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The 95 Theses
By Dan Vis
October 30, 2017
Comments: 20

While many here in the USA will be thinking about costumes and trick or treat tomorrow, believers should be thinking about something much more important.

Tomorrow marks the 500 year anniversary of one of the most important events in the history of the church. On October 31, 1517, a lowly monk named Martin Luther went to Wittenberg Chapel and nailed his 95 theses to its doors. That's 500 years ago, tomorrow. Amazing!

Actually, Martin Luther wasn't the first to object to some of the more unbiblical practices of the Roman Catholic church. Wycliff and Huss had made similar objections before. And centuries earlier, the Waldenses had been busy encouraging Christians to study deeper. But the timing of Martin Luther's act, gave it an impact unlike any of the reformers before. In fact, the result was so dramatic, many consider this the birth of the Protestant Reformation.

Many factors aligned to magnify the impact of Luther's actions. Germany was fragmented politically, making it impossible for a central government to exercise control over renegade states allied with Luther. The printing press had recently been invented, enabling Luther's writings to spread throughout Europe. The renaissance had been in full bloom for some time, giving European scholars access to thousands of ancient church manuscripts. And the seeds of the Enlightenment were already sprouting, causing thinking people everywhere to question the orthodoxy of the medieval world. All of these things combined to create the perfect storm.

Protestantism erupted all over Europe, leaving the church fractured and divided into numerous small groups. And then those groups continued to fragment and divide until today there are more than 30,000 protestant denominations, each with its own set of theological beliefs!

Despite the differences between these groups, a couple of things hold them together. These are the true core of Protestantism, the heart of the reformation. And they include:

1. Sola Scriptura

Martin Luther and the other reformers argued that everything the church teaches should be tested by Scripture. And where it conflicts with Scripture, the church must submit. God's Word is supreme.

Like the Bereans, Protestantism encourages us to receive the Word with all readiness of mind and search the Scriptures daily, whether the things we are taught are so (Acts 17:11These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.). We are to "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (I Thessalonians 5:21Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.). We must "study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.).

In contrast, the Roman Catholic system taught that while Scripture was important, tradition had an important place too. And in fact, where Scripture conflicts with the traditional views of the church, Scripture must submit. Tradition is thus more important than the written Word.

2. Sola Fide

A second pillar of the reformation was the belief that salvation came through faith alone. Forgiveness could not be bought or sold, and the various sacraments of the church conveyed no merit to the sinner. No, salvation was full and free, through faith. It must be a faith that produces obedience, and leads to good works, but that changed life does not in any way contribute to the salvation Christ offers. It is the effect, not the cause.

Paul stated this clearly: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-98 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.). "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith" (Galatians 3:11But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.). And again, "we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:28Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.). "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:).

Again, the Roman Catholic system stood opposed to this principle. Merit could be obtained through any form of penance specified by the church. The various sacraments it administered contributed to redemption. Salvation was not through faith alone, but of necessity, came through faith plus works combined.

3. The Prophetic Element

There was a third core belief that united the Protestant Reformation. It was the conviction that the Roman Catholic church was in fact the Antichrist power prophesied in the book of Revelation. While the reformers disagreed on many points--they were essentially unanimous on this point. And they proclaimed it with great clarity, and to great effect.

This realization gave the reformers the courage to break with Rome, and stand for their beliefs--even at grave risk to their lives. It gave an urgency, a compulsion, a power to their message. And as a result, countless thousands responded to the call.

The Roman Catholic church, of course, vehemently rejected this view and set its greatest scholars to work developing alternate systems of prophetic interpretation to divert the prophetic spotlight from itself. And those teachings have had significant success permeating the various branches of Protestantism today.

A Threefold Cord

Actually, these three pillars of Protestantism worked together. If the Bible is your ultimate authority, then it is logical you should study it. If you study it, you will clear see that it teaches that salvation comes through faith alone. From there, it is only a small step to the conclusion that any church with teachings contrary to this is, in fact, Antichrist, and to be resisted.

According to the Bible, "a threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.). As long as these three pillars continue to be taught, Protestantism will endure.

The Future of Protestantism

Some have been agitating the idea that the reformation is over. This is largely because scholars here and there, prepping for this moment, began working on a process of reconciliation between the Roman Catholic and various Protestant churches many years ago. These religious leaders hoped to try to find wording that would resolve these differences going all the way back to Luther through a process of dialog. The goal was to encourage mutual respect, tolerance, and understanding. And it was hoped that some kind of declaration could be signed on both sides signaling the end of this 500 year schism.

And there has been some success. The Roman Catholic church has repositioned itself to appear more tolerant and accepting of their Protestant brethren. And some of the more mainline churches have repositioned themselves to be more tolerant and accepting of their Catholic counterparts. And no doubt, there will be big signing ceremonies in various places emphasizing the intended mutual respect, tolerance, and understanding.

But don't let anyone tell you Protestantism is dead. While some Protestant leaders may have compromised their values in their pursuit of unity, semantic word play can not erase the underlying differences. And thousands of denominations still cling to their core principles of Protestantism. They believe Scripture must have the pre-eminence. And they believe salvation is by faith alone. And no document signed by individuals here and there will make those differences go away!

Of course, Protestantism has been weakened by losing sight of the third principle. The historic Protestant interpretation of the identity of the Antichrist gave great power and urgency to the Reformation. A power and urgency that has been largely muted today.

But the fact is, as long as most churches continue to believe in the authority of Scripture and salvation by faith alone, the Reformation will live on. However hard theologians try to wrangle out consensus by playing around with words, the core issues of the Reformation remain!

As we pass through this intensely important historic milestone tomorrow, let us remember what lies at the heart of true Protestantism and reaffirm its core principles in memory of Martin Luther and all the others who sacrificed so much to make the Reformation possible.

Comments

How important are the core principles of the Protestant Reformation today? How vital is it to maintain the three-fold cord? What can we do to promote these core principles still today? Leave a comment below...

Posted by Dan Vis on 11/13/17
Happy to share this, and glad it was a blessing Merilyn! Thanks for sharing this Uau. Yes, let's pray all for the advance of God's Word...
Posted by Merilyn Aveling-Rowe on 11/13/17
Thanks for this Dan   Sobering reading. Motivating message. Call to prayer and getting about God's business.
Posted by Uau Misina Pepena on 11/10/17
I appreciate this study. True, there a lots of good Christians out there. Some are good friends who choose to hold onto tradition, they refuse to open their minds and hear the truth presented to them. I pray for the Holy Spirit to help them understand as they read the Bible. I continue to share this study with my family, especially the young people, as we study this quarter's lesson. So thank you for this, Pastor Dan.
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/07/17
Thanks for sharing Uau!
Posted by Uau Misina Pepena on 11/06/17
Thank you for this message. I appreciate it. Will share it also.
Posted by Fiona van Wyk on 11/02/17
What a wonderful message, Dan! Just what is needed for this time. I appreciated it. :-) The Protestant Reformation is not dead!
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/02/17
Glad this was a blessing to each of you! Let's all continue to rejoice that God's plans will succeed. There may be setbacks and disappointments at times, but He will ultimately fulfil His purposes completely. As for God, His way is perfect (Psalms 18:30As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.)...
Posted by Nathaniel C Nwazue on 11/01/17
Thank you Dan. The 500 anniversary of the reformation is truly an eye opener. We must place ourselves in the hand of God to be used in this last days.
Posted by Christine on 11/01/17

Thank you Dan for standing strong and clear on this current and vital issue! As the apostate Protestant churches unite and rejoice with Popery at the execution of the Protest, like the blood of the martyrs being seed sown to yield a harvest for God, it will revive and swell even stronger -Revelation 18:1-51 And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. 2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. 3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. 4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. 5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities..

Nancy, like you I saw that ecumenical evangelical church leader (and so called 'prophet') stating Protestantism was a big mistake, even from the Devil. Their next step to bring 'the fire' down, they are planning it for 2018, a worldwide 'revival'. Surely God will get His new Luthers out for such a time... !

Posted by Diane Castanon on 10/30/17
Dan, thank you for the reminder for the call to prayer. I will pray for you, your wife, and FAST.
Nancy, all I can say is, “Wow!” What you witnessed from that evangelical TV pastor reminds me of Isaiah 5:20Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!. Blessings to you, my sister.
Posted by Busi Maguga on 10/30/17
Thank you Brethren for sharing a part of Our Origins ; for us to know and appreciate where we are going . It is important to know and understand where we come from and what we hold true. I will definitely review the links and resources provided . May the good Lord continue to guide and give us the courage to hold true, the Truth. For He is before all things , and by him all things consist . 1 Colossians 17.
Posted by Carole Bliss on 10/30/17
What a meaningful reminder on how important to study to show thyself approved by God. We need to have the Holy Boldness that Martin Luther showed. He was not about to compromise. May we get in the Word, know it,' via memorization, and sharing with others, and stand firm, not wavering.
Thank-you Dan. Praying for you and your wife.
Blessings,
Carole
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/30/17

It's funny you mention the 10 virgins, Nancy. I have a whole chapter on that in the For Such A Time book and a related one on the Latter Rain I wish every believer could read. If you get a chance, take a look at it. You'll find it in the Resources section.

Agreed Ann on the importance of memorization, and that there are definitely problems in some of the more modern translations. How important to trust in God to guide us, as you mentioned!

Posted by Ann Lavenburg on 10/30/17
Memorizing scripture is key to understanding that the Reformation is on going. Unfortunately some of the new Bible versions have muddied the water. We need to constantly be comparing scripture with scripture and depending on God to give us discernment when Satan uses error and semantics to confuse.
Posted by Nancy Brennan on 10/30/17

Amen to today’s study. Thank you Dan.

I appreciated your post Diane Castanon. Saturday, I viewed a sermon by a leading evangelical church leader; stating the reformation was not only over but was caused by the devil and was evil.   Also those who would continue to ‘ protest’ were going to SEE that they were wrong. He then called down fire from heaven to burn the chaff.

The room was full and the listeners expressions didn’t change as he was saying this. No recognition of the error, or of prophecy being played out in front of them. No quizical brow over the scriptural error.

I thought if the 10 virgins.... all believers, all fell asleep, but only 5 had enough oil to meet the bride groom.... the others went to buy oil and missed the groom.   Dan’s last 4 Monday memos have been so sobering for me. FILL MY CUP LORD!!!

Thank you all for your faithfulness at FAST.

Posted by Dan Vis on 10/30/17

Thanks Lionel for the list and the link. I would have liked to have written more, but kept mine short for space.

Appreciate your prayers Leslie, Valerie, and Diane. These are important times. How vital that we accelerate our internalization of Scripture. :)

Praise God the Reformation is still alive and strong. Certainly here at FAST...

Posted by Diane Castanon on 10/30/17

I LOVED how you presented today’s lesson, Dan! Thank you!
Sola Scripture (Scriptures Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone [Righteousness by Faith Alone]), and Revelation of the Anti-Christ.
It appears Revelation 18:1-51 And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. 2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. 3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. 4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. 5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. is coming to the forefront. So many religious leaders are signing the Petition that the “protest” is over, but I don’t think they read the last 9 pages of that form (it definitely raises one’s eyebrow). But, sadly, most of the Modern Christian world doesn’t study God’s word for themselves, nor do they look back at what promoted the Reformation, so they haven’t a clue as to what they are being pulled into.
Truth vs Tradition

My heart and mind crave truth - “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” as only found in God’s Word. This is why I love to memorize it - Word perfect!
My mind is being fed with “Real” Truth!

Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 10/30/17
Such an important time in the history of mankind and yet so few understand this! Like Leslie posted, I pray that I will have wisdom and always a heart of love for souls to share the importance of this time for Bible-believing Christians. If ever there was a time to herald the Three Angels' Messages, it is now! May God bless us with His Holy Spirit with the latter rain.
Posted by Leslie Caza on 10/30/17
By God's grace we shall have a stronger reformation now. Hands are reaching across the gulf to join with the mother of harlots. Many are ignorant of the issues. I pray for the voice and heart of Christ to be bold against evil yet having love for the sinner. Revival can be expected only in answer to prayer (1 SM 121)
Posted by Lionel on 10/30/17

31st October is a very special; date for several reasons.
One is, as Dan has mentioned the 500 year anniversary of Martin Luther's protest on the doors of Wittenberg Cathedral.
It is the 100 year anniversary of the Australian Light Horse Charge on Beersheva leading ultimately to the capture of Jerusalem and collapse of the Ottoman empire.
It is the 113th anniversary of the Welsh Revival. The revival of 1904-1905 resulted in over 150,000 people converted and added to churches and chapels in Wales.

We can be indeed grateful for some of the changes brought by the Reformation:
- Worship in the common language of the people
- Justification by faith alone lead to a de-emphasis on external rituals and focussed on the inner spiritual life   
- The authority of Scripture replaced the authority of popes and medieval tradition
- Preaching, even by lay preachers, became more important
- Monasticism as the ideal of holiness was replaced by the priesthood of all believers. Each person’s calling was considered an area of divine service
- The significance of the sacraments was re-considered, reducing them to baptism and the Eucharist
- The liturgy was redesigned to accord with the Scriptures, and
- The family began to be seen as a household of faith.

An English translation of the 95 Theses may be downloaded FREE from www.lrhartley.com/luther

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