- It seems fitting to mark this Reformation Day by quoting the first and third of the ninety-five-shot volley that Martin Luther nailed to the door of the Wittenberg church. Note how timely it is:
- Dr. Martin Luther, the thirty-something monk who shook the pillars of power and changed history by insisting on Scriptural truth in the face of fierce opposition, loved a good joke. I think he might have enjoyed The Reformation Polka. At our house, we do; and we plan to sing it happily (along with A Mighty Fortress Is Our God) at our Reformation celebration tonight.
- To my great delight, my pastor loaned me the pulpit last Sunday. It being the Sunday before Reformation Day, the sermon's focus was Romans 1:17, and it is titled Five "Alone's" that Changed Everything. (Audio difficulties for about the first 23 seconds.)
- Thought: Luther not only was used by God to start the Reformation, but he serves as a good illustration of it. I can't count how many times Romanists have cited this or that goofy, offensive, or just downright wrong statement of Luther's, as if my faith will collapse in shards. They just can't fathom my response, which is twofold: (A) That's the thing about Sola Scriptura, isn't it? Unlike Romanists, I am not chained to defend and repeat the mistakes of past erring men. And what's more, (B) think of it: even a goof like Luther could figure out that Scripture teaches salvation as solo Christo, sola gratia, sola fide, soli Deo gloria. What does that say about the learned geniuses of Rome (and elsewhere), who still deny what Scripture affirms?
- What a point of contrast Luther serves to the namby-pamby lightweights of our day. Clearly Luther did not oppose Rome happily. Clearly he was aware that his life was in danger. Clearly, if another way could have been found that would have preserved his conscience and his church affiliation, he would have taken it. Yet at the real risk of the cost of everything, of "goods and kindred" and "this mortal life," Luther stood forth and declaimed. By stark and shameful contrast, how many of today's "leaders" won't risk -- not even life nor limb, but merely -- their reputations as thoughtful, broad-minded moderates and academics; their connections to the similarly tepid; their Q Score; their associations; in short, their friendship with the world? There were giants in the land, in Luther's day. In our day? Not so much.
- More Luthery goodness in the form of John Piper's talk, Martin Luther: Lessons from His Life and Labor. It is also available in print. Check this quotation from Luther, and say "yowch":
It is a sin and shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God; it is a still greater sin and loss that we do not study languages, especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study, and desires his Bible to be an open book. O how happy the dear fathers would have been if they had our opportunity to study the languages and come thus prepared to the Holy Scriptures! What great toil and effort it cost them to gather up a few crumbs, while we with half the labor— yes, almost without any labor at all—can acquire the whole loaf! O how their effort puts our indolence to shame.Then there's the very fine talk by Pastor Tom Browning, Reformation Day: October 31, 1517. Browning has other lectures on the Reformers on their times as well. And if you haven't seen the 2003 movie Luther, I recommend it highly.
- Read an engagingly-written article by J. D. Wetterling, on the life and impact of Martin Luther. I do have one quibble, however. Wetterling writes that Luther
had been a monk for three or four years when, while reading the first chapter of Romans, he was struck by verse 17: "...as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’" It was as if "…the door of heaven had been thrown open wide."One could gain from this the impression that Luther read through Romans, saw this verse, the floodlight instantly burst on, and everything changed in an instant. This isn't at all how Luther describes the process. Hear the Reformer himself:
I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, “the justice of God,” because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable, monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in Conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.
Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the “justice of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven....
If you have a true faith that Christ is your Saviour, then at once you have a gracious God, for faith leads you in and opens up God’s heart and will, that you should see pure grace and overflowing love. This it is to behold God in faith that you should look upon his fatherly, friendly heart, in which there is no anger nor ungraciousness. He who sees God as angry does not see him rightly but looks only on a curtain, as if a dark cloud had been drawn across his face. [Roland Bainton, Here I Stand (Pierce and Smith: 1950), p. 65]
I stress Luther's own stress of the agonizing and protracted process, because it affords some encouragement to those of us for whom the light dawns slowly -- when it dawns at all. The greatest insights are not always gained in an instant, in easy and effortless flashes of insight. Sometimes the process is very much like protracted and difficult labor and childbirth. A child is born, yes; but not without agony and blood.
Read all ninety-five debate points here. Does this give us a clue as to where Luther might be on the "Lordship" question?
1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent," He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one's heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.
Surely, in his own way, Luther was quite the PyroManiac.