This Monday (October 31) is Reformation Day, commemorating and celebrating the Reformation. It takes place each year on the anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door on October 31, 1517.

For pastors (and others) who might want some resources in preparation, here are a few recommendations:

1. Last year I interviewed Carl Trueman about the 95 Theses. It’s a nice way to get a brief introduction to what happened.

2. There are a number of accessible introductions to the Reformation, but if you want to focus on Luther’s life and theology, a great choice would be Stephen Nichols’s Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought. J. I. Packer writes, “For half a century, Bainton’s Here I Stand has been the best introduction to Luther. Stephen Nichols’s engaging volume is in many ways better than Bainton’s for this purpose. It deserves to be widely read.” Nichols also has a good introduction to the 95 Theses.

3. The 2003 movie on Luther starring Joseph Fiennes is surprisingly well-researched and reconstructed. Here is their depiction of the 95 Theses:

4. The Diet of Worms (1521) was where Luther gave his famous “Here I Stand” speech. (Although “Diet of Worms” sounds like an exotic diet, the Imperial Diet was the general assembly of the imperial estates of the Holy Roman Empire, and Worms [pronounced more like verms] was a German town on the western bank of the Rhine River). This is a fascinating and momentous event in history. Here’s a great website for learning more about what happened.

The clip below from the Luther film portrays Luther arriving in Worms after completing his 15-day, 300-mile journey from Wittenberg on April 17, 1521. At 4 PM he was taken to the Bishop’s Court and waited for two hours to see the Emperor. Then at 6 PM he appeared before the Diet, led by Charles V, the 21-year-old Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and Johann Eck, his spokesman. Along with them were the Roman advisers and representatives, Spanish troops, and the German political elite.

Luther was asked two questions: Do you acknowledge having written these twenty books lying here? Are you prepared to retract them as a whole or in part?

Luther was taken aback; he was expecting debate, not a yes or no answer. After Luther’s lawyer Hieronymus Schurff objected, “Let the titles of the books be read!” Luther responded in a barely audible voice: “The books are all mine and I have written more.”

As to the second question, Luther responded: “This touches God and his word. This affects the salvation of souls. Of this Christ said, ‘He who denies Me before men, him will I deny before My father.’ To say too little or too much would be dangerous. I beg you, give me time to think it over.”

The assembly reluctantly gave him 24 hours to think it through. He responded the next evening with his famous answer. You can watch the depiction below:

For an audio overview using good historical sources, you can’t beat Max McLean’s Here I Stand album. They have kindly made the whole thing available for free on YouTube:

1. Introduction
2. The Road to Reformation
3. Luther’s Prayer
4. Here I Stand
5. Eck’s Response to Luther
6. Luther’s Final Response
7. Conclusion
8. Sources and Closing Comments
Total Time: 24 minutes

5. I have mentioned in previous posts some good books for children related to Luther. For example, the illustration at the top of this post was painted by Greg Copeland (and used by permission of Concordia Publishing House) and can be found in Paul Maier’s book for older kids, Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World. I’ve also posted on the new graphic novel about Luther.

But I would be remiss not to mention a brand-new children’s book published by Crossway, written by R.C. Sproul, and illustrated by T. Lively Fluharty, called The Barber Who Wanted to Pray. It tells the true story of Luther’s writing A Simple Way to Pray in response to his barber’s request for help with his prayer life. Even books like these are designed to be read to children, Dr. Sproul has said, “Ultimately, my target audience in a children’s story is the parents who are reading the stories to their children.” We can all learn a lot from this simple book. You can explore it below:

Luther—like all of us—was a flawed man with feet of clay. He didn’t see or say everything right. But God used him to recover the gospel and to reform the church, and it is fitting to thank God for this remarkable man and God’s grace to him and through him.

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28 thoughts on “Resources for Reformation Day”

  1. A good round-up of resources. Thanks Justin.

  2. Hi Justin,

    Just for future historical reflection, Sunday is not Reformation Day, since it is 30 October on Sunday. However, churches will probably celebrate Reformation Day on Sunday.

    Thanks for the resources, though!


  3. Internet says:

    “Because the vast majority of Protestants are now Pelagians, and after the suicide of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and its progeny, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the remaining, but shrinking, offspring who still subscribe to Reformation theology (PCA & OPC) no longer seem very far from Trent.”
    -a comment

    -WTS Professor of Theology and Apologetics, Dr. Michael Horton, “Is the Reformation Over?,” October 20, 2011

    Why is “Reformation Day” something to celebrate or even recognize at our churches?

  4. John Thomson says:

    I found this post by Jono Linebaugh very helpful in refining the rather blunt and misleading law=imperative and gospel=indicative view that claims to be lutheran today.

  5. John Thomson says:


    Link to Nichols’ intro to 95 theses doesn’t seem to lead to article.

    1. Brent Hobbs says:

      I can’t get the link to work either. Wanted to check it out to see if it might be something worth providing for our church this Sunday.

  6. Zac Hicks says:

    If people are looking for a good, simple, singable song to incorporate the five solas into worship, here you go:

    Happy Reformation Sunday!

  7. Love this resource…THANK YOU!
    Also…I’ve been writing a post about the “Halloween debate” and really appreciated your thoughts/links from years past. Thanks!
    *Not sure the link to the Sproul book is working…but it could be something on my end of things???

  8. Laura Chapman says:

    I have the honor of substitute-teaching my adult Sunday school class tomorrow; we’re going to look back at life before the Reformation, and hopefully gain a greater appreciation for it, the printing press and the freedom of worship we have in the United States. The Son has set us free and we are free indeed!

  9. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for this very informative post! Your resources are excellent and I plan to use them in our homeschool.

  10. Annie Kate says:

    Thanks for a great list of resources! We’ll be watching the movie soon. We also enjoy reading aloud the book Luther the Leader by Robinson.

    Annie Kate

  11. Craig Stimpert says:

    Thanks for the reminder and the great list of resources. My son is in first grade and attends a Lutheran School (LCMS). Yesterday the school celebrated Reformation Day which my son called “revelation” day. We’re still working on the word Reformation this morning, but I was thrilled by what he learned yesterday in school instead of celebrating Halloween.

    A wonderful activity they did was coloring Luther’s Coat of Arms. This can be downloaded from varies Lutheran web sites and it’s a wonderful teaching tool for children like so many other things that Luther did.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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