Protestant Reformation: what it means 500 years later

(MNN) – It’s been half a millennium since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the doors of the cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany. That event kick-started the Protestant Reformation of the Church, starting in Germany and quickly traveling around the world. As Protestants around the world celebrate 500 years of reformation, you might ask the question, how is the event still relevant today, other than the impact it’s had?

Hans Combrink of Biblica says today, there’s no separating the importance of modern Bible translation and literacy from what took place during the Reformation.

Where it all began…

Combrink brings us back to Luther’s story which began with an uncertainty of the state of his soul and a struggle to know the one, true God. In an in-depth study of Scripture, he finally discovered what having faith meant. Roman’s 3:28 was a turning point for him.

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:28, ESV)

What he learned sharply disagreed with what was being practiced by the Catholic Church at that time. But while Luther’s theses brought the practices into the light for questioning by people everywhere, it was the power of the Word that began to transform hearts.

Combrink explains, “Luther succeeded in getting God’s Word to the German people in a language that they can understand. And that is Biblica’s mission today. Biblica exists to provide God’s Word in accurate, contemporary translations and formats so that more people around the world have the opportunity to engage with Jesus Christ.”

Luther and his team of translators found it extremely difficult to bring the ancient texts into the German language, but with the hard work there was much joy. German people could now discover God’s Word for themselves, and pursue God in a personal relationship.

The power of Scripture we can understand

Today, the Bible is still helping believers pursue a deeper understanding of who God is. It’s also helped us staple down the truth of who we are, and what the Gospel means in our lives.

Combrink says this is extremely important when we consider the post-modern thinking that has saturated our culture today.

“We live in a world of skepticism, of relativism where the old reliable norms are being called into question and where the old foundations are crumbling.

“Much of this, of course, is a reaction to the optimism of the modern era which basically said that by using our reason and senses, we can get behind the stories and the narratives to the objective and verifiable truths. But we now know that modernism did not succeed. The world has not increasingly become a better place.”

That is why today’s generations often embrace the idea of everyone pursuing their own truth and meaning in life—meaning that is shaped by our experiences and our life stories. In other words, what we’ve experienced is who we are.

But the Bible tells us something more concrete. We are sinners in a fallen world, but through Jesus, we are greatly valued as children of God. We are heirs with Christ.

So, not only is translation a huge part of what Biblica does, but they also work to equip and encourage believers to really dig into the Bible in regular, prolonged sessions. But this, Combrink says, is becoming increasingly counter-cultural.

“Luther’s focus on Scripture as identity-shaping narrative highlights the relevance of the Reformation. So the challenge for us today is not to be tempted into reading short bits and pieces of Scripture if we read Scripture.

“We are used to being fed snippets of information on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. And the temptation is to read a verse here and a verse there. I think we can highlight the relevance of the Reformation by reading and immersing ourselves into the full narrative of the Bible: the story of God’s redemptive plan with Israel and with the nations of the world and in that narrative of God’s story in the world, to find the key for the meaning of our life.”

Bible StudyLuther understood that the Bible has the ability to shape how we view our world and experiences. It doesn’t bring us meaning, but it helps to show us meaning. It grounds us as individuals who might otherwise be tossed about by the struggles and triumphs we face in our world today.

“My challenge to each one of you who are listening to today is to take God’s Word, to immerse yourself in it, to let the story and the narrative flow over you. To almost become lost in the narrative of God’s story with the world so that you can discover and re-discover yourself in that story, because God calls each one of us to become part of that story and part of his redemptive plan for the world.”

To learn more about Biblica, the resources they offer, and how you can partner with them, click here.

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