What Was The Protestant Reformation?

What Was The Protestant Reformation? May 17, 2014

What did the Protestant Reformation deal with?  What was the reason for it?  Was it an epic moment in church history? Here is a survey of the Protestant Reformation.

The Protest in the Protestant

The Protestant Reformation was called Protestant from the word “protest” which was a protest against the abuses and the corruption that was running rampant in the Catholic churches in 1400 and 1500’s.  Part of this corruption and the abuse of power were in the selling of Indulgences. What this meant was that people could commit sins and then pay them off by giving to the Catholic Church what the church deemed sufficient payment for such sins.  Martin Luther was outraged by this seeing it as buying God’s forgiveness with money.  It was trampling on the grace of God and set up a series of presumptuous sins, sins by which people presumed or took advantage of the grace of God by sinning and knowing that they could pay for these sins later with money.   Luther saw this as people buying their salvation and their purchasing forgiveness.  What did this do to the work of Christ at Calvary Luther must have thought.  It was one of the most despicable practices that Luther saw the church doing but there was also rampant corruption within the church hierarchy itself.  People actually began to think that they had to pay their way into heaven.

The Beginning of the Protestant Reformation

The protest of the Catholic Church’s practices had been a point of contention even before Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  When copies of his Thesis began to circulate from someone obviously making copies of it, Luther was shocked and he was later branded a rebel and heretic.  When Luther was summoned to appear before the Diet of Worms, a diet of the Holy Roman Empire for an examination, he was promised by Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony that he would be granted safe conduct and that he would not be seized if he appeared.  At the examination, he was asked to reconsider his beliefs at which Luther requested 24 hours to contemplate, giving him time to deliberate on his response.  The next day he was asked to recant and he said in one of his most famous statements that “my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me.”  This was essentially the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

When Luther refused to recant, he was then held against his will and may have expected to die.  The council had lied to him as they had promised him free passage after the examination but now he was locked up in a chamber so that he could not escaped.   It looked like Luther would not escape, then be punished, or even murdered…perhaps burned at the stake but Luther was rescued by Prince Frederick in a daring raid at midnight and then brought to Wartburg Castle and guarded by a considerable armed force.  It was there that Luther translated the Bible into Saxon German so that even the common folk could read and understand the Bible.

Luther, Father of the Great Reformation

Due to the public uprising of support for Luther’s Thesis, he was allowed to live in relative peace, even though some of the monks that supported him were later burned at the stake in the middle 1500’s. Martin Luther, born November 10, 1483 he was later laid to rest after his death on February 18, 1546 in the place where the Protestant Reformation began; Wittenberg, Germany.  The man who nearly all by himself began the Protestant Reformation became its hero and is now called the Father of the Great Reformation.  The Lutheran church has as its name its founder…Martin Luther.  A man who began as a simple German monk from a peasant family of little renown had changed the face of history, of the church, for all time.


Thanks to his voluminous writings, other Protestant churches or sects began to spring up, much to the displeasure of the Holy Roman Empire.  Now that the Protestant churches were no longer bound to the rule of the Catholic Church, they exploded in number throughout Europe and by the 1700’s to 1800’s Protestant churches outnumbered Catholic churches more than two to one.  The ripples of Martin’s Luther’s Reformation are still being felt throughout the world.  Christianity would never be the same. The church would never again be the same.

Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book  Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon

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