Praise God for raising up someone to oppose those who were holding down the Gospel through greed, power and manipulation. There had been those before Luther such as John Huss and John Wycliffe who some would consider the first line of troops to break the stronghold of the “Normandy beach” but most of the initial Reformers died for the sake of Christ in making His Gospel known. But Luther was the first to gain a foothold on the beach by nailing his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517 – aka Reformation Day (though it had already begun in debates and dialogs with various Roman Catholic theologians. It was revolutionary, the explosion of the Protestant Reformation was about to take place all over Europe. After seeing the Gospel pop out of the Scriptures before his eyes when reading Romans and Galatians in particular, that the righteous shall live by faith in Christ alone and nothing else (no works, etc), he could not help but see the unbelievable fallacies and evils of the Roman Catholic Church in direct opposition to the Gospel itself in the Scriptures. He saw they had set up a legalistic, religious system of approach to God, offering to all that more was needed than the blood of Christ alone to be saved, such as penance, purgatory, etc. Luther opposed this by showing that Salvation is by Sovereign Grace in the cross work of Christ on behalf of His people. Luther’s main emphasis in the Reformation was a returning to the Biblical Gospel, that we are saved by sovereign Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone revealed in the Scriptures Alone to the Glory of God alone (the Five Solas).
Luther considered his most important work to be The Bondage of the Will, which spread like a wildfire throughout Europe, a letter (book really) written to Erasmus, a Roman Catholic theologian debating Luther on the Scriptural validity of the will being free from the corruption of sin or not. The heart of the Reformation itself dealt with the will, i.e. does God have to regenerate the will by the work of Christ to turn our affections and desires; whether God has to do a supernatural work in the heart to make a person willing to believe in Christ alone in order that they may be saved. Monergism vs. Synergism was the core issue. The doctrine of faith alone simply supported Grace Alone. It is God who saves from beginning to end, Alpha to Omega, the flesh is of no avail, just as Jesus said. I find it ironic that today most Protestant evangelicals in the West use the same arguments of Erasmus (a Roman Catholic theologian) when defending free will theology, whereas Luther would oppose them, just as he does in his most important book. It is odd that many disagree with the very conclusions of the heart of the Reformation itself, all the while benefiting from all that came out of it, even though this was the key issue to the whole thing, according to Luther himself. Regardless, praise God for raising up faithful people to spread his Gospel, even when it cost them their lives. Praise God for Reformation Day!
One of my favorite quotes from Luther:
“Whilst a man is persuaded that he has it in his power to contribute anything, be it ever so little, to his salvation, he remains in carnal self-confidence; he is not a self-despairer, and therefore is not duly humbled before God, he believes he may lend a helping hand in his salvation, but on the contrary, whoever is truly convinced that the whole work depends singly on the will of God, such a person renounces his own will and strength; he waits and prays for the operation of God, nor waits and prays in vain . . .” – Martin Luther