In the 1500’s there were many men and women who helped to change the world, but none as much as the German monk-turned-professor Martin Luther. He helped reform Christian tradition by speaking against the many religious errors of his day and comparing them to what the Bible actually teaches.
One area was the doctrine of justification by faith and works. Luther taught that the Scriptures declare a sinner is justified by faith in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) and not by works of penance. It is by grace that a believer is saved, plus nothing. Luther brought people back to what the Bible teaches, and not what traditions were teaching. That gracious salvation would lead to a changed life of good deeds, not the other way around.
Another problem that Luther wanted to fix was the medieval view of indulgences… a document Christians could buy which was supposed to pardon a person from the sins they had committed. Luther criticized this teaching because he believed it replaced the Biblical doctrine of repentance (1 John 1:9-10).
Another tradition Luther objected to was denying the authority of the Bible, by elevating religious traditions above the Old and New Testaments. Luther faithfully preached that the Bible, not the church, is the ultimate authority over matters of faith and life (Acts 5:29). Because the Bible was only allowed in Latin, an academic language, Luther chose to translate the Word of God into the German tongue so that any literate person in his land could read the Bible and learn its glorious message.
Luther and his fellow Reformers also helped restore congregational singing, lay leadership, the sanctity of common work for the glory of God, and a renewed focus on the centrality of the gospel in every area of a Christian’s life. While Luther had real flaws, he played an undeniably important role in the development of theology and the church in the 16th century.