Jan 3rd: The Birth of the Reformation

“Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, and biblical scholar, wrote against the church’s use of indulgences and insisted that salvation is a free gift from God, not achieved through good works. Luther refused to recant his criticism of the church, saying, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.” He was excommunicated by Pope Leo X on January 3, 1521, unwittingly becoming the leader of a movement that would later be named the Great Reformation.” – Common Prayer App.

Here I stand
“It started on All Saints’ Eve, 1517, when Luther publicly objected to the way preacher Johann Tetzel was selling indulgences. These were documents prepared by the church and bought by individuals either for themselves or on behalf of the dead that would release them from punishment due to their sins. As Tetzel preached, ‘Once the coin into the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory heavenward springs!’


Luther questioned the church’s trafficking in indulgences and called for a public debate of 95 theses he had written. Instead, his 95 Theses spread across Germany as a call to reform, and the issue quickly became not indulgences but the authority of the church: Did the pope have the right to issue indulgences?


Events quickly accelerated. At a public debate in Leipzig in 1519, when Luther declared that ‘a simple layman armed with the Scriptures’ was superior to both pope and councils without them, he was threatened with ex-communication.

Luther replied to the threat with his three most important treatises: The Address to the Christian Nobility, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of a Christian. In the first, he argued that all Christians were priests, and he urged rulers to take up the cause of church reform. In the second, he reduced the seven sacraments to two (baptism and the Lord’s Supper). In the third, he told Christians they were free from the law (especially church laws) but bound in love to their neighbors.


In 1521 he was called to an assembly at Worms, Germany, to appear before Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Luther arrived prepared for another debate; he quickly discovered it was a trial at which he was asked to recant his views.
Luther replied, ‘Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds of reasoning … then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience.’ Then he added, ‘Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen.’
By the time an imperial edict calling Luther ‘a convicted heretic’ was issued, he had escaped to Wartburg Castle, where he hid for ten months.”

– Mark Galli and Ted Olsen, “Introduction,” 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 35.

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