~ The Reformations 500th Anniversary & Halloween ~
500 Years! ~ October 31, 1517 was the day when a scholarly German monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed his famous The Ninety-Five Theses to the church door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
The Point ~ Reformation simply means renewal. It was a renewed effort to follow the teachings of Scripture. Two of Luther’s main concerns were the religious rites of sainthood and the controlling of parishioners with the fear of purgatory. Luther was greatly disturbed at the practice of indulgence selling (acquiring spiritual merit based upon purchasing indulgences from the established church). The haunting question for parishioners was, “Have I purchased enough merit to make it to heaven.” Of course, this was a great money maker for the church. Based on his understanding of the Bible Luther didn’t believe man could buy his way to heaven, and he did not believe the Pope had authority over purgatory.
The most important theological point that came from The Reformation was: the doctrine of justification / salvation from grace alone. “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21).
It was also through The Reformation that Christians once again understood that the word saint as used throughout the New Testament referred to all believers in Jesus Christ. The outcome of this was now interpreting All Saints as unity of the Church.
A key point in Luther’s Theses declares: “The true treasure of the church is the most holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God” (Thesis #62). That point is the essence of The Reformation. It is the essential key to The Reformation.
Why October 31st? ~ November 1 was a special time on the church calendar—All Soul’s Day. A huge display of newly acquired relics were on display in the church, which if purchased, would take literally many hundreds of years off of purgatory. Luther chose the evening before this big event to post his thesis so it would gain maximum exposure.
Now, the connection between The Reformation and Halloween. It is a fascinating piece of history:
Celebration of Christian Martyrs ~ The origin of what would later become All Saints’ Day is the early commemorations of Christian martyrs. Over time this expanded to include all saints.
All Saints’ Day (609 a.d.) ~ Also known as All Hallows’ Day was first celebrated on May 13, 609 at the time of the dedication of the Pantheon in Rome to the Virgin Mary by Pope Boniface IV. Later, Pope Gregory III, who dedicated a chapel in the Vatican Basilica to the honor of all saints, changed the date to November 1. Still later, in 837, it was Pope Gregory IV who ordered All Saints’ Day to be a church-wide celebration.
All Souls’ Day (late 900s) ~ Also known as the Day of the Dead is most frequently celebrated by Roman Catholicism on November 2. It is a day dedicated to almsgiving and prayer in memory of ancestors. A day when prayers are offered to God for the souls of those who have died in an effort to speed their transition from purgatory to heaven through the process of cleansing / purging their sins.
Reformation Day (October 31, 1517) ~ A commemoration of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses. This was the initial spark that flamed the reformation. His thesis was quickly translated and distributed throughout Germany in a matter of a few short weeks. In essence it was a protest against the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church of the time—which Luther believed was teaching unbiblical doctrines and adding false doctrines, superstition, and encouraging Biblical illiteracy for parishioners.
Halloween ~ The deepest roots of Halloween are from old pagan rituals and are most generally believed to be based on Celtic summer sacrifices to satisfy Samhain—the lord of death and his evil spirits. Humans believed they could escape Samhain by disguising themselves by appearing to be evil spirits themselves.
Christians, in an effort to counteract these beliefs, provided an alternative celebration of All Hallows’ Day on November 1. In medieval England the festival became known as All Hallows and the previous evening as All Hallows’ Eve which led to the term Halloween. Various other names have been used including Allhaloween, Hallowmas and All Saints’ Eve. In fact, the term ‘Halloween’ means Hallowed Evening or in today’s terminology Holy Evening.
The Bottom Line ~ The Reformation caused the Church to move back to the simplicity of God’s Word as it’s only authority. At the very core is salvation by grace alone through placing faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30).
The most important lesson for the church today is to keep The Gospel of Jesus Christ at the heart of everything we do! A related key is to avoid allowing works to enter into Christian belief. All other religions are based upon man doing something—earning his way to heaven. Only Christianity is based upon what God has done already—He has already paid the penalty of man’s sin. However, man’s pride continually moves him toward trying to his own way.
~ Robert Lloyd Russell, ABUNDANT LIFE NOW
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