“The state of popular Roman Catholic theology in the sixteenth century can be summarized in this way: Salvation was accomplished through semi-Pelagian synergism. That is, divine grace was necessary to be saved, but that grace could be earned (‘merited’) or even brought through human means, such as living faithfully according to the practices of the Church (penance, sacraments) or purchasing ‘indulgences’ (the elimination or reduction of temporal punishment for sin granted by the pope or his representatives)…
It was the posting and printing of Luther’s ninety-five theses in 1517 that thrust him into the public spotlight, and the occasion of these was the selling of indulgences nearby. Indulgences were being sold not only to shorten one’s own time in purgatory, but also that of a dearly departed loved one. The slogan was, ‘As soon as the coin in the coffer rings another soul from purgatory springs.’ The ninety-five theses were Luther’s protest against this particular practice as well as many other practices and doctrines of the Church. Almost immediately Luther became a hero to his German countrymen as well as a heretic to the Church establishment.
Eventually the pope excommunicated Luther in 1520, but Luther publicly burned the papal order in Wittenberg, much to the delight of those who observed. The next year Luther appeared before Emperor Charles V at the infamous Diet (court) of Worms (Germany). When asked if he would renounce his views, Luther’s well-known response was, ‘My conscience is held captive by the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.’ The emperor condemned Luther as a heretic.
For a year afterward Luther was protected in a castle where he spent his time translating the Bible into German. The protest against the Church continued during this time, and the outcome was a new church – the Lutheran Church – something that Luther himself never intended nor desired. Nevertheless, after his year in hiding, Luther emerged to give leadership to the new Lutheran churches.” – Excerpts from The 40 Most Influential Christians Who Shaped What We Believe Today by Daryl Aaron.