Did you know that 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation? Let me tell you what that means. The Protestant Reformation was a very special time in church history when many people in Europe turned back to God and His Word instead of believing what their church — the Roman Catholic Church — taught them. People began to realize for the first time what the Bible taught!
One of those people was a man named Martin Luther who began to read his Bible. Soon he was shocked to discover that his church was teaching serious errors. In the next few Kid’s Corners, we will explore some important parts of the Reformation for ourselves, and see just how much it has changed things for us today.
What would your life have been like if you had lived in Germany in the years before the Reformation? It would have been very, very different from life as we know it today! For instance, you would not have had hot water at the turn of a tap, or chocolate in a colorful package, or sneakers for your feet, or photographs of your family to look at. We enjoy these things today, but if we didn’t have them, our life and happiness wouldn’t be affected too much. On the other hand, what a difference the church’s teaching made in Martin Luther’s day. Today, we can go to church and freely hear the good news that Jesus saves by grace alone. Before the Reformation, there were all kinds of disturbing things taking place that caused hardship and confusion for people. Today, we will look at one of the worst of those practices, and why Martin Luther, the leader of the Reformation, began to speak out against it.
First, let’s imagine we are in the 1500’s and you are walking down your village street. The first person you might meet would look like a kind of salesman, but he would not be selling something to help your health or your family. He would be selling expensive pieces of paper called “indulgences” that were supposed to be tickets to heaven. Since ordinary people did not have a copy of the Bible, they could not read that the only way to heaven was by accepting Jesus as their Savior. The priests assured them that they didn’t need to repent and trust in Christ, but they had to buy indulgences to go to heaven. It looked like an easy way to get there. Indulgences stamped with the church’s approval promised to spare them from the torments of hell! Selling indulgences made the church rich, the people poor, and worst of all, gave thousands false hope that they could get to heaven another way.
Martin Luther studied his Bible thoroughly and discovered that indulgences were not even mentioned, so how could they take away sin and get someone to heaven? Then he realized that the church was actually selling indulgences in order to make money! This is what he said:
“ . . . those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope’s indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved.”
Martin Luther preached against the Roman Catholic Church’s claim that they could “sell” salvation for money. He shared with the people of Germany the truth that he found in the Bible, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17), which means we need to receive God’s salvation as a free gift. His message is still true and is a warning to anyone who thinks he can get into heaven another way, like trying to pay with money or good deeds. What about you? Are you going to heaven the right way? It’s really important to
make sure you are doing it God’s way. The Lord Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).