Reformation Day is a time to remember and reflect on the Protestant Reformation, a movement of theological reform that (to simplify it considerably) saw the new “Protestant” branches of Christianity split away from the Roman Catholic church. Although the Reformation was not a single, unified movement—it consisted of many different individuals and factions, working across many countries—most of the reformers were motivated by similar desires: to restore the Bible to a central place in Christian doctrine, and to emphasize the importance of grace (rather than “good deeds”) in making salvation possible for human beings.
Today, the spirit of the Reformation is alive and well (as is the Catholic tradition from which it split). I thought it would be appropriate today to highlight a few of the Bible verses that had special significance in the Reformation. Whatever your Christian tradition, take a few minutes to ponder what these verses mean to you and your faith!
1. Romans 1:17
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” — Romans 1:17 (NIV)
The famous reformer Martin Luther identified this verse as one of the key inspirations for his work. Luther saw in it (and in other verses, like Habbakuk 2:4) a powerful reminder that it is through faith in God’s grace, and not through good works, that humans are justified before God.
2. Ephesians 2:8
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift…. — Ephesians 2:8 (HCSB)
Another verse that emphasizes salvation as a gift of grace, not something we’ve earned through our own merit—a key belief of the reformers.
3. 1 Peter 2:5
…like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. — 1 Peter 2:5 (NRSV)
One of the most provocative and controversial beliefs of the reformers was that because every Christian is considered part of the “priesthood,” there was no Scriptural basis for the office of priesthood as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches understood it. This remains a key distinction between these branches of Christianity to this day.
4. 2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. — 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)
“Sola scriptura”—the belief that the Bible contains everything we need to know in order to be reconciled to God and live righteously—was important to the reformers. This idea elevates Scripture above all other authorities, including the church and Christian tradition.
5. Matthew 11:29-30
“Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The burden that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.” — Matthew 11:29-30 (NCV)
The Protestant reformers believed that centuries of church tradition had placed a heavy burden on the backs of believers, and pointing to verses like this one, they reminded Christians that the gospel of Christ is meant to free people from guilt and sin.
Millions of Protestants celebrate these teachings today—and although the Protestant Reformation was specifically a criticism of the Catholic church, believers from all branches of Christianity can find value in the reformers’ call to keep our focus on Christ and his saving gospel. So why not take a few minutes today to read through (and maybe even memorize!) these Bible verses?
And if any neighborhood kids show up at your door tonight dressed up as Ulrich Zwingli, give them an extra piece of candy.