O gracious God, I am fully aware that I am unworthy. I deserve to be a brother of Satan and not of Christ. But Christ, your dear Son died and rose for me. I am his brother. He earnestly desires that I should believe in him, without doubt and fear.
I need no longer regard myself as unworthy and full of sin. For this I love and thank him from my heart.
Praise be to the faithful Savior, for he is so gracious and merciful as are you and the Holy Spirit in eternity. Amen.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, provoking what later became the Protestant Reformation. In April of 1521, Luther was summoned before the Imperial Diet of Worms and asked to recant of his writings. His response was recorded for the ages:
Since then your serene majesty and your lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed: Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scripture or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen.
Ligonier Ministries posted the following short article on their blog in honor of Luther’s legacy and role in the Protestant Reformation:
At the time, few would have suspected that the sound of a hammer striking the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany, would soon be heard around the world and lead ultimately to the greatest transformation of Western society since the apostles first preached the Gospel throughout the Roman empire. Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to the church door on October 31, 1517, provoked a debate that culminated finally in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.
An heir of Bishop Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther is one of the most significant figures God has raised up since that time. This law student turned Augustinian monk became the center of a great controversy after his theses were copied and distributed throughout Europe. Initially protesting the pope’s attempt to sell salvation, Luther’s study of Scripture soon led him to oppose the church of Rome on issues including the primacy of the Bible over church tradition and the means by which we are found righteous in the sight of God.
This last issue is probably Luther’s most significant contribution to Christian theology. Though preached clearly in the New Testament and found in the writings of many of the church fathers, the medieval bishops and priests had largely forgotten the truth that our own good works can by no means merit God’s favor. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and good works result from our faith, they are not added to it as the grounds for our right standing in the Lord’s eyes (Ephesians 2:8–10). Justification, God’s declaration that we are not guilty, forgiven of sin, and righteous in His sight comes because through our faith alone the Father imputes, or reckons to our account, the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Martin Luther’s rediscovery of this truth led to a whole host of other church and societal reforms and much of what we take for granted in the West would have likely been impossible had he never graced the scene. Luther’s translation of the Bible into German put the Word of God in the hands of the people, and today Scripture is available in the vernacular language of many countries, enabling lay people to study it with profit. He reformed the Latin mass by putting the liturgy in the common tongue so that non-scholars could hear and understand the preached word of God and worship the Lord with clarity. Luther lifted the unbiblical ban on marriage for the clergy and by his own teaching and example radically transformed the institution itself. He recaptured the biblical view of the priesthood of all believers, showing all people that their work had purpose and dignity because in it they can serve their Creator.
Today, Luther’s legacy lives on in the creeds and confessions of Protestant bodies worldwide. As we consider his importance this Reformation Day, let us equip ourselves to be knowledgeable proclaimers and defenders of biblical truth. May we be eager to preach the Gospel of God to the world and thereby spark a new reformation of church and culture.
Pastor Nicholas Batzig posted this wonderful article in honor of Martin Luther and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The entire article is edifying and worth reading, but I particularly loved the ending: “May we learn to be Christians of courage and conviction for the name and fame of our Savior Jesus Christ. Who knows what our God will do with even a single day’s actions if we remain faithful to Him.”
The Scriptures are clear that the actions of One unique individual affected His people for time and eternity. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Christ, “by Himself, made purification for our sins,” through the one offering up of Himself on the cross. But, the Bible is equally clear about how the actions of his people can have a ripple out effect on the lives of the church throughout the centuries. Such was the case with Martin Luther. On October 31, 1517 (493 years ago), Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Acting on the persuasions of his conscience, and a desire to defend the Gospel of grace, the Augustinian monk single single-handedly set fuel to one of the greatest and most influential movements the world has ever seen. Every Protestant minister throughout the world has been – whether they are conscious of it or not – effected by the actions of this one man. The difficulty of what he endured for the sake of Christ must not to be underestimated. Only one year after posting the ninety-five theses Luther wrote a dear friend these words:
I am expecting the curses of Rome any day. I have everything in readiness. When they come, I am girded like Abraham to go I know not where, but sure of this, that God is everywhere.
In response to this letter, Luther’s mentor and friend Johann Von Staupitz wrote him with these telling words:
The world hates the truth. By such hate was Christ crucified, and I do not know what there is in store for you if not the cross. You have few friends, and would that they were not hidden for fear of the adversary . Leave Wittenberg and come to me that we may live and die together. The prince [Frederick] is in accord. Deserted let us follow the deserted Christ.
Had Luther feared man, rather than God, the Reformation might not have had the impact it did. The Western world, as we know it, might not have seen the missionary advances of the Gospel, and we may not be in the place we are today. While we recognize that it is Christ – not Luther – that turned the world upside down, we must also acknowledge that it was through faithful men like him that the world was turned upside down by the Gospel. May we learn to be Christians of courage and conviction for the name and fame of our Savior Jesus Christ. Who knows what our God will do with even a single day’s actions if we remain faithful to Him.
Ligonier Ministries has posted a collection of Reformation Day resources that includes several articles and free MP3 lecture downloads by Dr. R.C. Sproul.
If we want reformation, we have to start with ourselves. We have to start bringing the gospel itself out of darkness, so that the motto of every reformation becomes post tenebras lux — “after darkness, light.” Luther declared that every generation must declare freshly the gospel of the New Testament. He also said that anytime the gospel is clearly and boldly proclaimed, it will bring about conflict, and those of us who are inherently adverse to conflict will find it tempting to submerge the gospel, dilute the gospel, or obscure the gospel in order to avoid conflict. We, of course, are able to add offense to the gospel by our own ill-mannered attempts to proclaim it. But there is no way to remove the offense that is inherent to the gospel message, because it is a stumbling block, a scandal to a fallen world. It will inevitably bring conflict. If we want reformation, we must be prepared to endure such conflict to the glory of God.
Before the fall, strictly speaking, there was no conscience in humans. There was no gap between what they were and what they knew they had to be. Being and self-consciousness were in harmony. But the fall produced separation. By the grace of God, humans still retain the consciousness that they ought to be different, that in all respects they must conform to God’s law. But reality witnesses otherwise; they are not who they ought to be. And this witness is the conscience. The conscience … is proof that communion with God has been broken, that there is a gap between God and us, between his law and our state. … The human conscience is the subjective proof of humanity’s fall, a witness to human guilt before the face of God.
—Herman Bavinck Reformed Dogmatics Volume 3
Update: Justin Taylor also cited this quote from Herman Bavinck and updated the post to include this comment from David Powlison that I thought was very helpful and insightful:
I think that Bavinck and some responders are using the narrowest definition of ‘conscience’: Adam and Eve had no “guilty conscience” pre-Fall. But the actual function of conscience/suneideesis is a creational given, intrinsic to the image of God. It is our entire evaluative capacity, not only about ourselves but about everything we encounter. Is that good or bad? Is that true or false? Is that valuable or worthless? We humans don’t only know things, but we weigh the things we know. We are meant to love what is true, good and beautiful, and to hate what is false, wrong and shameful. When the serpent told lies, their consciences should have said, ‘That is a lie. That’s wrong and deadly.’ This is one of many areas where we need to understand the flexibility of biblical language in capturing both narrower and broader meanings. The Old Testament equivalents to this comprehensive functioning of conscience are such phrases as ‘in my eyes’ (or ‘your eyes’) and ‘the ear tests words as the palate tests food.’ The Bible actually uses the term conscience and its equivalents far more often in the general sense than in the narrow sense.
In October of 2006, the White Horse Inn broadcast a short two-part series of interviews between Dr. Michael Horton and former Muslim and professor of Shari’ah Law, Sam Solomon. The series was titled “Christianity Confronts Islam” and the discussions centered on the true nature of Islam, the confrontation between Islamic and Western cultures, and the theological convictions at the root of the conflict.
The free podcast versions of the original episodes are no longer available for download as the broadcast archive only extends back about three months. However, they are presented here for those who are interested in this important topic.
Christianity Confronts Islam – Part 1
Christianity Confronts Islam – Part 2
If you are interested in learning more about the White Horse Inn please visit their website and sign up to receive the free podcast version of the broadcast.
Yes, we must always work for social reform. Yes, we must be “profane” in Martin Luther’s sense of going out of the temple and into the world. We do not despise the country of our birth. But in what do we invest our hope? The state is not God. The nation is not the Promised Land. The president is not our King. The Congress is not our Savior. Our welfare can never be found in the city of man. The federal government is not sovereign. We live — in every age and in every generation — by the rivers of Babylon. We need to understand that clearly. We must learn how to sing the Lord’s song in a strange and foreign land.
America will fall. The United States will inevitably disintegrate. The Stars and Stripes will bleed. The White House will turn to rubble. That is certain. We stand like Augustine before the sea. We pray that God will spare our nation. If He chooses not to, we ask for the grace to accept its demise. In either case, we look to Him who is our King and to heaven, which is our home. We await the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, whose builder and maker is God.
Coram Deo: Are you looking to your King and to your eternal destiny, despite the circumstances around you? Keep your focus on the heavenly Jerusalem, whose builder and maker is God.
Christ’s righteousness is infinitely perfect, equal to the highest demands of the divine law – and therefore a firm, immovable ground of trust. We may safely venture the weight of our eternal all upon this rock. It will stand forever, without giving way under the heaviest pressure; without being broken by the most violent shock. Let thousands, let millions, with all the mountainous weight of guilt upon them, build upon this foundation, and they shall never be moved.
The firm foundations, the stately columns, the majestic buildings of Nineveh, Babylon and Persia, and all the magnificent structures of antiquity, though formed of the most durable stone, and promising immortality – are now shattered into ten thousand fragments, or lying in ruinous heaps.
But here in Christ is a foundation for immortal souls – a foundation that will remain the same to all eternity. His righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, His strength an everlasting strength, and Himself the everlasting Father. He ever lives forever to make intercession for His people, and therefore he is able to save to the uttermost, to the uttermost point of duration, all who come unto God by Him.
Any adequate understanding of the atonement must include within it this aspect of Christ’s disarming of the powers of darkness. It is personally gratifying in this context to be able to quote some apt words from the late Professor John Murray:
Redemption from sin cannot be adequately conceived or formulated except as it comprehends the victory which Christ secured once for all over him who is the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air. . . . It is impossible to speak in terms of redemption from the power of sin except as there comes within the range of this redemptive accomplishment the destruction of the power of darkness.
A comprehensively biblical exposition of the work of Christ recognizes that the atonement, which terminates on God (in propitiation) and on man (in forgiveness), also terminates on Satan (in the destruction of his sway over believers). And it does this last precisely because it does the first two.
In this respect, [Gustav] Aulén’s view was seriously inadequate. He displaced the motif of penal satisfaction with that of victory. But, as we have seen, in Scripture the satisfaction of divine justice, the forgiveness of our sins, and Christ’s defeat of Satan are not mutually exclusive but complementary. Each is an essential dimension of Christ’s work. Each is vital for our salvation, and each provides an aspect of the atonement from which the other aspects may be seen with greater clarity and richness. Moreover, these aspects are interrelated at the profoundest level. For the New Testament the dramatic aspect of the atonement involves a triumph that is secured through propitiation. Aulén therefore failed to recognize that in setting the dramatic view over against the penal view of the atonement he inevitably enervated the dramatic view of its true dynamic.
—Sinclair Ferguson For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper
Erik Kowalker has posted another wonderful quote from Bishop J.C. Ryle over at his site.
Let us beware of resting our hopes of salvation on mere intellectual knowledge. We live in days when there is great danger of doing so. Education makes children acquainted with many things in religion, of which their parents were once utterly ignorant. But education alone will never make a Christian in the sight of God. We must not only know the leading doctrines of the Gospel with our heads, but receive them into our hearts, and be guided by them in our lives. May we never rest until we are inside the kingdom of God, until we have truly repented, really believed, and have been made new creatures in Christ Jesus.
—J.C. Ryle Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Mark