Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Remember the Reformation

     During the month of October each year, it is good to remember the spark that ignited the Reformation 496 years ago. It was October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses to the Castle Church door of Wittenberg.
That church had over 1900 relics of dead saints on display. Catholics were granted indulgences for the remission of sins if they viewed the relics and made a confession. Luther became the center of a great controversy when his theses were copied and distributed throughout Europe. His initial protest exposed the pope's abominable practice of selling salvation from purgatory's fire for the price of indulgences. Many evangelicals today have either forgotten the Reformation or believe it was a mistake to divide the church. Others are denying that his first thesis, affirmed by Scripture, is not necessary for salvation. Luther's first thesis was: "When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said 'Repent', He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."
Seven years earlier in 1510, Luther was sent to Rome. While there, he climbed Pilate's staircase on his knees, believing each step would take away one year in purgatory. Then God's Word gave him understanding of the Scripture, "The just shall live by faith." Eventually Luther's study of Scripture led him to oppose Roman Catholicism on issues pertaining to the supreme authority of Scripture and the doctrine of Justification. Catholic bishops had perverted the way a sinner can be made right with God by denying it is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Luther rebuked them with the clear teaching from God's Word. Justification, which is God's declaration that believers are forgiven of sin and counted righteous in His sight, occurs at the moment God imputes the righteousness of Christ to the believer (2 Cor. 5:21).
In August of 1518, Luther was pronounced a heretic without a defense. On the same day he was accused, judged and condemned by the so-called "Holy Father," the only supreme, infallible authority in church or state! Indeed the true spirit of popery was on display. Not a trace of Christian principle, or even of common justice, was witnessed in the process. In October of that year, Luther's trial began at Augsburg, and Cardinal Cajetan ordered Luther to recant his views on indulgences and papal infallibility. If he refused, he was to be excommunicated and share the same brutal fate as Jon Huss. Luther frustrated the Cardinal by answering all objections using Scripture as his authority. Needless to say, the large assembly of people had the opportunity to compare the two men, and to judge the spirit manifested in them. What a stark contrast! Luther was humble, firm and steadfast in the strength of God and with truth on his side. The Cardinal was self-important, overbearing, haughty, and unreasonable, without a single argument from Scripture.
In March of 1521, the emperor called Luther to the Diet of Worms to plead his case. Knowing his life would be in danger, Luther responded, "I place the matter in the Lord's hands. If He will not save me, my life is of little consequence. Let us only prevent the Gospel from being exposed to the scorn of the wicked, and let us shed our blood for it, for fear they should triumph. It is not for me to decide whether my life or my death will contribute most to the salvation of all. You may expect everything from me except flight and recantation." A month later at the Diet of Worms, Charles V asked Luther to recant his heretical doctrines. He responded, "I cannot submit my faith either to the Pope or to the Councils, because it is clear as day, they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore, I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture...I cannot and will not retract. Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God, Amen."
As we reflect on God's sovereignty in the many blessings we have gained from the Reformation, let us encourage one another to contend earnestly for the faith that was once delivered to the saints. It is the same faith that the Reformers gave their lives defending.

Mike Gendron

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