Today marks 500 years since a German monk and professor of theology began a protest that sparked the Reformation. Martin Luther pinned his 95 Theses to a Castle Church door in Wittenberg which was the common way of seeking a debate with other university professors.
Protest & Reform
Luther was protesting against the abuses and practice of selling indulgences. Indulgences? The practice of indulgences involved the church accepting money from individuals in order to have cancelled the punishment due them for certain sins. People could even pay money on behalf of others who had died and were in purgatory. Purgatory? At the time the church taught that there was an intermediate place between earth and heaven whereby sins that weren't paid for during an earthly life would be paid for through suffering. The Reformation would go on to establish that purgatory wasn't a teaching of the Bible.
We're getting ahead of ourselves. Initially little attention was paid to Luther's theses. That was until his theses—unbeknownst to Luther—made their way into the hands of many others thanks to the recently invented printing press. Things escalated rapidly and Luther found himself spearheading a movement initially seeking to reform but eventually breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church. Luther didn't set out to reform the church but God used him (among others) for that purpose. It was a tumultuous time throughout Germany and Europe.
The Centrality of the Word of God
The main thing that led Luther to dispute indulgences and then later discover the central doctrine of the Reformation—salvation by grace alone through faith alone—was his study of the Bible in its original languages (Greek and Hebrew). The translation of the Bible in his day was in Latin and, as he discovered, contained errors. He devoted his life to the study of the Bible and even translated it into German so that the layperson could read it for themselves. We can be thankful today that we are able to read the Bible in our own languages and that there are trustworthy translations available to us. Luther had confidence in the Word of God—a confidence that many today need to rediscover. Looking back on the Reformation, Luther would say, "I did nothing: the Word did it all".