Reformation day is a holiday commonly celebrated by Protestant Christians in commemoration of the impact of Martin Luther on protestant reformation. This paper will review the work and ministry of Martin Luther and his contemporaries as we approach the 500th anniversary of reformation. Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli among other contemporaries stand at the helm of two of the most influential streams of the Protestant religious belief; Lutheran and reformed traditions respectively. While they stood united against the Roman Catholic doctrines and also agreed on many other issues relating to doctrine, they also differed in some points of their theology and hence were unable to unite their reformation movements against Roman Catholic.
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Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli both gave great attention to justification by faith and the theological imputation of Christ and His righteousness to the Christians believers. They had many similarities in their doctrines and the first is that they both rejected Catholic doctrines more so the papal authority, priestly celibacy, purgatory, Marian devotion, veneration of saints and transubstantiation. Secondly they supported sola scriptura and the necessity of preaching to the congregation. Thirdly, they held similar perception on atonement, the theological view that God uses the Holy Spirit to bring salvation to the congregants through regeneration. Fourthly, they were also magisterial reformers because they both supported the idea of territorial churches, where the views held by the magistrates of a particular region religiously were to be enforced by the people of that region. Therefore, this points of their wide range agreement; however, both of them not only were they unable to unite their reformation movements but also considered each other as a heretic.
To begin, they both held different views on teachings on worship services as written in the New Testament. Luther held the opinion that the practice of the early church as described in the New Testament was not prescriptive but rather descriptive while Zwingli understood that church worship was binding and prescriptive. Luther retained most of the traditional Catholic doctrines such as calling the church service mass, decorations and music, while Zwingli destroyed icons, referred church service as Eucharist not mass, whitewashed the walls of his churches and excluded instrumental music. Zwingli and Luther also differed on the Lord’s Supper. They significantly differed on what to call the ceremony and also what was happening while the congregants were been offered the elements. Luther insisted the divinity and omnipresence of Christ while Zwingli argued that the omnipresence of Christ is through Christ, noting his presence at the right hand of God the Father. Finally, Zwingli foundational view of Christianity is seen explained in his emphasis on continuing humanity of Christ while Luther core principle was that the observance of tradition and preaching was secondary to the Lord’s Supper
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Reformation from its inception in the 16th century was among the most important epochs in the history of the Protestant church. The Reformation brought the Bible freely available in any language, religious freedom, and the rule of law. The reformers led by Martin Luther and his contemporaries fought for the final authority of Protestant Christians as the scripture and Christ as the head of the church. Slavery and human sacrifice were so common among most civilizations until the reformation. Looking at the modern protestant church you can see the evidence of the reformation by great reformers like Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli who changed the whole view of Christianity and its doctrines.
- Clayton, Jacob A. “The Supper that Supposedly Split the Reformation: The Eucharist Controversy Between Huldrych Zwingli and Martin Luther.” Tenor of Our Times 5, no. 1 (2016): 61.
- Woodbridge, John D., and Frank A. James III. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context. Zondervan, 2013.