(Doors at Castle Church at Wittenberg where 95 Theses were posted by the blessed Dr. Luther)
When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the doors at the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, he likely did know that storm that would be released upon the rest of the country and the whole world. A simple monk refuted the use of indulgences and confessed that Christians are saved and brought into the Gospel through the merits of Jesus Christ alone; apart from works, apart from money in the coffers, apart from the Pope in Rome, and apart from human traditions.
Luther confessed amidst the threat of death and torture that we are justified freely – that is declared righteous by God in heaven through the mediation and work of Jesus. We confess that the fullness of God became man to suffer for our sins, to be tortured and die by Roman torture. He suffers hell for us, drinking the bitter cup of God’s wrath in the wine at the cross. He rises on the third day and ascends to heaven that he may be with his church in the His continuing ministry. He gives His gifts to us freely without our work. That is it. Plain and simple.
A few years after Luther posted his 95, the reformation claimed it first martyrs, Johann Esch and Henrich Voes. The two monks were burned at the stake in Brussels for confessing the salvation by grace through faith alone. They refused to recant the simple and pure Gospel given to them. Luther wrote a 12 stanza ballad to commemorate the young men, with the title “A New Song Shall Now Be Begun (1523).” Here is the first stanza:
“A new song now shall be begun,
Lord, help us raise the banner
Of praise for all that God has done,
For which we give Him honor.
At Brussels in the Netherlands
God proved himself most truthful
And poured his gifts from open hands
On two lads, martyrs youthful
Through who He showed His power.”
It is ever so alluring to sit back and insist that the Reformation has been wildly successful and that all is well. We think of the Lutheran reformation as an old medieval battle, and now that it has taken place we ought to move on to other things. The empire no longer outright kills those outside of the Roman church, but the devil continues in his assault against the pure and simple truth of the gospel. He just will not let it be. The fight continues.
God’s very essence is one of giving. The Trinitarian relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost exists and works as one that gives, providing with all we need to support this body and life, defending from all danger, guarding and protecting from all evil. He does all this only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy.
All false teaching and heresy proceeds from a depreciated confession of God’s work and an inflated opinion on man’s work. Calvinists combat synergism by stressing “monergism,” which is quite deficient given the limited atonement. Lutheran laymen and philosopher, Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788) preferred working with the theme “divine condescension” contra Immanuel Kant’s autonomy.
Looking forward to Reformation celebrations…