On this day 500 years ago, a youthful 33-year-old professor crossed a theological rubicon. Little did he know his rather quiet life as an Augustinian friar would become like a lightening rod from that day forward.
October 31, 1517 marks the pivotal moment when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saint’s Church in Wittenburg (though he may have “mailed” it, per my friend Dr. Michael Svigel), thus declaring his positions against the unbiblical teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther’s action precipitated a major return to the Bible as the final authority by which Christians are guided for all life, faith, and practice. Although central tenets of the Protestant Reformation such as salvation “by grace alone through faith alone” were not the locus of Luther’s original proclamation, over the next 100 years God worked in a wide-sweeping way across Europe to restore the preaching and teaching of “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3b).
Men like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, John Huss, and many others were used by God to articulate the Gospel of Christ to masses of people who had never heard or understood the message of salvation. In God’s providence, thousands of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts flooded northward into European universities during this time. How did this happen? As Muslims ransacked ancient church buildings and libraries across the Middle East and northern Africa, the biblical manuscripts were protected by churchmen by shipping them out of the region. Not by mere coincidence, God was opening the eyes of people across Europe to the truth of Scripture and they, in turn, immediately sought to translate the Bible from the original languages into the language of the people.
Not by mere happenstance, at this same time Johann Gutenberg utilized His God-given skills to invent the first printing press so that the Bible could be published and distributed to everyone.
Are you noticing a pattern here? God is sovereign over the affairs of mankind. In accordance with His timetable, the Gospel went forth into the darkened, superstitious regions of Europe and has since spread across the entire globe. By the grace of God, you and I are sons and daughters of the Reformation – of God’s work of reviving the authority of His Word and the proclamation of the Gospel to the common man. Let us give God a shout of praise for that today.
Today, I declare these Thirteen Theses for the 21st Century:
1. The only way of rescue from sin and judgment is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Jn. 19:30; 20:31; Rom. 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9).
2. The progressively common posture that Scripture is pliable, interpretation altogether relative, and truth holistically subjective is foreign to the biblical narrative and unaligned with the teaching of the prophets, apostles, and Christ himself (Matt. 5:17-18; Lk. 16:17; Jn. 10:35; 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21).
3. The moralistic idea that God’s love for us is determined by our behavior collapses under the truth that God doesn’t love us any more or any less on the basis of what we do, but on the basis of what His Son, Jesus Christ, has done (Jn. 3:16; 5:24; 10:27-30; Rom. 6-8).
4. The so-called gospel that promises prosperity and physical health on-demand for those who have faith is opposed to the true gospel of Christ, whose path was one of suffering before glory (Mk. 8:27-35; 2 Tim. 4:6-8).
5. The rampant forms of racism couched in the Church are entirely contradictory to the call of all Christ-followers, who are commanded to be united with one another in beautiful diversity (Jn. 17:20-26; Eph. 2:11-22).
6. The turning of pastors into pundits for the preservation of temporal safety, ease, or cultural comforts is making a mockery of the pulpit by usurping the preaching of God’s Word with political grandstanding (2 Tim. 3:14-17; 4:1-5).
7. The infiltration of unbridled nationalism and unchastened patriotism among American Christians is destroying our witness and poisoning our worship of Christ, whose kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36).
8. The prevalent attitude of ambivalence or resistance against refugees and other persons in crisis is a betrayal of God’s mission, which calls us to express God’s compassion by giving refuge to refugees; and teaches that we are most like our God when we love people who hate God (and us) (Ex. 22:21-22; 23:9; Lev. 19:33-34; Deut. 10:17-19; Ruth 2:10-12; Isa. 16:4-5; Matt. 5:43-45; 25:34-46; Rom. 5:10).
9. The common expectation that non-believers should conform to Christian ethics and morals without first receiving the life-transforming gospel is creating a cultural war rather than cultivating cross-cultural mission (Jn. 3:1-21; 4:1-45; 8:1-11).
10. The real battle of the Church is not against persons, people groups, or political parties, but against Satan, sin, and his system (Eph. 6:10-20; 1 Pet. 5:8-11).
11. The ignoring and hiding of sexual and physical abuse by many Christ-confessing churches is diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Christ they claim to know (Matt. 18:6).
12. The acceptance of unrepentant sexual immorality among confessing Christians is entirely discordant with the harmony of God’s Word and the historic Christian sexual ethic, which makes clear that all forms of sexual intimacy outside of marriage (as God defines it) are contrary to God’s good design and will (Gen. 2:18-25; Prov. 6:32; Matt. 19:4-6; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 6:18; 7:1-11; Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-7; cf. Rom. 1:18-32).
13. The popular understanding that the end goal of the Christian life is to be a disembodied soul in heaven is Gnostic, contrary to Scripture, insomuch as it denies that both body and soul bear the image of God; that both body and soul are part of God’s good design; and that the resurrection of the body to be rejoined with the soul is the hope of the gospel (Lk. 14:14; 20:36; Acts 17:31-34; 1 Cor. 15:3-28; Rev. 20:5-6; 11-13).
A voice from the past rings true today:
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.
The Halloween “Thing”
Want to know what I think about October 31st and the events of Halloween or “All Hallow’s Eve”? I encourage you to read an article I wrote a few years ago and watch the short video clip embedded in the post: “…Today the calendar flipped to Halloween, October 31st, and my mind is swirling with numerous memories from my childhood in metro-Detroit. Why was I surprised when our house got “egged” on Halloween? Had we shown the good will and love of Christ to the neighbor kids? … Read more here: http://www.graceexposed.org/
 Many attribute this inspiring quotation to the great reformer, Martin Luther, as did Francis Shaeffer in his book, The Great Evangelical Disaster (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1984), 50-51. However, its exact, historical origins are uncertain. Many cite the following as containing the phrase: Martin Luther, Briefwechsel, Weimar ed., vol. 3, D. Martin Luthers Werke, 81ff. But the exact wording above is not found therein (though similar thoughts are expressed). However researchers have found the very same wording in a novel that references Luther and the Reformation; see Elizabeth Rundle Charles, The Chronicles of the Schoenberg Cotta Family (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1864), 315. For a thorough evaluation of this apropos quote see Carl Wieland, “Where the Battle Rages – A Case of Misattribution,” in Creation Ministries International (2010), http://creation.com/battle-quote-not-luther (accessed Nov 29, 2011).