Something more important than Halloween occurred on October 31st
“All Scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
What was I supposed to do?
My friend Michael was asking me a favor. But it wasn’t a favor I could do in good conscience. His girlfriend wanted to borrow a meal card to the cafeteria for dinner that night. She was not signed up on the dining plan at the University of Tennessee like so many other students.
“But what if they look closely at the picture on the card?” I protested. “I don’t look anything like your girlfriend.” “Oh, I wasn’t asking for your card,” he explained. “I thought you’d ask Marcia to borrow hers.”
Now that was a different matter altogether. I could not ask my fiancée to lend her card to a stranger to use and possibly have it discovered and confiscated. o I refused, much to Michael’s consternation.
Actually there were other reasons as well for my refusal. Scripture admonishes us not to steal, not to deceive, but to obey those God places in authority over us. But if not for an obscure event on Oct. 31 many years ago, I might not ever have had exposure to such enlightening Scriptures.
I must confess—I grow weary of the Halloween season rather quickly. For at least eight weeks the skeletons, witches, and ghosts haunt our stores and front lawns.
Parents buy expensive costumes for their kids to employ once in demanding free candy, then throw away. In the midst of this self-centered celebration of evil, most Christians miss the truly important event that occurred during this season.
On October 31, 1517, a priest named Martin Luther nailed a notice to the massive wooden church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Arranged in the form of 95 theses, the document raised questions that within months would rock the established church and the whole world. For years Luther’s tortured soul had tried to find peace with the God who made him. But his sin seemed so great next to the holiness of God. His superior, seeing Luther’s despair, plunged him into a study of the Scripture, a privilege denied to laymen.
And while studying Romans 1, Luther found his answer: “The just shall live by faith.” God’s favor was bestowed to the willing believer by faith, not earned or bought by money or good works.
In addition to his discovery about salvation, Luther would write prolifically on other questions he raised that day in Wittenberg. He argued that Scripture, not church tradition, is the final authority; that every believer is his own priest; that every believer should have a copy of Scripture freely available in his own language.
Gutenberg’s recent invention of the printing press sparked the rapid spread of Luther’s Theses, and Luther soon found himself charged with heresy against the church.
His trial occurred in the city of Worms (pronounced Verms, if that makes you feel better) before the Emperor Charles V and the imperial gathering of all the princes of the realm. With all his most controversial pamphlets spread out before him, Luther was asked to recant his dearly held doctrines.
Knowing he would be branded a heretic and likely executed, he nevertheless replied, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand! I can do no other. May God help me. Amen.”
By the grace of God, Luther escaped execution. And part of his legacy is our freedo