A Bit of History
The Reformation and Fanaticism
What Did He Write Concerning Obedience?
Was Luther the Final Authority?

God used Martin Luther mightily to free Christianity from the Roman oppressive power. The Reformation that gained strength to sweep away the superstitions and darkness of popery into the light of a purer faith based upon the scriptures was, in a large measure, due to the courage and determination of this man. But Luther was neither a prophet nor a saint.

Personally I believe Luther would be totally upset if he saw and read how his works are now being used. Luther's theology in many religious circles is simply used in ways which bolsters or buttresses contemporary theological concepts, ideas and trends, with little reference to the whole of his teaching. Luther's fight was against the Papacy whom he considered antichrist. It was to turn people from the traditions and corruptions of the established church, to scripture and the saving power of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. But now his works are used to level the walls that separate people from the papacy!


For interest sake, here is some history.
(With a great deal of help from "The Reformation Era" by Harold Grimm)

January 3, 1521 four years after the outbreak of the indulgence controversy during which Luther hammered his thesis on the cathedral door, the Pope issued the actual excommunication bull "Decet pontificem romanum" against Luther.

If the pope believed that he could silence Luther without giving him a hearing he was greatly mistaken. The many people who had come to look upon the Wittenberg reformer as their spokesman in political, economic, and social, as well as religious matters would not meekly accept the condemnation of Luther solely on papal authority.

In all the excitement which followed, Luther remained outspoken, and self-confident, for he was certain that the growing support coming to him from all sides was an evidence of God's will that he should continue the struggle against the pope. He considered the pope the Antichrist of the Apocalypse who ruled a church which had become "the most lawless den of robbers, the most shameless of all brothels, the very kingdom of sin, death, and hell."

Luther's public reaction to the papal attack, especially to the public burning of his books at Cologne, Mainz, and Louvain, was by having a public burning of his own. Into a big bonfire Luther ceremoniously threw a number of books which supported the authority of the papacy and the Catholic hierarchy. Finally consigning the Pope's bull against him to the flames as well.

Meanwhile, exasperated by the arguments which the supporters of the papacy had advanced on behalf of papal absolutism and informed of the fact that Leo X was taking steps officially to condemn his doctrines, Luther published his three significant pamphlets of 1520. These served to arouse the German people to a defiant stand against the papacy. These pamphlets no longer reflected the spirit of a humble monk seeking enlightenment on doctrinal matters, but of a bold leader of the people demanding a break with Rome.

The first "Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation" was primarily concerned with ecclesiastical politics. Luther called upon the Germans to reform the church and all society. The Pope, was not the sole interpreter of Scriptures and had no legal or divine authority in secular matters, Luther wrote.

Therefore the government should not only put an end to such evils as the financial exploitation of the German people and the trafficking in religious matters, but deprive the pope of political rights. He also favored the repression of the mendicant orders because of their interference with Christian liberty. He fought against the laws of enforced celibacy of the clergy and for the abolition of punishment for heresy.

The second of the revolutionary pamphlets, which Luther called "The Babylonian Captivity of the Church" was largely theological in nature. In it he summarized his new theology on justification by faith alone, particularly with respect to the sacraments. He condemned the papacy for holding the church in captivity by distorting the original meaning and purpose of the sacraments and reserving for the clerical hierarchy the rights which belonged to all Christians as members of the universal priesthood of believers, in short, fighting for the right for every Christian to approach God directly and personally through faith. He attacked the doctrine of transubstantiation as taught by the Catholics, and looked upon the Lord's supper as a visible memorial signifying God's forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ.

Luther made his sharpest attack upon penance. He stated that the tyranny consisted of distorting the simple Biblical teachings of contrition, confession, and satisfaction. The popes had made a merit of contrition, had made confession a monopoly of the clergy, and had hindered the regeneration of man by burdening satisfaction with all sorts of meritorious works, even granting absolution before demanding satisfaction.

Yes, Luther made very important and great changes in the thinking of the Christian world.


But then something happened. Fanaticism took hold of some of his followers. They became violent. "To them the Holy Scriptures were but a dead letter, and they all began to cry, ‘The Spirit! The Spirit!" One leader of the fanatics, a Thomas Munzer, declared, "He who possesses this spirit, possesses the true faith, although he should never see the Scriptures in his life."

And oh, this same problem is seen today, seeking spiritual ecstasies, and experiences that are regarded as greater authority than scripture. The downplaying of God's standards in the name of the Holy Spirit!

Luther did not do away with the Bible-- He gave the Bible to the common people, and gave people the right to read it in their own language, and find God's will for themselves.
However, the authorities began to accuse Luther of insurrection. This is always the work of the great adversary the devil, to stir up mischief and then blame it on God's followers. Luther moved to stop the fanaticism. Not only were the people throwing off the authority of the Papacy but also the authority of God and of law abiding citizens.

Is this where we are now heading. Are people now using Luther's writings to throw out the written commands of God's Word, and telling us that the Spirit is all they need! Could this escalate to resisting all rules and laws? Has the fanatical element again taken hold?

Luther did move to counter act. His counter action helped save the reformation from disgrace. However Luther also made mistakes, his strong stand against fanaticism and violence was heroic and necessary, but then he also began to back pedal on many of his positions. His colleague, Karlstadt, was totally against the violent sectors and totally for the Bible as the source of truth, he was advocating reform in a decent orderly fashion, yet Luther also turned against him.

For example: Catholics believe the bread and wine in the Eucharistic service actually turn into the body and blood of Christ and the priest created and reenacted the sacrifice of Christ. The emblems then became filled with mystical power to infuse grace for meritorious works into the receiver.

At first Luther spoke very strongly against this unbiblical doctrine. He encouraged the move to a more "Communion style" ordinance. Then, in his zeal to stop the mob action of the fanatics, he swung right back into Catholism by turning back the reform in this area; restoring the Latin mass with its elevation of the host, though modifying the words, he condemned giving the emblems into the hands of the participants, and reinforced the rules of fasting before Communion!

Karlstadt replaced the mass with the communion service. He again offered the cup with the bread and emphasized that this was a memorial service of Christ's death. He officiated without the Eucharistic vestments, wearing a plain gown. He did not elevate the host and made no reference to this being a reenacted sacrifice. It was Karlstadt who reintroduced the Lord's Supper as Jesus gave it to His disciples.

(Note: Karlstadt and his followers were totally against violent measures to implement changes. They refused to participate in the peasant's revolt, etc. Yet, (see Reformation part one), they were constantly lumped with, and condemned, with the people who sought reform by violence, rather than the Spirit of God speaking through the Holy Scriptures.)

The same was true of baptism. Luther taught that baptism was not merely a promise of forgiveness of sins through faith but also a regeneration of man. He taught that it was not a single sacramental act which magically wiped out original sin, as the scholastics maintained, but a commitment to a process which continued throughout life.

Yet Luther continued to baptize babies on the basis of their "sleeping faith". The concept of the carnal nature dying with Christ and the person being raised to newness of life in Christ was not seen. The "repent and be baptized" seems to have not been understood.

The issue of baptism remains the greatest black mark upon the Reformation era. For many of the great reformers, including Melancthron and Luther, sided with the edict to kill without trial of any kind, all who were rebaptised as adults (twice baptised). Here they themselves fell into the devil's methods condemning the righteous with the fanatical criminals. For the edict went into effect after the peasant's revolt — the edict however, condemned all baptized people to death, without trial as to whether they were involved in the revolt or not.


Luther was a man used by God, but by no means infallible.
In his zeal for righteousness by faith, he made some statements that could be construed (especially if the context isn't considered) to be for the abolition of God's ten commandment law. I have even heard some say that Luther told us "to sin boldly, because we have grace."
If Luther taught that HE WAS VERY, VERY WRONG!

Paul, in scripture says the opposite:

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 6:2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

LUTHER WAS FIGHTING THE PAPAL SYSTEM! A man standing up to the most powerful system in his world! He changed the course of History and helped free the world from Roman tyranny .

Yet, just as with the words of Paul, people today are taking Luther's words and totally misapplying their meanings. Now they actually take Luther, or Paul's, words and fight against Christ's own words which He spoke while on earth. The way they use their words today will lead people straight back into the Roman system, which Luther's life was dedicated to releasing us from.

Paul was not opposed to God's law.
And from what I have personally read from Luther, he was not opposed to God's law either.

Here are words from the pen of Luther in his introduction to Romans: These words need to be balanced with all the quotes some people are pulling forth, and weighed in the understanding of what Luther was really working against.

"Epistle to the Romans is the very purest Gospel and is worthy that every Christian should know it word for word. . .but first we must have knowledge of its words: law, sin, grace, faith, righteousness, flesh, spirit, etc., otherwise no reading of it has any value.

"The little word "law" you must not take in human fashion, as a teaching about what works are to be done or not done. That is the way it is with human laws — human laws can be fulfilled by works, even though there is no heart in them. But God JUDGES according to what is at the bottom of the heart, and cannot be satisfied with mere works. For even though you keep the law outwardly, with works, from fear of punishment of desire for reward, nevertheless, you do all this without willingness and pleasure, and without love for the law, but rather with unwillingness, under compulsion and if the law were not there you would gladly do otherwise. The conclusion is that you hate the law.

"For this reason Paul says the law is spiritual. What is that? If the law were a human law, it could be satisfied with works; but since it is spiritual, no one can satisfy it, UNLESS all that you do is done from the bottom of the heart. But such a heart is given only by God's Spirit, so that he acquires a desire for the law in his heart, and hence does nothing out of mere fear and compulsion but everything will be loved and fulfilled with such a spiritual heart and this requires the Holy Spirit. Doing the works of the law and fulfilling the law are two very different things. How can a man fulfill the law, if he is doing the works of the law from a reluctant and resisting heart? To fulfill the law is to do its works with pleasure and love without the compulsion. This pleasure and love for the law is put into the heart by the Holy Spirit.

"Sin, means not only the outward works of disobedience, but looks into the heart and regards the root and source of all sin.

"Faith, is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God. It kills the old nature and makes us altogether different in heart and spirit and mind and powers. Oh, it is a living, active, mighty thing, is faith and so it is impossible for it not to do good works all the time. It does not ask if good works must be done for salvation, but does them from a heart overflowing.. . .it is impossible to separate works from faith."

"Sin", Luther, thundered from the pulpit, "is a terrible thing, it totally unfits man for heaven. It is like the poison of asps, the asp is a serpent and it's poison is sure to kill. A sinner cannot be restored to spiritual life by simply applying merits. These pitiable people do not recognize the poison nor the death of their souls. Where is you repentance? Only in Christ can salvation be found, it can not be earned or purchased. It is a free gift. . . .Humble yourselves at the foot of the cross, there is no other way."

The reformers taught that absence of the Moral Law Brings Chaos.
The warnings of Roderick Campbell and Martin Luther ring true.

The absence of the basic Moral law would bring chaos, anarchy, or death, into every realm of rational being. On the other hand, if there were no law there would be no sin, hence no sinners, and no room for Grace. If there were no sin, there would be no Saviour, no redemption, and no gospel message.

Thus we read, "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:20,21). Grace is that golden stream, that river of the water of life, which always flows in the channel of Law, out from the fountain of the immeasurable love of God.

Without a conscience within and an objective Moral Law without, mankind would revert to a condition lower than the brute creation. The earth becomes a garden or a desert, a paradise or a hell, according as men perform, or fail to perform, the just demands of the righteous Moral Law. A stable order among men can be maintained only when it is based upon a conviction that, above the level of life on earth, and above the physical creation, there exists a supreme Moral Governor of the world... Israel and the New Covenant, pp. 42, 43

A Heresy That Luther Never Thought to See

Martin Luther was amazed how some responded to his gospel message, and commented:

But Satan, the god of all dissension, stirreth up daily new sects, and last of all (which of all other I should never have foreseen or once suspected), he hath raised up a sect of such as teach that the Ten Commandments ought to be taken out of the church, and that men should not be terrified by the law, but gently exhorted by the preaching of the grace of Christ. Preface to Luther's "Commentary on Saint Paul's Epistle to the Galatians"


Luther does not do away with obedience to God's law, but he strongly condemned outward righteousness without inward renewal. In this he is preaching true righteousness.

We also need to remember Luther's background.
Luther's former religious convictions left in absolute terror of the wrath of God. Deeply sensible of the multitude of his sins he tried to gain relief through punishing the body. Yet peace with God escaped him. He devoted himself to fasts, flagellations, long hours in prayer and pilgrimages, and constant confession. The more he tried to do for God, it seemed, the more aware he became of his sinfulness. Discovering the righteousness of Christ was the lifeline of hope for a man drowning in his realization that he could never save himself. Thus his heavy emphases on this vital subject. He knew that lawkeeping could NEVER save him! Nor can it save any one of us.

Yet, if in any of his writings he does say that disregard for any of God's commandments is fine --- he is VERY WRONG! Indeed, his heavy emphasis on justification at times causes him to loose focus on the binding nature of God's law, as is seen in his treatment of the 4th commandment.

Other Reformers, like Karlstadt, Zwingli and Wesley, denied that the moral law was abrogated by grace, and asserted that they were the continuing standard of the sanctified life. Therefore we must not take Luther's, words without considering under what condition they were written and uphold them as if they were the inspired revelation of God on the interpretation of scripture.

Yet a careful reading of his works shows Luther still upheld God's law as binding on the actions of mankind.
In his introduction of Galatians he writes:

"A wise and faithful disposer of the Word of God must so moderate the law that it may be kept within its bounds. He that teaches that men are justified before God by the observation of the law, passes the bounds of the law, and confounds these two kinds of righteousness, active and passive. Contrariwise, he that sets forth the law and works to the old man, and the promise and forgiveness of sins and God's mercy to the new man, divides the Word well. For the flesh or the old man must be coupled with the law and works; the spirit or the new man must be joined with the promise of God and His mercy....

Let us diligently learn to judge between these two kinds of righteousness. We have said before that, in a Christian, the law ought not to pass its bounds, but ought to have dominion only over the flesh, which is in subjection to it, and remains under it. But if it creeps into the conscience, play the cunning logician, and make the true division. Say: "0 law, you would climb up into the kingdom of my conscience, and there reprove it of sin, and take from me the joy of my heart, which I have by faith in Christ, and drive me to desperation that I may be without hope, and utterly perish. Keep within your bounds, and exercise your power upon the flesh: for by the gospel I am called to the partaking of righteousness and everlasting life....

Christian righteousness is heavenly, which we have not of ourselves, but receive from heaven; we work not for it, but by grace it is wrought in us, and is apprehended by faith. "

Luther made incredible advances under the most adverse situations, but he did not reach all truth.

Luther had some problems and said some things that not even his loyal followers could agree with. He was a very strong, often outspoken, personality, yet those very qualities God used to fight the mammoth despotic system of the papacy.

But what is most disturbing is how people take his writings where he is looking for justification apart from the Roman false system, and use it to break down the wall that separates people from that self same false system.

Sunday is the biggest bond Protestant Churches have with Rome. Their claim of sola scripture makes total ship wreck on this one commandment. There is no scripture for Sunday as the "Lord's Day", though much conjecture tries to seek it there. God's law calls us to remember the true sanctified day of worship, the day Jesus said He was Lord of. Satan knows he must first destroy the concept that God's law, especially the 4th commandment is no longer binding. Once that is destroyed then it will be easy to slip in Sunday as the day of convenient worship -- and the people will hardly notice they have rejected their date with God.

Our work is to move forward not backward.

Go to The Reformation, It's Rise and Fall
The Counter Reformation
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