QUESTION: Was Luther a rebel out to bring the Roman Catholic Church down?
ANSWER: During the year of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, many things will be written about Dr. Luther. Luther made the top ten in Time magazine’s list of influential men of the last millennium. He was third behind Johann Gutenberg and Isaac Newton. He also made the list of most influential men in human history.
Because of his many accomplishments and writings, he will be remembered from countless viewpoints. We remember him for what he accomplished as a great theologian of the Holy Christian Church. We do not remember him as a rebel.
On October 31, 1517, Luther responded to a threat endangering the souls under his care. To repay a huge debt to German bankers, Pope Leo X authorized the sale of indulgences in Germany. The indulgences granted full
and perfect remission of sins to those who purchased them and could be purchased on behalf of those who were already in purgatory. Those who purchased indulgences on behalf of the dead did not need to repent or confess
Frederick the Wise did not permit them to be sold in Wittenberg, but they could be purchased nearby, so Luther’s flock was tempted. This writer remembers an illustration in a biography of Luther showing Luther confronting
a drunken parishioner who held an indulgence to excuse his behavior.
Luther’s Reformation action was an invitation to debate. The theses were written in Latin. Roland Bainton (Here I Stand) wrote, “Luther took no steps to spread his theses among the people. He was merely inviting scholars to dispute and dignitaries to define, but other surreptitiously translated the theses into God and gave them to the press.” He addressed theologians and leaders, asking them to consider the issues and the dangers to souls.
St. Paul wrote: For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (I Corinthians 2:2). The Holy God promises forgiveness only in the redemption purchased for all people by the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus Himself called people to repentance and faith in the salvation He earned. There is no forgiveness in anything we do or purchase.
Before he began to understand, Luther struggled with his conscience. He sought relief from guilt, by strictly following the teachings of his church. Finding no relief, his confessor suggested he look to Jesus for mercy.
A great threat to believing souls is distraction. Satan tempts us to look away from Jesus, who was given over to death for our sins and raised for our justification.
Dr. Luther rediscovered this good news and worked to restore it to prominence in the Holy Christian Church. He fought those in the church who would distract God’s people from Jesus’ sacrifice. Luther and Lutheran theologians
defended the Gospel by citing Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers and Church Councils. Luther was a Roman Catholic priest and professor of Theology. He hoped to restore the authority of God’s Word to His
church. Other reformers of his day rejected anything that looked Roman Catholic. Luther rejected teachings that were contrary to the teachings of the Bible. His church rejected him.
Rev. Charles Keeler
Resurrection Lutheran Church
Winter Haven, FL