What is Reformation Day?

What is Reformation Day?

The Protestant Reformation. Outside of Biblically recorded events and the closing of the canon of Scripture, it is arguably the most important event in church history, and one of the most important events in world history as well, yet many Christians today are unaware of this landmark incident in their heritage which birthed the Protestant church.

The year was 1517. A monk named Martin Luther gripped his hammer and nailed a list of biblical grievances against the Roman Catholic Church to the door of CastleChurch in Wittenberg, Germany, much like we might post a notice to a community bulletin board today. These 95 Theses protested the Catholic Church’s unbiblical policy of selling indulgences,  part of an effort to raise funds for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Catholic Church had created the idea of the Treasury of Merit, sort of a “bank account” of merit deposited by Christ, Mary, the saints, and others as a result of their good works. When church members sinned, they could purchase an indulgence, which was akin to asking the Church to “transfer funds” from the Treasury of Merit to the sinner’s account. The indulgence basically excused the sinner from a certain amount of time in purgatory and/or temporal punishment for that sin.

In addition to protesting the sale of indulgences, Luther’s 95 Theses called the Catholic Church to conform to Scripture by abandoning its unbiblical practices and teachings regarding the doctrines of salvation, religious authority, the nature of the church, and the essence of Christian living.


Luther’s calls for reform spread quickly throughout Europe, inspiring the likes of church fathers Ulrich Zwingli (Zurich), John Calvin (Geneva), and John Knox (Scotland) to join the effort in their own locales. As they worked to address the issues raised in Luther’s document, these men codified what we know today as the “Five Solas of the Reformation,” the basis of Protestant church doctrine. The five solas are:

1. Sola ScripturaScripture alone is the basis for all church doctrine, belief, and practice. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

2. Sola Gratia– Salvation is by grace alone. It is an unmerited gift of God based solely on His goodness, not our own (because we don’t have any). (Ephesians 2:8-9)

3. Sola Fide– Salvation is through faith alone. Faith is a gift bestowed by God. We are saved only by placing that faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross, not by doing good works or by any other attempts to earn salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

4. Solus Christus– Salvation is found in Christ alone. As Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

5. Soli Deo Gloria– God saves man for God’s glory alone, and Believers are to live our lives to glorify Him alone. (Romans 11:36)

One of Luther’s most cherished ideals, from which we still benefit today, was that common people should have access to both the Scriptures and worship services in their own language. Primary to the Reformation, the Bible was only available in Latin. Likewise, all masses and other church services were conducted in Latin. Luther translated the Bible into German, and was later followed by William Tyndale, Myles Coverdale, David Brainerd, and others who translated the Bible into various languages.

Today, we commemorate the work, zeal, and sacrifices of Luther and the other reformers on Reformation Day. Reformation Day is observed on October 31.

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Michelle is a women’s Bible study author, ministry wife, and home schooling mom. She and her husband have six children in their tweens, teens, and twenties. Michelle enjoys reading, spending time with family, and staying active at church and in women’s ministry. Her goal in writing, speaking, and teaching is to train church ladies to be “Mighty Amazon Women” of God: strong in godliness, humility, submission, discernment, kindness, wisdom, apologetics, and hermeneutics.


  1. says

    Michelle, I didn’t know the details of Reformation Day, especially about the “indulgences.” Thanks for shedding some light on the subject (and making it easy to understand!)

    • says

      You’re welcome, carmel. I am so thankful for God’s grace. There aren’t enough penances or indulgences in the universe to make up for what I owe Him.

  2. says

    There are thousands of individual denominations, all teaching something different and all claiming that they teach the whole truth of the Bible. as guided by “sola scriptura” and the Holy Spirit. How can this be? Is the Holy Spirit at odds with Himself so that He teaches one thing to one person and something entirely different to another? Do you really think this is a good thing?

    The doctrines of the Reformation were not taught by the Apostles. They did not exist for 1500 years until Luther invented them. After Luther invented his distinctly Lutheran doctrines, others came along and disagreed with him and invented their own teachings. If I were a pagan in Africa and saw 8 different missionaries from 8 different denominations preaching 8 different messages about the same God, I would conclude that the Christian religion is a religion for lunatics and nutters and have nothing to do with it. Indeed, Jesus Himself said that our unity to would be a sign to the world that the Father sent Him. What then is the disunity found in professing Christendom?

    Why would you want to believe in teachings and doctrines which were A.) unknown to the Apostles and B.) invented after the 16th century? Your problem is that you have been taught something about the Catholic faith that is not true and you believe it. I understand this problem because I was a Catholic-hating Protestant for 25 years and I absorbed and believed all the lies and distortions taught about the Catholic faith. Finally, one day, I managed to actually read Catholic documents and Christian history instead of the Chick tracts of which I was so fond and found that the Catholic faith is that which Jesus left for the salvation of the world.

    The Reformers are not the Church fathers. You have to go back to the beginning to find St. Polycarp, St. Iranaeus, St. Ignatius, St. Augustine, and host of others, such as Sts. Cyril and Methodius, who brought the Gospel to the pagans in Europe. The Reformers were rebels who turned against the authority of the Church. The congregation of God has always had and will always have problems. Please find for me a verse which says that if there are problems in the congregation of God, you are to leave and start another congregation which suits your liking and call it “the Church.”

    I will wait to hear your answer.

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