It’s Not The Holiday You Think It Is

October 31 — what’s the first thing that comes into your mind?

In all likelihood, it’s Halloween, with it’s spooky traditions and candy goodness. That is completely understandable because it’s the one that gets all the press. Who hasn’t seen commercials and store displays luring customers to buy this goody or that accessory.

But in truth, October 31 marks something vastly more important.

From my church newsletter:

Nearly 500 years ago, God moved across Europe through courageous men and women to restore to the church the truth of the Gospel, the primacy of the Word of God, the importance of expressing faith in great songs and music as well as a renewal of the personal walk of a believer with his Lord. This is the REFORMATION!

And the holiday is Reformation Day, most often celebrated the Sunday prior to October 31 as Reformation Sunday.

In part here’s what Wikipedia says:

According to Philipp Melanchthon, writing in 1546, [Martin] Luther “wrote theses on indulgences and posted them on the church of All Saints on 31 October 1517”, an event now seen as sparking the Protestant Reformation.

Martin Luther's seal now know as the Luther Rose

According to an article at the web site Sunday School Lessons, Luther’s concerns emphasized two key points: justification by faith and the priesthood of all believers.

I have to admit, I take for granted those tenets of the faith. After all, Scripture makes them so clear … except, the common ordinary people of Luther’s day didn’t have Bibles. They depended on their church leaders to tell them what was in God’s word.

A corrupt church and priests interested in lining their own pockets weren’t concerned with trivialities such as what the Bible actually said, so salvation by faith alone was not a concept widely known. The idea of “no distinction … but Christ is all and in all” was for all practical purposes unheard of.

Chaplain R. Kevin Johnson explains it this way in his article “Reformation Day”:

[Martin Luther’s] aim was to protest the assertion by the Church that God’s favor could be gained by the purchase of indulgences. Luther taught that salvation and the remission of sin are available by grace through faith in Christ alone and that no monetary offering or good deed would or could achieve the same result. With this bold act of conviction, Luther set in motion a full revolt against the Church known as the Protestant Reformation.

Luther challenged church doctrine by teaching that all Christian believers have both the right and responsibility to carry forth the gospel (a principle we call “the priesthood of the believer”). To prove his point, Luther looked to the scriptures and cited 1 Corinthians 4:1, “Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries;” Revelation 5:10, “you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth;” and 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Luther also taught that no extra-biblical means was necessary to obtain divine truth.

Justin Taylor has a great post chock full of resources for those who wish to learn more about Martin Luther and his part in the Reformation, but most powerful I felt was his closing paragraph:

Luther—like all of us—was a flawed man with feet of clay. He didn’t see or say everything right. But God used him to recover the gospel and to reform the church, and it is fitting to thank God for this remarkable man and God’s grace to him and through him.

Perhaps Reformation Day is the most pivotal holiday ever that few remember or celebrate. Not that churches don’t acknowledge it or perhaps even do something special on Sunday to commemorate it. But it doesn’t quite crowd out Halloween, now, does it?

Not that I’m suggesting Christians should have “our holiday” and non-Christians, “theirs.” But it seems pretty clear, if Christians don’t celebrate the Reformation, no one else will.


  1. Somehow I don’t think Catholic Christians (and we ARE Christians) are ever going to think that the Reformation is something to celebrate. The Gospel was not lost before Luther came along, and the confusion and wars that followed the Reformation are not exactly the kind of thing that made folks more receptive to the Gospel. Even today the divisions among Christians are something that the non-believer points to in order to show that Christians don’t have any answers after all.


  2. […] mommy bloggers have pointed out that yesterday was Reformation Day. How incredibly like God, then, to have me sitting at a Halloween party chatting with a girl about […]


  3. Becky, I’m celebrating too! I’m grateful for his courage, and for the work of translation into the vernacular that he and others have done with courage and faithfulness.


  4. Hi, Nissa, I suppose you’re right that it might be a lot to ask Catholics to celebrate Reformation Day — sort of like asking the English to celebrate the Fourth of July. 😆 But here’s the salient point — the idea was to reform the Church, not replace it. That this effort met with resistance resulted in fragmentation, but the effort needed to be made. The fighting and killing is another issue.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t believe Catholic Christians, any more than Protestant Christians, justify some of the things that were being done in the Church (the only one in western Europe) under the name of Christ.

    So Catholics benefited from the Reformation too as the corrupt, sinful practices came to an end. Further, Catholics have access to the Bible now in ways they may not have had if the Reformation hadn’t happened. Along that line, the Catholic mass is now in the vernacular, not Latin — something indirectly resulting from the Reformation.

    So, no, Catholic Christians may not celebrate the Reformation, but I suggest you’ve benefited from it.



  5. Maria, thanks for your input. I agree that one of the most important thing Martin Luther did was make the Bible accessible by translating it. What a great work he started. We’d be wise to keep remembering! 😉



    • Yes! Thanks, Becky!


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