Profiles of Courage: Martin Luther

A profile is a sketch or a summary of an individual’s life or a brief episode in a person’s life. Courage refers to doing what is right, even when facing opposition. It is synonymous with bravery, nerve, valor, or guts.

Periodically, we will take a brief look at particular individuals in Scripture and church history who profile, or illustrate, a courage and conviction to stand for biblical truth. One such individual is Martin Luther. October 31, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Martin Luther is a hero of mine. As many of you know, and for those of you who do not, I attended a Lutheran church in metropolitan Detroit as a child. I was baptized as an infant and even confirmed in the Lutheran tradition. When I attended Sunday school as a youth, we not only studied the Scriptures, but also church history, especially the Protestant Reformation in general and Martin Luther in particular.

There are a lot of opinions about Martin Luther, both within the church and also popular culture. In the film, The Bells of St. Mary’s, starring Bing Crosby as Father O’Malley, we witness the following bit of dialogue: Father Chuck O’Malley: [Sister Mary Benedict calls a boy name Luther to recite material] Luther? How’d he get in here? Sister Mary Benedict: We never knew.

Pope Let X called Luther “a wild boar in the vineyard of the Lord.” Pope Leo also responded to Luther’s writings concerning the Catholic Church’s abuses by saying, “Luther is a drunken German. He will feel different when he is sober.”

Dr. R.C. Sproul comments, “The division of the church that occurred during the Protestant Reformation was not something that the Reformers originally intended to happen. However, when it became clear that the church authorities would be unwilling to submit themselves to the teaching of sacred Scripture, Martin Luther knew that it was necessary to stand against them for the sake of the Gospel.”

Luther was a man that God greatly used. However, even though he was a godly man, we must not forget that as a man, he possessed feet of clay as we all do. We must always remember Luther’s accomplishments, while at the same time never forgetting his shortcomings. Much like ourselves, he was all too sinfully human, but he met, was saved and was used by an awesome and gracious God.

Pastor Burk Parson explains, “Ultimately, the Word of God was the hero of the Reformation, not Luther. The power was not in Martin Luther or John Calvin or any of the Reformers – the power was the gospel unto salvation for everyone who believes. The fuel and the fire of the Reformation was the Holy Spirit who brought revival and reformation not only in doctrine, but in worship, in the church, in the home, and in the hearts of all those He brought to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ – all for the glory of God to the end that the nations might know, love and proclaim the name of our triune God coram Deo, before His face forever.”

Soli deo Gloria!

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