Martin Luther did not set out to start a movement. The Reformation all started with a conversation, or scheduled debate, among his professor peers.
Luther entered an Augustinian monastery in 1505 and began reading the New Testament in the original Greek. He eventually earned a Ph.D. and became professor in Wittenberg, Germany. Five hundred years ago today, October 31, 1517, Luther posted his 95 theses which were terms of that debate. The primary subject that day was regarding the selling indulgences, which promised to decrease the amount of time people would be punished in purgatory for their sins. The whole idea of purgatory was part of the problem, since there is no evidence of it in Scripture.
Within the next few years, five tenets of the Reformation emerged and began to dismantle the existing doctrine and power structure of the Roman Catholic Church. The Reformation also created a theological umbrella which all evangelicals stand under today: Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in Scriptures alone, for the glory of God alone.
Although the Reformation arguably began with Martin Luther 500 years ago, the theological conversation started over a century earlier by people like John Wycliffe, Jan Huss and many others. We stand on all of their shoulders, so today is a good day to salute them.
The universal Church is still in need of a spiritual reformation. I believe that God still starts reformations through conversations which focus on the glory of God, the Word of God, and the Son of God. We do not need these conversations to be held exclusively in the theological arenas; rather in our prayer closets and churches. Perhaps God will use you to start a reformation in your corner of the world.
Happy Reformation Day!