The story of Martin Luther, famous theological reformer and perhaps the first so-called apostate of the Catholic Church is fascinating. Here’s a brief summary of him from Wikipedia:
Martin Luther (Born 11/10/1483, Died 2/18/1546) was a German priest and professor of theology who initiated the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God’s punishment of sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517. His refusal to retract all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the emperor.
Luther taught that salvation is not earned by good deeds but received only as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus as redeemer from sin. His theology challenged the authority of the pope of the Roman Catholic Church by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood…
His translation of the Bible into the language of the people (instead of Latin) made it more accessible, causing a tremendous impact on the church and on German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the translation into English of the King James Bible. His hymns influenced the development of singing in churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant priests to marry.
In his later years, Luther became strongly antisemitic, writing that Jewish homes should be destroyed, their synagogues burned, money confiscated and liberty curtailed. These statements have contributed to his controversial status.
Right away we see that he must have been a man of tremendous courage. Luther wasn’t perfect, and he didn’t have all the answers. But the point is that he shares many qualities that we ourselves do. He strove to set himself free from the yoke of an authoritarian, legalistic church. Do we not also yearn for Christian freedom as Jesus said in John 8:32? We want to be “set free” from oppressive and overbearing men that regulate our conscience and “teach commands of men as doctrines”! (Matthew 15:9) Watch this re-enactment of that fateful day when he stood up to these leaders:
Do we pray daily for our Father Jehovah to set things right? Do we pray that we can have the strength to take our stand and do it in the proper way? In the beginning our “stand” may be as small as searching out and studying material based on our Bible-trained conscience. Staying in “stealth mode” takes strength and courage too and we may do it to keep our family together, patiently waiting on Jehovah and enduring. Or we may feel a deep need in our heart to do more, and get out and even speak out. God’s Holy Spirit can comfort us:
But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach YOU all things and bring back to YOUR minds all the things I told YOU. (John 14:26)
And it can also impel us to action. It is God’s active force, his Power. When you watch a video like that and meditate and think upon what Martin Luther did as a sincere Christian Witness and lover of Christ, does it not make your heart swell? In the year 1517 he literally nailed his “95 Theses of Contention” to the door of the Wittenberg Church. Talk about “apostate” literature! He was exiled in the months following the Diet of Worms Council in 1521 (which was designed to martyr him) and went on to translate the Greek Scriptures into German and publish it in September of 1522. Luther also published a German Pentateuch (First five books of the Hebrew Scriptures) in 1523, and another edition of the German New Testament in 1529. In the 1530’s he would go on to publish the entire Bible in German. His courage and his conviction has reverberated down through many centuries and reached all of us. May it touch our hearts. May it buoy us up and encourage us to follow our Christian course and conscience, and to pick up our own “torture stake”. (Luke 9:23) May his example strengthen all of us as we walk the “narrow path that leads to life” (Matthew 7:13,14) and press on to maturity as Christian lovers of Truth.