“Out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light…” Martin Luther
Martin Luther’s problem with the Roman Catholic Church was not merely with its leadership’s moral laxity, which he saw firsthand during his pilgrimage to Rome. Rather, Luther’s primary problem was with the church’s doctrine. He saw the church’s traditions as the source of its corruption.
What was, therefore, the solution to this dilemma? Luther believed it was a commitment solely to the Scriptures as the ultimate authority to which the church must submit. Luther believed that the Scriptures alone, Sola Scriptura, was the only infallible guide in matters of faith and practice.
Great importance is placed on Luther’s posting of his Ninety-Five Theses, as it should be. But the years following this historical act would also prove significant for the movement known as the Protestant Reformation.
Catholic theologians invited Luther to two debates in order to ultimately indict him for heresy against the church. The first was in Heidelberg. The second was in Augsburg. A third debate would follow in 1519 in the town of Leipzig. In all three, Luther not only defended the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, but also defended the doctrine of justification by faith alone, Sola Fide, in Jesus Christ alone, Solus Christus, as the only way sinners could be forgiven of their sins and be saved by God through His sovereign grace alone, Sola Gratia.
The Catholic theologians, as expected, accused Luther of being a heretic, as they did his predecessors John Wycliffe and Jon Hus. Luther’s response was as follows: “I am a Christian theologian; and I am bound, not only to assert, but to defend the truth with my blood and death. I want to believe freely and be a slave to the authority of no one, whether council, university, or pope.”
The breach between Luther and the Catholic Church was set. Even though many of Luther’s friends abandoned him, he refused to back down from his conviction that the Scripture was the supreme authority. Luther remained strong and courageous (Joshua 1:1-9). May we have the same commitment to truth as Martin did.
Soli deo Gloria!