Column: Not just Halloween

Published 10:09 am Monday, October 30, 2023

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By Hank Walker | Pastor at Friendship Baptist Church

Every child knows the significance of October 31st. Generating over $6 billion annually, Halloween is second only to Christmas as a so-called “commercial” holiday. For Christians around the world, however, next Tuesday commemorates something much more important: Reformation Day.

Haven’t heard of it? Well, if you are a member of any church other than the Roman Catholic Church or one of the Orthodox Churches, you can trace the very existence of your church, even your faith, back to the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door.

1517 was a very different time than our own. In Europe, Catholicism reigned as the only “Christian” religion. The Roman Catholic Church held the keys to the Kingdom; that is, salvation could only be found in the church and its sacraments. Moreover, the forgiveness of sins was solely within the power of the church, which led to an ingenious method for raising money: the sale of “indulgences”—certificates that were sold to the sinner for the remission of their sins.

In order to raise money for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica, indulgence salesmen were sent far and wide by Pope Leo X to raise money. One particularly effective salesman was a Dominican friar named Johann Tetzel. Tetzel famously rhymed, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” Maybe that sounds silly today, but who wouldn’t want their sins forgiven—removing the pains of purgatory and hell—by paying a relatively small fee.

It was this mockery of salvation and the lost estate of souls that provoked Luther to post his 95 Theses. Although the seeds of Reformation had been planted by many faithful men who came before Luther, it was this remarkable defiance by a little-known German monk that started the fires burning. In God’s providence, Gutenberg’s movable-type printing press had been invented in 1440, and now, less than a hundred-years later, the corrupt Roman Catholic Church was presented with a Protestant revolution it could not contain.

As you think about tricks and treats next Tuesday, I hope you will say a little prayer thanking God for the way He makes wrong things right, how He gives courage to select people at just the right times, and how we have a faith founded and secured in Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone).

Soli Deo Gloria.