31st October 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the event that triggered the Protestant Reformation in Europe; when a German Augustinian monk called Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of the church in Wittenberg. The immediate focus of his grievances was the sale of so-called 'indulgences'; whereby a person could lessen their (or a dead relative's) time in purgatory by giving money to buy up the good deeds of the saints. The most famous salesman of the time was Johann Tetzel who sang, ‘When the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.’
The sale of indulgences was but one awful and striking symptom though of how the medieval church had long since drifted from the message of the Bible. Luther's great gift to us is the re-discovery, from his study of Paul's letter to the Romans in particular, that we are made right with God not by the performance of good works and religious ritual but through faith in Christ's atoning death. He saw that the righteousness spoken of in Romans 1:17 was not something that could ever be earned but rather was freely offered as a gift by God's amazing grace in Jesus.
For all Martin Luther's faults and he was very much a flawed character (I think particularly of his crude and earthy language when denouncing opponents and his anti-Semitic writings) he was mightily used by God. To me and to millions of protestants the world over, Luther is a spiritual giant; a whole-hearted warrior for the truth and I give great thanks to God for him.
For further reading on Luther I can recommend the following:
Andy Johnston, Convinced by Scripture - The life of Martin Luther available here
Mike Reeves, The Unquenchable Flame available here
Kirsten Birkett, The Essence of the Reformation available here
With every blessing,