July 31, 2014

Reformation Sunday

German Reformers: Luther, Melanchthon, Pomeranus, Cruciger. Courtesy of http://www.reformationart.com

By Chaplain Mike

The Festival of the Reformation
Reformation Day is a liturgical festival celebrated by Lutheran and Reformed churches on the final Sunday in October. It commemorates Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses on door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on Oct 31, 1517. This act, calling for debate on issues of corruption in the Catholic Church, is traditionally viewed as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Today, we who call ourselves “Reformation Christians” celebrate God’s work in reviving and restoring his church in all generations when it goes astray. We also mourn the divisions and schisms in the “one true holy and catholic church,” and pray that God’s people everywhere will be united in Christ, in God’s Word, and in fulfilling the Missio Dei in the world.

After the 95 Theses and a period of developments in his thinking and his relationship to Rome, Luther wrote five primary works in 1520. These laid the foundation for the turbulent conflicts to come.

  1. Sermon on Good Works
  2. The Papacy at Rome
  3. To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Respecting the Reformation of the Christian Estate
  4. On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church
  5. Concerning Christian Liberty

When his friend Erasmus read The Babylonian Captivity, he remarked, “The breach is irreparable.” In that tempestuous year, Pope Leo X issued his papal bull, “Exurge Domine,” which called upon Luther to recant, Luther’s books were publicly burned at the University of Louvain where Erasmus resided, Luther was called to appear at the Diet of Worms (1521), and Luther openly burned the papal bull at Wittenberg. The die was cast.

The following is an excerpt from one of Luther’s foundational 1520 publications.

From Concerning Christian Liberty by Martin Luther (1520)

We first approach the subject of the inward man, that we may see by what means a man becomes justified, free, and a true Christian; that is, a spiritual, new, and inward man. It is certain that absolutely none among outward things, under whatever name they may be reckoned, has any weight in producing a state of justification and Christian liberty, nor, on the other hand, an unjustified state and one of slavery. This can be shown by an easy course of argument.

What can it profit the soul, that the body should be in good condition, free, and full of life; that it should eat, drink, and act according to its pleasure; when even the most impious slaves of every kind of vice are prosperous in these matters? Again, what harm can ill-health, bondage, hunger, thirst, or any other outward evil, do to the soul, when even the most pious of men, and the freest in the purity of their conscience, are harassed by these things? Neither of these states of things has to do with the liberty or the slavery of the soul.

And so it will profit nothing that the body should be adorned with sacred vestments, or dwell in holy places, or be occupied in sacred offices, or pray, fast, and abstain from certain meats, or do whatever works can be done through the body and in the body. Something widely different will be necessary for the justification and liberty of the soul, since the things I have spoken of can be done by any impious person, and only hypocrites are produced by devotion to these things. On the other hand, it will not at all injure the soul that the body should be clothed in profane raiment, should dwell in profane places, should eat and drink in the ordinary fashion, should not pray aloud, and should leave undone all the things above mentioned, which may be done by hypocrites.

Luther Lectures at Wittenberg

And, to cast everything aside, even speculations, meditations, and whatever things can be performed by the exertions of the soul itself, are of no profit. One thing, and one alone, is necessary for life, justification, and Christian liberty; and that is the most holy word of God, the Gospel of Christ, as He says: “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me shall not die eternally” (John xi. 25); and also (John viii. 36) “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed;” and (Matt. iv. 4), “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

Let us therefore hold it for certain and firmly established, that the soul can do without everything, except the word of God, without which none at all of its wants are provided for. But, having the word, it is rich and wants for nothing; since that is the word of life, of truth, of light, of peace, of justification, of salvation, of joy, of liberty, of wisdom, of virtue, of grace, of glory, and of every good thing. It is on this account that the prophet in a whole psalm (Ps. cxix.), and in many other places, sighs for and calls upon the word of God with so many groanings and words.

Again, there is no more cruel stroke of the wrath of God than when He sends a famine of hearing His words (Amos viii. 11); just as there is no greater favour from Him than the sending forth of His word, as it is said: “He sent his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” (Ps. cvii. 20.) Christ was sent for no other office than that of the word, and the order of apostles, that of bishops, and that of the whole body of the clergy, have been called and instituted for no object but the ministry of the word.

But you will ask:—“What is this word, and by what means is it to be used, since there are so many words of God?” I answer, the Apostle Paul (Rom. i.) explains what it is, namely, the Gospel of God, concerning His Son, incarnate, suffering, risen, and glorified through the Spirit, the sanctifier. To preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if it believes the preaching. For faith alone, and the efficacious use of the word of God, bring salvation. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Rom. x. 9.) And again: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. x. 4); and “The just shall live by faith.” (Rom. i. 17.) For the word of God cannot be received and honoured by any works, but by faith alone. Hence it is clear that, as the soul needs the word alone for life and justification, so it is justified by faith alone and not by any works. For if it could be justified by any other means, it would have no need of the word, nor consequently of faith.

Luther at the Diet of Worms

A Hymn of Martin Luther, 1524

O Lord, look down from heaven, behold
And let Thy pity waken:
How few are we within Thy Fold,
Thy saints by men forsaken!
True faith seems quenched on every hand,
Men suffer not Thy Word to stand;
Dark times have us o’ertaken.

With fraud which they themselves invent
Thy truth they have confounded;
Their hearts are not with one consent
On Thy pure doctrine grounded.
While they parade with outward show,
They lead the people to and fro,
In error’s maze astounded.

May God root out all heresy
And of false teachers rid us
Who proudly say: “Now, where is he
That shall our speech forbid us?
By right or might we shall prevail;
What we determine cannot fail;
We own no lord and master.”

Therefore saith God, “I must arise,
The poor My help are needing;
To Me ascend My people’s cries,
And I have heard their pleading.
For them My saving Word shall fight
And fearlessly and sharply smite,
The poor with might defending.”

As silver tried by fire is pure
From all adulteration,
So through God’s Word shall men endure
Each trial and temptation.
Its light beams brighter through the cross,
And, purified from human dross,
It shines through every nation.

Thy truth defend, O God, and stay
This evil generation;
And from the error of their way
Keep Thine own congregation.
The wicked everywhere abound
And would Thy little flock confound;
But Thou art our Salvation.

A Reformation Day Prayer

Gracious Father, we pray for your holy catholic church.
Fill it with all truth and peace.
Where it is corrupt, purify it;
where it is in error, direct it;
where in anything it is amiss, reform it;
where it is right, strengthen it;
where it is in need, provide for it;
where it is divided, reunite it;
for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and forever.

Amen.

Comments

  1. Happy Reformation day to all my Reformation Christian friends! Luther was certainly correct that there was corruption within the Church. And his Reformation Day Prayer is one that we all should be able to pray, even those of us who have remained within the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity.

    • “Roman Catholic branch of Christianity”……does not exist.

      I am not saying that there are not brothers and sisters that sit in the 4 walls on the RCC – but rather the RCC is apostate.

      • Kinda harsh there Matthew. JoanieD has been a fan of and friend to this site for some time. Your comment came in pretty late last night, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chaplain Mike gets up this morning and removes it. If your comment stays, I have this to say:

        There are generally two types of Christians 1) Roman Catholics, and the churches of RCC tradition, and 2) Protestant denominations. In modern times we’ve come to call any Christian church Protestant that is not Catholic, but that’s just for labeling purposes. Many denominations exist today that never protested Catholicism, but not being Catholic puts them in the Protestant tradition. Eastern Orthodox and perhaps Anglican and Episcopal churches (depending on who you ask) are in the Catholic tradition. King Henry VIII rejected the Pope, but the structure and worship of the Church of England remained unchanged in his time.

        Bottom line: there are two branches of Christianity, Catholic and Protestant. I accept Joanie’s comment without issue. If I believed everything the RCC taught I would leave my denomination and become Catholic. We play nice at this website; be careful who you call apostate.

      • Seriously says:

        Why is this nut still posting? He’s rude and absurd in every post he makes. Ban him, please.

        • The view Matthew states is common among some, particularly some Reformed and Baptist groups. I will let it stand because Matthew is far from “rude and absurd in every post he makes.” However, it should be clear that he and I disagree strongly on this point.

          Matthew, there is a vast difference between the counter-Reformation church of Trent and the post-Vatican II church, and it is not helpful to label “the Church” as apostate, especially if you do not engage in courteous discussion to support your opinion.

  2. I am realizing that reformation never ends. The need to reform from the Gospel of Glory continues to this day in evangelical world.

    • Amen!

      It is a constant battle. That Old Adam is alive and well within all churches, and he needs to be beaten back whenever he raises his self-obsessed head.

  3. It is the just that live by faith.

    That is the cry!

    Anything ther than that is just one big fat old lie!

    • The Seeker says:

      Matthew
      This sounds pretty straightforward. Do you care to share with us what you mean by that?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Catholics are Satanic Counterfeits, what else?

        Gonna be lonely for Matthew in Heaven, since he’s the only one whose Pure Theology is Parsed Correctly.

  4. When we talked about nailing the 95 theses to the door of the church many people gasp or react with shock in some way. There was no offense in that act; it wasn’t the same as tying them to a brick and launching it through a church window. People nailed things to door of the church on a regular basis at this time, it was literally a community bulletin board. Luther’s 95 theses could have been hanging next to someone’s yardsale poster or recipe for pumpkin bread. The offense was in what they said. Of course he never meant to start the Protestant Reformation, either. He was hoping to begin reform within the Catholic Church, and to do so peacefully. Nailing his papers to the door was not a brazen act of rebellion like we might imagine. Still; it was the spark.

    • “Luther’s 95 theses could have been hanging next to someone’s yardsale poster or recipe for pumpkin bread.”

      I like that, Clark!

      (And thanks for what you said to Matthew regarding his reply to me further up the page.)

      • The 95 theses are an example of right place at the right time. The printing press was a new technology in Europe at about this time, created for the purpose of printing the Bible no less. Luther’s 95 theses were typeset and mass produced, spreading the ideas all over Germany and later beyond. Had their been only the orginal document, it may have been lost to history. (I’m not ignorant of the fact either that God ordains the events of history. I’m just saying…)

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