Following the nailing of the Ninety-Five Thesis on the church door in Wittenberg, and the three debates which followed that, Martin remained a busy man. Not only did he continue teaching at the university, but he also began writing various tracts, articles and books.
The two main themes in Luther’s writings, notwithstanding his articles on various other subjects, were on the superiority of the Scriptures as the believer’s authority and that salvation from God was by faith alone and not through the rites and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther’s books were widely circulated and discussed in Germany and his views were gaining momentum.
It was because of Luther’s growing influence that Pope Leo X finally issued a Papal Bull, or an official denouncement, of Martin Luther and his teachings in June, 1520. The article began with these words, “Arise O Lord, and judge thy cause. A wild boar has invaded they vineyard. Arise, O Peter, and consider the case of the Holy Roman Church, the mother of all churches, consecrated by thy blood. Arise, O Paul.”
Pope Leo wanted Luther to recant his teachings. Luther refused to do so. In fact, one of his written, combative responses to the Pope’s official edict, which at the time Luther had yet to see and read, included these words: “I ask, thee, ignorant Antichrist, does thou think that with naked words thou canst prevail against the armor of Scripture? It is better that I should die a thousand times than that I should retract one syllable of the condemned articles. And as they (his enemies) excommunicated to me for the sacrilege of heresy, so I excommunicate them in the name of the sacred truth of God. Christ will judge whose excommunication will stand. Amen!”
After three months of waiting its arrival, the Papal Bull finally arrived in Wittenberg. When Luther read it, he was even angrier. There was no way he was going to back down from what he was convinced was the truth of God’s Word and the errors of the church. In reaction to the many reports of Luther’s books being burned in other German towns, the city of Wittenberg decided to burn the Pope’s Papal Bull. Wittenberg reacted to the burning with a joyous celebration.
Luther appealed to the pope for a hearing. Pope Leo ignored him. Luther than appealed to Emperor Charles V. Charles eventually granted Luther his hearing regarding his views. The date was set for April, 1521. The place: Worms, Germany. Things were brewing to a boil. The climax between one German monk and the entire Roman Catholic Church leadership was about to take place.
Have you ever felt all by yourself in defending the truth of God’s Word? Imagine what Martin must have felt. Remember, with God on our side, we too can be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:1-9; Psalm 27).
Soli deo Gloria!