However, his action sparked the Protestant Reformation. Starting with that significant event, Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and many other Reformers joined together in an attempt to bring the medieval Church back into accordance with the Bible. Their work generated a huge change in Christian Europe. All this happened more than 500 years ago. How does the Reformation matter to us today?
The Reformation contributed mainly, but not exclusively, to the spiritual awakening of the people. Consider that, before Luther, most people were gullible enough to think that they could buy salvation! Some even went to ungodly conduct just to gain what the Pope or the Church authorities promised to be “forgiveness of sins”.
However, when the Reformers began their campaign against the profanities of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, the blinded people began to see the true essence of salvation. The Reformers preached the Word of God, rather than giving mere promises, so common men and women, who did not read the Bible, could know the truth. These people began to realize that they had to depend on God more than men, and they actually felt the true love of God.
Today, we can still see the legacy of the Reformation. We are not limited to the promises of men, but rather we have Biblical truth and preachers who preach it. We should be grateful for the men inspired by God to reform the blind world they lived in.
Today, we have more social freedom than the people who lived before the Reformation. Since the Roman church dominated Europe and only allowed acts that supported it, the people were not permitted to speak against it, and if they did, they would be excommunicated because of their “heresy” and become outcasts of society. One example of such injustice was an early Reformer, John Huss (from Bohemia, the present Czech Republic). This Bohemian Reformer was excommunicated repeatedly, declared a heretic, and burned at the stake.
Despite the injustices done to people such as Huss, many kept boldly protesting against the abuses and unbiblical teachings of the Roman church. In response, the Church reacted, usually with excommunication, torture, or burning at the stake. Hundreds of early Reformers were victims of these injustices, and the Church continued to persecute them during the Reformation. When their efforts to crush the Protestant opposition became futile, the Christians who chose to become Protestant were given the right to speak and worship freely. Until now we continue to do so.
Our education today has also been affected by the Reformation. The Bible and most of the books of the second millennium were written in Latin, which the majority of the European commoners could not read or understand. When Reformers who learned Hebrew and Greek and understood Latin translated the Bible into the vernacular, any literate person could read it for himself.
Although it was greatly discouraged for people to translate any book to the common tongue, more and more books were translated from Greek or Latin, and more common people read what was usually reserved for scholars and the upper class. As more books were read, a hunger for more knowledge arose. Commoners wanted a better education. Eventually, education became available to the middle and even lower classes.
Today, we tend to take everything for which the Reformers fought for granted, not realizing how difficult it was for a common person to live during their age. The Reformation was an extremely significant point in time, but it is also extremely easy to forget its significance. It is simple just to say, “It began some 500 years ago. It was led by a few rebellious men. What does it matter?”
The question is addressed again, so let us answer it. The Reformation mattered in the sense that we have better knowledge of God’s Word, more social freedom, and a much better education than those who lived before that period. Let us be thankful for the men whom God inspired to reform their dark world.