Free Reformation Resources for Kids (includes crafts, party ideas, and study printables)