Brothers in Christ

Was Martin Luther the only leader of the Protestant Reformation? Who were some others who were actively involved in the initial days of God’s great movement? I direct your attention all too briefly to two: Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin.

Zwingli was born seven weeks after Luther in early 1484. He lived in Switzerland and was converted to the gospel. He was called to the priesthood but when he became the pastor of a church in Zurich on January 1, 1519, he abandoned the traditional methods of worship, preached from the Gospel of Matthew and began to teach the Word of God systematically.

While he encouraged his congregation to read Luther’s books, he refused to be called a Lutheran. He looked to the Scriptures for his understanding of the gospel, and not to Luther.

The primary difference between Luther and Zwingli was over the Lord’ Supper. Luther initially believed the elements became the actual body and blood of Christ, but adjusted to eventually say the body and blood were present, while Zwingli, like Calvin, believed the bread and wine only represented the body and blood of Christ.

The two actually met, in Marburg, Germany just north of Frankfort. They never did come to an agreement over the Lord’s Supper. In fact, Luther did not shake Zwingli’s hand upon leaving their meeting because he did not believe Zwingli to be a Christian because of not only his view on Communion, but also because Zwingli taught to take up arms against Catholics.

John Calvin was born in northern France in 1509. He was 26 years younger than his two peers. Calvin and Luther never met. Calvin was converted to the gospel, perhaps in some measure through the influence of Luther’s writings on the gospel. Calvin would call Luther his “most respected father.” Calvin’s lasting importance would undoubtedly be his Institutes of the Christian Religion and his Five Doctrines of Grace.

Like Luther, Zwingli denounced papal authority and preached justification by faith alone. He denied the merits of the saints and indulgences. He, like John Calvin, believed in predestination and urged there be only two church sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Zwingli would eventually publish Sixty-Seven Articles against the Roman Catholic Church.

For Luther, the primary doctrine to defend was justification by faith. It was the article, he said, by which the church stands of falls. Luther stressed the wonder of redemption while Calvin stressed the sovereignty of God in salvation.

Luther believed all methods of worship could be employed, unless strictly forbidden by Scripture. Calvin and Zwingli worshipped according to only that which was expressly taught in Scripture. Luther used instruments in worship, Zwingli and Calvin did not.

Luther still held, interestingly enough, that infant baptism was the entry point into the Christian Life. Lutheran churches hold to this doctrine today. Zwingli and Calvin believed that infant baptism was a sign of “future faith” and that God was making a covenant with the parents for their child’s eventual salvation.

They all agreed on the five solas of the Reformation.

There is no way we can with great depth and detail chronicle the lives of Zwingli and Calvin in this brief blog. Let me say that all three Reformers were human beings just like you and me. They possessed great spiritual strength from God, but they were also men who possessed feet of clay; they weren’t perfect. Their greatest legacy I think would be their perspective that people should seek to follow God and His Word, and no human beings such as themselves.

While we respect these men, we do not follow these men. We follow Christ, as they most certainly did.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Under Attack!

Have you ever sensed the Devil is attacking you? Have you ever had an awareness of the Devil’s presence in your home, bedroom or even in school or at work?

I recall one occasion when I was a student at Detroit Bible College. I was taking an evening theology class on the Doctrine of Angels. Obviously, the content of the class would not only include the subject of angels, but also the Devil and demons.

One evening, our prof played a cassette tape (lets you know how long ago this was) by an evangelical minister performing an actual exorcism. As you may know, an exorcism is the casting out of a demon from an individual who this demon(s) has possessed. The recording was pretty intense.

As I listened to the tape, I began to sense in the classroom a heaviness or a spirit of oppression and fear. I thought it was just me. I mean, the original Frankenstein movie still freaks me out. However, I was not the only one sensing this uneasiness.

Our professor stopped the tape and said that he felt the spirit of oppression as well. We began to sing hymns and choruses we knew by heart. Almost immediately the sense of fear and oppression began to leave the room. However, when I left class and went to my car, I checked the back seat before getting in to drive home. Even as I drove home on a major Detroit freeway, I kept singing hymns and choruses and reciting Scripture to keep the sense of fear at bay.

Martin Luther sensed this same spirit of oppression when he was at Wartburg Castle for ten months. While in his room, which served not only as his office and study but also as his bedroom, he often struggled with doubt and conflicts within his soul. Don’t we all?

Tradition says that Luther once threw an inkwell at the wall where he sensed the Devil was standing. While this story is probably not true, what is true is what Luther wrote about his battle with the Devil. He said, “I fought the devil with ink!” This probably refers to not only Luther’s books and pamphlets, but also his translation of the New Testament into German. Luther would use God’s Word to defeat his adversary.

Luther once wrote, “When I awoke last night, the Devil came and wanted to debate with me; he rebuked and reproached me, arguing that I was a sinner. To this I replied: Tell me something new, Devil! I already know that perfectly well; I have committed many a solid and real sin… [Christ] took all my sins upon Him so that now the sins I have committed are no longer mine but belong to Christ. This wonderful gift of God I am not prepared to deny, but want to acknowledge and confess.”  

I recall verse three from Luther’s hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God. Perhaps you can identify with it as I can.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! His doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

The Apostle Paul writes, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Keep fighting the good fight, beloved!

Soli deo Gloria!

God Help Me!

“Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” Martin Luther

When the day final dawned, Luther was ready to give his answer. However, the delay caused even more people to attend the diet and so a larger assembly hall was used.

Eck, the council’s interrogator once again asked Luther if the books and pamphlets on display before Martin were his. He replied that they were. Eck then said, “I ask you, Martin – answer candidly and without horns – do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?”

Luther’s answer was as follows:

Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.

The following words were added: “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.”

The council’s decision was to honor the safe passage they had given Martin, allow him to return to Wittenberg, where he would then be arrested and executed for heresy. As Luther was returning to Wittenberg following the hearing, he was captured by friends who took him, for his own protection, to the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach. He would remain there in seclusion for ten months.

Pastor Erwin Lutzer writes, “It was here in isolation that Luther had one of the most productive periods of his life. Amid his doubts, depression, confusion and insomnia, he feverishly wrote books and pamphlets, and most astoundingly of all, translated the New Testament into German in just eleven weeks.”

Luther’s life parallels those mentioned in Hebrews 11:36-38: “36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Luther did not recant a single item of what he had written. Because of this, he would spend the rest of his life as a fugitive.

Luther was willing to evaluate and count the cost for his commitment to biblical truth. Are we so willing? We recognize Martin Luther’s legacy. What will be your legacy?

Soli deo Gloria!

Martin’s Prayer

“Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” Martin Luther

That night before Martin Luther was to give an answer before the council at the Diet of Worms, he wrote a prayer. The prayer was a window to the soul of this monk who tried so hard to become righteous before God by his own works, but who God declared righteous on the basis of grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. This is Martin’s prayer.

O God, Almighty God everlasting! How dreadful is the world! Behold how its mouth opens to swallow me up, and how small is my faith in Thee… Oh! The weakness of the flesh, and the power of Satan! If I am to depend upon any strength of this world – all is over… The knell is struck… Sentence is gone forth… O God! O God! O thou, my God! Help me against the wisdom of this world. Do this, I beseech thee; thou shouldst do this… by thy own mighty power… The work is not mine, but Thine. I have no business here… I have nothing to contend for with these great men of the world! I would gladly pass my days in happiness and peace. But the cause is Thine… And it is righteous and everlasting! O Lord! Help me! O faithful and unchangeable God! I lean not upon man. It were vain! Whatever is of man is tottering, whatever proceeds from him must fail. My God! My God! Dost thou not hear? My God! Art thou no longer living? Nay, thou canst not die. Thou dost but hide Thyself. Thou hast chosen me for this work. I know it… Therefore, O God, accomplish thine own will! Forsake me not, for the sake of thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, my defense, my buckler, and my stronghold.

Lord – where art thou…? My God, where art thou?… Come! I pray thee, I am ready… Behold me prepared to lay down my life for thy truth… suffering like a lamb. For the cause is holy. It is thine own!… I will not let thee go! No, nor yet for all eternity! And though the world should be thronged with devils – and this body, which is the work of thine hands, should be cast forth, trodden under foot, cut in pieces,… consumed to ashes, my soul is thine. Yes, I have thine own word to assure me of it. My soul belongs to thee, and will abide with thee forever! Amen! O God send help!… Amen!

 

When the day final dawned, Luther was ready to give his answer. Having read Martin’s prayer, are you ready to give your answer? Are you willing to lay down your life for God’s truth?

Soli deo Gloria!

Here I Stand

“Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” Martin Luther

I always found the title Diet at Worms to be somewhat amusing. I mean, who would want to eat a handful of worms anyway. Even Gummy Worms are not at all appetizing for me.

For Martin Luther, the Diet at Worms was not an item on a menu, or a new fad way of losing weight, but rather a legal hearing or trial conducted at the city of Worms, Germany in April, 1521. It was there that Martin would appear before the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V, and church authorities in order to answer their questions about his writings against the church’s doctrines.

Many thought that Luther would either be killed on the journey to Worms, or executed while there. With at least the assurance of safe passage, Luther made the trek by horse and wagon.

He arrived in the city on April 16 and received thunderous applause from the people. Some 2,000 supporters escorted him to his lodgings. However, Luther was not naïve. He said that he would have gone to Worms even if there were as many devils there as there were orange tiles on the rooftops.

The following day the hearing began. The assembly hall was packed. Luther stood before German princes, church leaders and Charles V. On a table before Martin was a collection of his pamphlets and books. He was asked by his interrogator if he would “recant” of his writings and teachings. He asked for 24 hours to think before giving his answer. His request was granted.

That night Luther wrote a prayer. The prayer was a window to the soul of this monk who tried so hard to become righteous before God by his own works, but who God declared righteous on the basis of grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. When the day final dawned, Luther was ready to give his answer.

How would you have answered? If you were on trial for being a Christian and asked to recant your beliefs, how would you respond? How do you respond when friends, family or co-workers ask you to give an answer for the hope which is within you (I Peter 3:15). Martin requested the time to prepare an answer. We too must take the time to prayerfully prepare. Let’s not waste the time God has given us to do so. Soli deo Gloria!

 

A Wild Boar

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!

The Pelagian Captivity of the Church.

One of the books Martin Luther wrote during this period of time was entitled The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. The thesis of this book was to show that the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church were not the exclusive means of grace unto salvation as ministered to by the priests.

Martin Luther wrote that the sole instrumental means of God’s grace to the sinner for salvation was God-given faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Luther was committed to the doctrine of Sola Fide (Faith Alone), or the biblical teaching that salvation was received from God through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone by the sovereign grace of God alone.

Pastor Erwin Lutzer explains, “The title for the Babylonian Captivity of the Church was derived from the experience of the Jews in the Old Testament when they were held as captives in Babylon for seventy years (2 Chronicles 36:17-21). In Luther’s view, the pope actually chained people to the church as captives by using the sacraments to control the populace and withhold salvation from whomever the priests wished. Hence, the people were in perpetual slavery.”

Dr. R. C. Sproul has an interesting perspective on this subject. “Shortly after the Reformation began, in the first few years after Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, he issued some short booklets on a variety of subjects. One of the most provocative was titled The Babylonian Captivity of the Church.”

Dr. Sproul continues by saying, I’ve often wondered if Luther were alive today and came to our culture and looked, not at the liberal church community, but at evangelical churches, what would he have to say? Of course I can’t answer that question with any kind of definitive authority, but my guess is this: If Martin Luther lived today and picked up his pen to write, the book he would write in our time would be entitled The Pelagian Captivity of the Evangelical Church. Luther saw the doctrine of justification as fueled by a deeper theological problem. He writes about this extensively in The Bondage of the Will. When we look at the Reformation and we see the solas of the Reformation — sola Scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria, sola gratia — Luther was convinced that the real issue of the Reformation was the issue of grace; and that underlying the doctrine of solo fide, justification by faith alone, was the prior commitment to sola gratia, the concept of justification by grace alone.”

What exactly is Pelagianism? Pelagianism is a theological title given to those who follow the teachings of a 5th century British monk by the name of Pelagius. The basic teaching of Pelagius was that the fall of Adam and Eve into sin (Genesis 3) only affected Adam and Eve. Pelagius believed that when people are conceived and eventual born, they are correspondingly conceived and born sinless in their nature and behavior. Pelagius was convinced that people could live sinless lives, and believed many already had. Pelagius in effect was teaching that there was no original sin.

Augustine disagreed with Pelagius as did the Church. In the fifth century, the Church condemned Pelagius as a heretic. Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Carthage (418-419), and also condemned at the Council of Orange (529), at the Council of Florence (1431-1439), and also at the Council of Trent (1545-1563). The Church has consistently condemned Pelagiansism because Pelagianism denies the fallenness of our nature; it denies the doctrine of original sin.

Today, so-called liberal churches have embraced Pelagianism. Unfortunately, there is still a movement in the evangelical church which also embraces the teachings of Pelagius. It is often referred to as semi-Pelagianism. It seeks to establish a middle ground between the biblical teaching of original sin and historical Pelagianism.

Semi-Pelagianism teaches that while man is fallen and is in need of grace, man still possesses within himself the ability to come to God in and of his own free will. There remains, therefore, a so-called “tiny island of righteousness” by which fallen man can endear himself to God. In effect, God may take a thousand steps towards the sinner, but in the final analysis the sinner must take that one decisive step to God to determine his eternal destiny of either heaven or hell. How often have you heard this teaching?

Ironically, the early Church condemned semi-Pelagianism as passionately as it had condemned original Pelagianism. Yet by the sixteenth century, the Church basically rejected what Augustine and Thomas Aquinas taught. The Church concluded that there still was this freedom that remained intact in the human will and that man must independently cooperate with the grace that is offered to them by God. If we exercise that free will, with whatever ability we have, we will be saved.

While semi-Pelagianism teaches that fallen sinful person is like a man deathly ill, or a man desperately drowning, the Bible teaches that fallen, sinful man is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3), his will is in bondage (John 1:12-13) and he is helpless before God as an object of God’s righteous wrath (Romans 1:18).

Martin Luther taught the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. However, Martin also understood that underneath the doctrine of faith alone, was the foundational doctrine of grace alone meaning that the ability to believe the gospel was also a sovereign gracious gift by God enabling the dead and fallen sinner to come to Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29; 2 Peter 1:1). Therefore, the Bible teaches that even our faith is a gracious gift from God. A gracious gift God decided to give to those He chose. He made this decision before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:1-5). Therefore, the conclusion is “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36).

Unfortunately, people have left churches when the pastor preaches the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. They are offended that the Bible teaches, and their pastor preaches, that every part of their salvation is of God and that He determines our ultimate destiny and not we ourselves. They would rather believe the lie of fallen man’s free will or liberty to come to Christ then embrace the truth of God’s sovereign will which brings fallen man to Christ.

Only when the church re-embraces the doctrines of grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, to the glory of God alone will the 21st century church experience a true reformation as did the 16th century church. May it come Lord, may it come!

Soli deo Gloria!

Scripture Alone

“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!

Peace, Purity & Unity

“Out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light…” Martin Luther

Burk Parsons, co-pastor of St. Andrews Chapel in Sanford, Fla., has some great insights regarding Martin Luther’s act on October 31, 1517.

“On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He did so for the sake of the peace, purity and unity of the church. His first thesis called the church to genuine and continual repentance, and among his last theses he called the church to true peace through Jesus Christ.”

“Luther wasn’t a rebellious schismatic who sought to lead a revolt against Rome; he was an ardent herald and defender of the gospel who, due to his obstinate and unwavering faithfulness, drew Rome’s ire in the midst of its revolt against the truth of the gospel, the gospel and the true church. Luther wasn’t a divider, he was a peacemaker. For there to be true peace and true unity, there must first be truth, and truth divides before it can unite. Truth must conquer before it can liberate.”

Parsons continues by explaining that, “Luther did not divide the church—Rome divided the church by infusing the church with the false doctrines of men. The Reformer’s didn’t leave Rome – Rome left them by leaving the truth, the gospel and the church. The Reformers sought reform in Rome, and in return, Rome sought their heads. Rome divided the true church from the false church, and kicked out the true church.”

The Apostle Paul expressed similar concerns to the elders of the Ephesian church shortly before he set sail for Jerusalem. He said, 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:28-32).

The true church of Jesus Christ must not only be on guard against its enemies from without or in the world, but also on guard against its enemies from within the church. The battle for truth continues in our day, as it did in the days of Paul and Martin Luther. Therefore, let us be like the Bereans, who received the Word of god with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see what was true. (Acts 17:10-11). Be on your guard, beloved.

Soli deo Gloria!

A Love & Zeal for Truth.

“Out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light…” Martin Luther

As the church as a whole, and in Wittenberg in particular, anticipated the observance of All Saints Day on November 1, 1517, indulgence vendors were in full force.

So on All-Hallows Eve, October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posed his Ninety-Five Thesis to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Martin had no intention of breaking from the church by his actions. Rather, he was hoping to inspire debate within the church and in the community. Posting such a notice on the church door was a common practice. He did not realize that he would unwittingly tap into a growing resentment among the people that the church cared more about money than it did them.

The preamble to the Ninety-Five Thesis says, “Out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following theses will be publically discussed at Wittenberg under the chairmanship of the reverend Martin Luther.”

Thesis 1 stressed the importance of repentance and that it was God’s will the believers life be one of repentance. Thesis 32 declared that those who believed that they were saved because of the payment of an indulgence would be eternally damned to hell along with those who taught such heresy. Thesis 79 declared that it was blasphemous to compare the papal coat of arms or a human cross as equal in worth to the cross of Christ. Thesis 82 questioned why the pope did not open all of purgatory and allow the people to enter heaven? The answer was that the pope wanted people to continue to contribute money to the St. Peter’s Basilica’s building program, and selling indulgences was a way to do it.

Luther originally wrote the Ninety-Five Thesis in Latin. However, university students copied the theses and had them translated into German. Copies were then made, thanks to Gutenberg’s printing press, and distributed throughout Germany. Within months, Luther’s objections were the talk, not only of one town, but in many towns.

The church’s leadership were not happy. Pope Leo X said, “Luther is a drunken German. He will feel different when he is sober.” Rather than address Luther’s concerns, the pope dismissed them and this German monk. The fires of the Reformation began to blaze even higher.

Luther found himself in the middle of an ecclesiastical firestorm. It soon blazed beyond anything Martin could have imagined. The controversy Luther created eventually addressed not only the particular subject of indulgences, but ultimately how sinners were justified before God and what by authoritative, objective standard of truth ruled the individual believer along with the church?

While justification by faith may have been the instrumental cause of the Reformation, the foundational issue was the Bible being the sole and ultimate authority binding both Christian and church. The battle continues to this day.

More to come.

Soli deo Gloria!