A Call For Freedom


Let’s put ourselves into the 16th century. What was life like? What was religious life like? There was no electricity. There was no running water. People never washed their clothes, they lived together with the animals – there was a lot of smell and dark. The population is recovering after the bubonic plague had really devastated Europe. For most people in the Middle Ages, life is brutal and short. Salvation is sort of the reward for enduring that and for keeping the faith. The scriptures were in Latin so it wasn’t the language of the common people. So only the preachers and the pastors were able to read the Word of God. The priest is the one who had the authority, the priest is the one who had the access to God. He had the ability to do the miracle of the mass. If you were an ordinary parishioner, you really didn’t matter that much. You know, back then it was it was really, as my young people would say, “a trip.” For about 500 years the medieval world of Germany, of France, England, Portugal and Spain were ruled by one spiritual power, and that was the Pope. There was a while when there were two people who claimed to be Pope, and then a little while when three people claimed to be Pope. Each calling the other one antichrist. Each attempting to raise enough money to fight the other. And there were questions about where the salvation lied. Which Church should I be a part of in order to be saved? You’re always uncertain of your relationship with God, and you are told that you should be uncertain of your relationship with God. In 1516, Pope Leo X decides that only he can call a council and only a council can reform the Church. Luther comes along and he discovers that salvation is a free gift to all who believe. And that you become your own priest before God and you do not need the papacy. What you need is a personal relationship with God. And that changed everything. It’s easy to think that the Reformation happened so many centuries ago it has no relevance to us. But Martin Luther is like the man who threw a stone into the lake, and the ripples went all the way to the shore. And today we are still feeling their effects. People wonder what Martin Luther was like. There was nothing in his background to suggest that he was going to become great. He was in many ways an ordinary German boy born in a strict home. Where piety was important. The Church was important. God was important. His parents were rather harsh. He talks about how he was beaten until the blood came even though he had just stolen a nut. Martin Luther: My father once beat me so hard that I ran away. I hated him until he finally managed to win me back. His father’s someone who had worked really hard. He came from a peasant family. He had married well. Christine: His father had these great ambitions for him. He wanted his eldest son to move up on the socio-economic ladder and become a lawyer. They were financially stable enough that they could send Luther to be educated which of course was key to who he would become. If you go to Germany you can visit the birth house of Luther which is in the town of Eisleben. Like many Luther sites his birth house has been preserved as a museum where you can learn more about the man. Coincidentally, that was the same town in which he died. So you can see the birth house and the death house. So even though Luther changed so much of the world, a lot of his own life’s work took place in a very small area. His father being very harsh probably influenced Martin Luther’s impression of God. Because Luther is going to grow up with a great sense of the divine sovereignty, of divine holiness, and above all divine strictness. As a pastor, I see people projecting on to God the Father the absenteeism of their father, or the cruelty of their father, or the abandonment of their father. Even though you may come to understand Grace, it always seems as if God is there trying to find something that you are doing wrong, and ready to punish you as soon as you do it. One July day Luther was returning to his parents house. He was about four miles out when he got caught up in a thunderstorm. He was struck down by lightning, and he called out and said, “Helped me St. Anne, and I shall become a monk!” And he was true to his vow. If you go to Germany, in fact you’ll see a marker there that commemorates that important event. He enters into the monastery within two weeks of the lightning storm. This is a breaking point with his father. There’s considerable tension that develops between them over this. In order to keep his vow but also to bring some peace to his soul he enrolled here in the Augustinian monastery. And that’s where we are today in Erfurt, Germany. He partook of all of the advantages of the Church, hoping that he could redeem himself and make himself worthy of salvation. Specifically, I’m on the altar here, and it is upon this grade that Luther took his monastic vows. Well, I’m going to demonstrate the kind of posture that Luther had as he enrolled in this monastery. Martin Luther was like any one of us. When we feel that we have to please God, we over commit. Luther of course went into the strictest monastery. And when he was there he decided he would do his best, and really more than his best to please a God that he wished he would be able to please but was convinced he could not. If a person doesn’t understand that it’s Grace alone, what they do is they struggle quite a bit. No matter how hard he tries, and he is the best of the best, he cannot reach that standard. In the monastery where he lived the floors are made of cold stone, and he would sleep without blankets to mortify the flesh. He fasted so long that some of his friends thought that he would even die. He gives everything to that, and that he still can’t meet the standard. If ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery, it was I. We are in the room in the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. And this is the most authentic of all the rooms here. The very room where Luther confessed his sins endlessly. Sometimes he confessed his sins here six hours at a time. And in those days confession was not private. There were a number of different monks here and they listened to one another’s confessions, and when Martin Luther stood up to confess, he went on and on and on! Luther believed in contrition. That it was important that not only that you feel sorry for your sin, but that you also confess everything. Sins in order to be forgiven had to be confessed. For them to be confessed they had to be remembered. If they were not remembered they could not be confessed. And if they were not confessed they were not forgiven. He only has peace of mind in that small window of time after he’s received absolution for all the sins he’s committed and before he commits the next one. Because then then he’s worried about his salvation again. See, too many people think, that Jesus started our salvation, but then we have to make the monthly installments. We don’t have to do that. Let’s visualize Martin Luther in his dilemma and predicament. He begins to confess his sins and his confessor’s name is Staupitz, and Staupitz helps Luther. We really need to appreciate, in fact, how much Staupitz shaped Luther. He pointed to a God of grace. He was the one who pointed Luther to Christ on the cross. “Focus on the cross.” But somehow that does not seem to answer Luther’s dilemma. I was myself more than once driven for the very abyss of despair so that I wished I had never been created. Love God? I hated him. He hated God because God was too strict. His standards were too high. How can mortal man stand in the presence of a God like that? Luther believed that the smallest smidgen of sin would bar him from heaven. Now maybe he might not go directly to hell if he did not commit a mortal sin, but if it was a minor sin, a venial sin, he would then go to purgatory. Purgatory doesn’t come out of left field, it is rooted in the early church. It is rooted in Gregory the Great who developed the concept of a place of refining fire where we’re really improved before we enter into paradise. Very much like in the Old Testament when we read of the analogy of fire as a purifier. Like gold is refined in the fire. Purgatory is not a place where you go, and it’s like a waiting room and there’s two doors, one into heaven and one into hell. That’s not what purgatory is. If you’re going to hell, you’re going to got to hell, and you’re not gonna stop at purgatory. The amount of time that you spend there depends on, really how many sins you have accumulated over the course of your life. It was believed that most people who die do not have enough righteousness to go into heaven. So Luther thought that the best that he could possibly expect would be purgatory. One day his confessor Staupitz had said to him, “Luther you ought to teach the Bible.” and Luther said, “you know that could be the death of me.” And come to think of it to some extent it was. And then he read, “The just shall live by faith.” And the transformation took place. “And so whom the Son sets free, is free” – and not just free, “free indeed.” All the things he had learned. All those things were transformed from works to faith. It was death to all of his good works. Death to all of his achievements, when he understood, through the scriptures, that salvation was a free gift given to those who believe. If you want to understand the Protestant Reformation you must understand the doctrine of Faith Alone. “Sola fide” is the phrase we use, it kind of has become one of the hallmarks of the Protestant Reformation. Faith alone is as opposed to Faith and works. “Works” are anything that I do to try to make myself acceptable to God. Pilgrimages, or with prayers, or with fasting, or with a financial donation. It is not a matter of rituals. It’s not a matter of obeying all the rules. It’s not even a matter of being sure that you are in fellowship with the Church — — though the Church may be important. People think because they go to church, that makes them a believer. Look, going to church makes you a believer like going into a garage makes you an automobile – it doesn’t work that way. The law says “Do this, and do that!” Grace says, “It is already done.” Luther: You cast your scenes from yourself and on to Christ when you firmly believes that his wounds and sufferings are your sins to be born and paid for by him. Everything that Luther said, preached, spoke, had God’s grace at the very center. Martin Luther believed that if there was any part of our salvation that depended on our own participation in it, then none of us could be saved. God has to give you the faith in order to believe in God. So Grace is a gift, faith is a gift, and justification is gift. He talks a lot about an unfair exchange that happens. And in that unfair exchange, then we inherit everything that he can give to us, right? And that’s eternal life. When Luther discovered that Jesus Christ met all of our requirements for us, if we receive it by faith, he said, “it was as if I walked through the gates of paradise.” The burden rolled off his back, there was peace that was brought to his soul, Luther was finally a free man. Now he began to proclaim it. And there was a little university beginning at that time in Wittenberg, and Luther transferred there, and there he taught the Bible. When Luther began to study the Bible he found that there are some things that the Church taught that weren’t there. And there came an opportunity when Pope Leo decided that he needed money to finish St.Peter’s Basilica. The church sent out monks to sell indulgences. They were indulgence sellers. I like to look at replicas of various documents. Here, for example, is a plenary indulgence. An indulgence is basically a certificate that you receive as an indicator that you have met the requirements for satisfaction, and have been absolved of your sins. Let me put it in contemporary terms. Let’s say you want to go out and sin. You would come to me and say, “Pastor, I’m going out Saturday. I’m gonna drop it like it’s hot and back it up. I’m gonna make it rain in the club – [ Record Scratch Sound ] Talk to a black person. They’ll explain it to you. And, and you would pay me, and I would say, “Okay, you’re forgiven of it.” And you could go ahead — so it was paying to sin. This is a heresy called simony. You can’t sell spirituality. You can’t sell blessings – except the church was doing it. What we’re looking at is an indulgence that goes back 500 years. So these were circulated, thanks to Gutenberg indulgences could now be sold and everyone could come back and say, “Here’s proof that I’m right with God.” Now that was not entirely new, that had been done before, but there was a new twist. In order to make sure that the coffers were filled indulgences would be sold, not only for the living, but also for the dead. So if I can give money to the Church, and that’s a form of penance, perhaps I can give money to the church and maybe even do penance for one of my loved ones who’s already passed away and reduced their time in purgatory. And that’s what Tetzel preached in the various town squares in Germany. Tetzel is very famous, very well-known in Europe. He’s the most effective indulgence seller. Here’s the kind of documents that people would bring to Luther, to show him that they had received full remission of their sins. So he’s hearing about his congregants going and buying these indulgences, and he’s hearing about how Tetzel is preaching indulgences. “Hear ye! Hear ye! But for a few pence, “your mother and your father, who are in purgatory, they would want to be free!” “Your dead parents are crying out to you. They’re suffering.” “And you are so hard-hearted that you will not give?” As a matter of fact, they had a saying, that went something like this. ” “As soon as the money in the coffers ring, a soul from purgatory and sins will spring.” So they even had ditties about it. In Wittenberg we saw an indulgence box in a museum there where Luther and Katie used to live. And they had indulgences for the past, the present, yes the future, for relatives — and that’s what made Luther angry. Something that’s important to keep in mind about Luther is that he’s not just a theologian, he’s not just a professor, but he’s also a pastor. And he has a congregation that he cares about. And that’s when Luther went to the Wittenberg Door, famously, nailing on that door 95 theses, primarily directed against indulgences. Today we have the privilege of being in Wittenberg, Germany. At the famous Wittenberg Door. Back in 1517, on October the 31st, Martin Luther came here and nailed his famous 95 Theses to the Castle Church door, right here in Wittenberg. People had this idea that the 95 Theses were represented this manifesto against the Pope. but Martin Luther was not posting a document that said, “Here are 95 reasons why I’m leaving the Catholic Church.” That’s not what he was doing. What Luther is doing is nothing out of the ordinary. Okay? He is an unknown monk. He’s at a brand-new university, engaging in theological conversation and debate — which is his duty as a professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg. It seems to us like the posting of the 95 Theses on the door of the chapel would have been a radical move. What a lot of people don’t know is that the door of the chapel was the bulletin board. Now of course the door, the original door, burned in a fire many years ago. But they memorialized the door here, and you can see the 95 Theses, written in Latin, in bronze. Written in Latin because Luther thought that these would be debated among the intelligentsia. Luther really was a late medieval Catholic, an ordained priest, and an Augustinian friar He would have preferred to reform the church from within, and he was posting 95 things that he thought people should be talking about. When our Lord Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” he wished the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. The very first thesis that he writes is about repentance, that the whole life of the believer should be one of repentance. When Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the Castle Church door, those 95 statements were primarily directed against indulgences. Why doesn’t the pope empty purgator for the sake of holy love? For after all, he does release countless souls for the sake of sordid money contributed for the building of a cathedral. So Luther was attacking these abuses, though he was not entirely opposed to them at that time. What he disagrees with is the economic exploitation of those indulgences. That people actually think that by buying something they will have certain years taken off in purgatory. But he also referred to other abuses. For example in those days there was the Merit of the Saints. The belief that was that some of the Saints did more good than they needed to get to heaven. The Treasury of the Saints is the the good works of the Saints. Gives them a credit balance because they didn’t have as many sins as the rest of us. And you could access some of their goodness for yourself if you viewed a relic and if you paid a gift. Relics was another way that you could satisfy your sins. A relic was actually a piece of clothing from some Saint of the past, perhaps it was a bone that was honored because the person may have been a martyr. It’s very well known in the medieval period that there were abuses and corruptions with relics, that people were manufacturing them. That there were false relics. So, if you had the finger bone of Thomas the Apostle where he touched Jesus’s wounds, maybe you did and maybe you didn’t have the actual finger bone of Thomas, and there might be several of them floating around. When Luther came up with his idea about justification because of Christ’s death on the cross, what he did was to marginalize all different ways in which grace could be distributed, to kind of take those off the table, so to speak, and put Christ at the very very center of faith. The Reformation that started here was an event that, on its own, people would have never thought that it would bring about the changes that it did. It’s not until they are translated into German, and within two weeks, they are all throughout Germany. Luther became a national sensation pretty much overnight. This begins to become more and more of a concern. The reaction from the Catholic hierarchy and then the back-and-forth that ensued ended up in his own excommunication, and him standing his ground, and you know, the end result was a split of the body of Christ What happens from that point on is extraordinary. Perhaps you’re listening and you wonder, “What does this have to do with me?” Well if you’re Protestant, the reason that your church looks the way in which it does, is because of the Reformation. Prior to the Protestant Reformation, you had all kind of statues You had all kinds of relics. In order for us to comprehend that it’s faith alone, all of these things were done away with. Faith alone says, “Look, we don’t need any of that.” And so the way in which we worship today was largely directed by what happened 500 years ago. And we also are impacted by the Reformation that began right here in Wittenberg, and today we are standing where history was made. Freedom of religion is something that all of us take for granted, but we have to understand that for centuries in Europe there was no freedom of religion. You were brought up in what is known as, “Christendom.” In Europe, through centuries, there was this idea that you have to have a unified king, with a religion that he accepts, and a law that everyone abides by. So you have King, Faith, and Law. They had to line up So the idea that you could actually live in a country with a different religion, and still be a loyal citizen — was unthinkable. Now to us. that’s difficult to grasp, it would be like when President Kennedy became the president of the United States that all of us would have had to become Catholic. As a result of that you could not deviate from the teachings of the Church. If you did, you were declared to be a heretic. To speak against the Church, it wouldn’t take long and you were in trouble. I’m standing beside what is known as the Luther Oak. Of course, this tree wasn’t here during the days of Martin Luther, it’s about a 170 years old. But it’s called the Luther oak because it’s planted approximately where the papal bull was burned on December the 10th, 1520. Pope Leo was very upset with Luther, for obvious reasons, Luther was failing to recant. So Pope Leo decided that he would write, what was known as a papal bull, that is, an official letter and document of excommunication. Which meant to basically kick them out of the Church. And if the Church excommunicated you, your eternal salvation was in complete and utter jeopardy. In Latin, the word for lead is, “bulla,” and when the Pope issued a decree it was sealed with a lead seal. The document gets its name from the seal. The seal is called a bulla, so we call the document “a bull”. It’s very interesting, because it actually has writing, and here is an example of the papal seal. And for Luther this not only meant that his soul was destined for eternal damnation but that the Church that he had really sought to reform wasn’t recognizing his new ideas. It took three months before it arrived here in Wittenberg because in those days communication was very slow. Luther already knew in advance what was in it, and he spoke against it very harshly. Luther’s books were being burned throughout Germany. So Luther said, “They’re burning my books. I will burn their papal decree.” It’s obviously a symbolic and public act of rejection of the Pope’s authority. Not simply rejection of this particular document, but rejection of the Pope’s authority altogether. And so this papal bull was taken right here, at the Elster Gate, and it was burned, and it is Luther that threw it into the fire. And there was no going back. Once the Reformation began, Luther entered into a number of different debates, and it always came down to this question, “By what authority are you believing the doctrines that you are espousing?” That was the question. And of course, the authorities from the Catholic Church from the Pope, always said, that the Pope and a tradition is of equal authority to the scriptures. We as Protestants look at it differently, we go back to the scriptures, and we do not have a Protestant Pope. We don’t have someone who is the authority to which all of us subscribe. So Luther was rooting everything that he knew, and everything that he believed about God and salvation, in the scriptures alone. And that’s why, sometimes when we speak about the Reformation we use the expression Sola scriptura Which is the “scriptures alone” as the basis of spiritual and theological authority. There former’s meant by Sola scriptura, not scripture alone in that it is alienated from any other words of wisdom from the Christian past. because if you did you’d have to get rid of the doctrine of the Trinity. While I would argue the doctrine of the Trinity is in scripture, the word Trinity is not in scripture. Scripture has a primary role. It is the primary authority. It is the final authority on theological matters. I tell people this all the time, when somebody says, “thus saith the Lord,” check the Bible to see if the Lord said thus. It is sufficient. We don’t have to go beyond it to try to understand the deep things of God. It’s very easy for us to forget that people in previous generations did not have access to the scriptures like we do today. When we look on the internet today, we can find hundreds of different versions of the Bible in all different languages. If you’re listening today, and you have a Bible or two, you have to go back 500 years, and thank Martin Luther. During Luther’s time there were very few people who had Bibles. Most Bibles were in the church, and the people listened to the Bibles being read. Maybe there was only one Bible in that whole town and it was changed to these in the lectern so nobody walked away with it. The Bible was not in the language of the people. It was actually illegal to translate the Bible into a language other than Latin. What the Catholic Church didn’t want people doing was was interpreting the Bible on their own, apart from the community, and apart from the tradition. And so they had to depend upon the pastors, the priests, individuals who were learning in order to learn what the Bible even had to say. The idea that the common person should have the scriptures was a seismic shift. And we need to be able to understand something of the past that we might appreciate the present. In January of 1521, Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church by Pope Leo X. Luther’s case as a heretic had to be handed over to the political authorities in order to administer the death sentence. The Emperor Charles V was newly installed. He was the head of the Holy Roman Empire He had come from Spain so he was an ardent Catholic. He hated Luther. He wanted to kill Luther. But he knew that if he were to kill Luther without a hearing, all the Germans would be angry with him. So he was in a dilemma. He decided that he was willing to meet with Luther at Worms, and see whether or not this monk wouldn’t recant. When Luther left for Worms he didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. And he was going to grapple, as he constantly did, with a fact of martyrdom. Luther believed he was going to his death. They put him in the middle. The Cardinals were seated in a row and they put him in the middle. They said, “We will not discuss these matters.” “Without any further deliberation you must recant.” The final word was, “Revoco. Revoco. Revoco.” That is, “Brother you better get off of that. Let that alone, because we’ll do a drive-by on you.” So one can imagine Luther this frightened, terrified, Augustinian friar in front of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. And Luther makes a statement, which I believe is one of the greatest in all of church history As a matter of fact I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Luther had wimped out. And Luther makes the famous statement: “I cannot, and I will not recant.” “My conscience is taken captive by the Word of God.” “To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” “I do not accept the authority of Pope’s and councils for they contradict each other.” Then he goes on to say, “Because of my faith in the Word of God, “I will not recant. So help me. ” [ Speaking German ] “Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God.” I think it’s important to remember, not just, “Here I stand.” But to remember how he refuses. He says, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” So it’s not just my conscience, but it’s actually captive to God’s Word. And in that he really does embody what it means to affirm a Sola scriptura view. When Luther stood up at the Diet of Worms in 1521 and would not recant, you have two reactions. On the part of the church, of course, there was a great deal of anger and a desire to know, “How do we kill this man?” Which is, of course, what Charles V wanted to do. But on the other hand there were many people who when they heard about it said, “Jawohl!” In other words, “We are in favor of this. It’s about time.” He sowed a seed, which eventually Lead to freedom of religion in Europe, and we can trace freedom are relieved in Europe all the way to freedom of religion here in America. It really had its birth when Luther had the courage to stand against the system and to say, “I will not recant!” After the Diet of Worms, Luther was a dead man. The Emperor wanted to put him to death, but for various reasons didn’t. And Luther is on his way home, when suddenly men jump out of the ditch, they capture him, and they taken for the Wartburg Castle. We’re at the Wartburg Castle, where Martin Luther spent to 11 months. This is a very historic place, and it’s a very busy place. Tourists come here from all over the world. The castle museum is full of many fascinating things to see. But for us the most important displays have to do with Martin Luther. The men who overcame his wagon and horse, they were actually men who were his friends. It was a setup by the Elector Frederick, because he had sided with Luther. Frederick had arranged for Lutheran to be kidnapped after he left the Diet of Worms and to be put into hiding. He went into Wartburg Castle Actually his colleagues didn’t even know where he was. Many wondered what had happened to him, and even if he had died. Charles V pretty much sentenced him to death. And if Luther was found in a territory that didn’t protect him anybody could kill him on the spot. So Luther is hiding there in the Wartburg, and during that period of time, he does a number of things. The most important of which is in the first eleven weeks, He translates the entire New Testament into German, from the Greek. Many of the German translations until that time were actually done from the Latin, and the Latin was not the best translation. So basically what they’re trying to do is get the best vernacular Bible translation that they can, one that you could trust. One that you could use even eventually to base your theological views on. We are here in the room in the Wartburg castle where Martin Luther translated the entire New Testament, from the original Greek, into German. And you can see here the desk upon which he worked. You can see a stove. It is sometimes said that he fought the devil with ink. And some people thought that he actually threw an inkwell at the devil. And tour guides used to rub a little bit of soot on the wall because they wanted to see where the inkwell landed. But I’m not sure that he threw an inkwell at the devil. He said in his table talks, he “fought the devil with ink.” What he meant is, “I fought the devil with the translation of the New Testament.” That’s the way you fight the devil, you give them the Word of God. Luther was a literary genius. He had this incredible feel for the emotional and affective dimension of biblical language. So he used language in a in a very evocative way, as well as in a way that was spoken by everyone and also very precise in its technical terms. [ Quote ] He says that he wants the common person to be able to understand the scriptures. Whether it’s the scrubwoman. Whether it’s the farmer behind the plow. There are passages dealing with animal sacrifice, and so he went to a butcher in order to ask the butcher what kind of terms are used to describe animal parts. So Luther was very interested in getting a living language into which he could translate his New Testament. [ Quote ] It unified all of the different dialects of Germany, gave them a common language, a common understanding. Now the translation of the Old Testament took the rest of his life. Together though, the Old and the New Testament is going to have a huge impact on Germany. Something like the King James has had on the English language. From the point that Luther introduces the German New Testament, we begin to see then, the spread of vernacular Bibles like Luther’s all throughout Europe. And with the benefit of the printing press, you have really, a Bible boom. When you look at the idea of Sola Scriptura, look at the practical implications of it. I mean, first of all, we get to carry a Bible. We can have as many translations of the Bible as we would like. Whenever we discuss issues or we have concerns. What do we want to know? Book. Chapter. Verse. That’s what we want to know. We get up in the morning, I don’t know what you do, I have devotions in the morning. I open my Bible. Further implications of our commitment to scripture can be seen in even the way we have our pulpit in our sanctuary. We’re actually standing here in the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany, and it is here where Luther nailed his 95 Theses. You can see the pulpit in this church, it is very tall. It is very ornate. But there was a theological purpose for the fact that it was as high as it was. What the Reformers were trying to say is, “That we believe that the preaching of the word of God is above everything else.” “It is above the people.” I”t is above all of the activities within the church.” “We sit under the Word of God, and it’s Authority directs our lives.” As a pastor, I’ve seen the Bible change lives over and over again. if you’re watching, and you haven’t opened your Bible in awhile – open it. Because you have the privilege and opportunity of reading God’s and love letter to you. Even if it’s only, “a verse a day to keep the devil away,” you need to get into the Word of God. And to read God’s love letter to you. It’s not just that everyone during medieval times was expected to adhere to the same religion, they had rules as to which church you’re going to go to. And if your parish was in your area that’s where you went. So your freedoms were limited in multiple ways and you were expected to conform. So when you have Lutheranism growing now, and whole cities turning toward Lutheranism, Charles V had a great dilemma on his hands. “What do we do with the Lutherans?” And he said this, “If you are a Lutheran, under a Catholic prince – you have to move to where a Lutheran Prince rules.” “But a Catholic, under a Lutheran prince – he can continue to worship as a Catholic.” And as a result of course the Lutheran’s protested, and they became known as “protesters” – Protestants. If Luther had been alive today he’d have given plenty of fodder to the tabloids. Here for example we have the headline” “Hothead Luther spouts off again.” This is the kind of thing that would have dominated newsstands. Luther was indeed a hothead and he wrote some scathing things about the Jews. Ans anti-semitism was not his only flaw. He wrote some things against the peasants. We cannot minimize his flaws, but he is proof that God often uses imperfect people. Even despite his flaws, God used him to uncover the Gospel and you and I today are deeply appreciative of his work. On the eve of the Reformation, Europe is organized according to something called the Society of Orders. and the the clergy are part of the first order and then the nobility, and then you have the common person. If you were a priest, you are of the upper echelon. You were very educated, erudite. In our colloquial expression you be called, “bougie”. And they were seen as having a higher standing before God. They were the privileged ones who could speak to God, who could communicate God to the regular people. The priest would be involved in every aspect of a person’s life, from their baptism all the way to their deathbed. You gave people last rites. And of course you had the authority for other sacraments as well. It was you who had the responsibility of listening to confession and then deciding what kind of a penalty people would have for their sins. Throughout all of the history of Christianity, all the way up until the Reformation, it’s always been assumed that salvation is mediated through the Church. Why is there no salvation outside the Church? Because there are no sacraments outside the Church. Your eternal salvation was to some extent, in his hands. So if you really wanted to get through to God and offer a prayer, what you did is you would go to your priest, and he would pray on your behalf. They thought so little of themselves that they felt they actually needed intermediaries. The division between the laity and the priesthood that took place on earth, was really now transferred also to the Saints in heaven. The idea that you could appeal to a Saint in times of need and that that would be persuasive to God. and so you pray to them. You now expect that they have special contact with God. They are in God’s presence. Catholics believe, as Protestants do, and as all Christians should, that worship belongs to God alone in Jesus Christ. But Martin Luther worried that perhaps in popular devotion people were treating the Saints as though they were mediators. There is a special honor that is given to Mary because of her role. The the merit that she has earned is a special merit in the Treasury of Merit. She is the one through whom Jesus Christ was incarnate into the world, and so without her there is no incarnation. And as the centuries went by more and more doctrines were added to her. There’s some significant labels that are used to describe her as the, Queen of Heaven, as a Co-redemptrix even, There is an undo, and unnecessary dependence on somebody that you should not be depending upon. All of these things seem to communicate to the Reformers that Christ was not sufficient. A revolutionary idea of the Reformation, the Priesthood of All Believers. It was Jesus who was bringing you into God’s presence. It was Jesus who was giving you the kind of access, that you thought, only a priest had. You’re a priest. I’m a priest. Everybody’s a preist. Everybody’s a priest all of us are priest before God if we are true believers. So, Luther had this very very expansive notion of priests. [ QUOTE ] What Luther did was to say that, before God, every single person has the same standing. So he’s leveling the spiritual playing field. So people begin to realize that you can have a personal relationship with Christ without all of the rituals. You can have the reality. We’re in the town Church in Wittenberg, the Stadtkirche, as it is called in German. It is in this church that the Gospel was preached in German. Luther preached here hundreds of times and the Reformation had a huge impact. This is a famous painting of the Lord’s Supper But if you look closely you’ll notice that the cup here is being given to Luther. Luther has a beard because he visited Wittenberg after he had been in the Wartburg castle and he grew a beard so that he would not be recognized. So that he could travel incognito. And so he is either giving the cup, or receiving the cup, from Cranach the Younger – the painter who painted himself in the portrait. What would you think if he went into your church and had a picture like this? Of the Apostles, and they were mixed in with people whom you knew? Perhaps a janitor. Perhaps a baker. Perhaps a Plowman. Here’s a man who was a painter. Here’s a man who was a printer. [Philip] Melanchthon, who was the associate of Luther, is not a priest — but here he is baptizing a baby. Somebody who sits next to you in church, there they are, participating with the Apostles in the Lord’s Supper. Radical idea. This of course gave a whole new sense of dignity to the average believer. Now he was important to God as well. And this is female too because remember then it was only males who could become priests. But the Bible says that. “we are all priests.” The Priesthood of All Believers assumes that we all have a ministry, we should all be doing good work. He says, “God loves to milk cows, but he uses a milkmaid to do it.” A divine work was anything that was done for the honor and the glory of God. “When you change a dirty diaper,” and he does say that. When you change a dirty diaper you can do that to the glory of God. So everybody working together forms a society where peopl e can serve each other. Serve each other’s needs by exercising their god-given talent. The Reformation exalted human dignity. And therefore the significance of this transformation took religion from the altar, so to speak, and brought it down to the pew. To the person who is sitting there. I would say it’s transformative for women in many ways, because it affirms what women are doing are things that they can do to the glory of God. And of course another change is leadership that comes from the laity. If you recall, remember people just came to church gave their money, and that was it. But now you have the ministering Saints in the body of Christ. Reformation says we all matter. If people ask me where my church is, I have to answer, “That depends on when you ask.” On Sunday, it’s in the church building, but at other times it could be anywhere. It might be in an office, or in a home, or even on a playground. Our simplest activities can be done for God’s glory. God’s work is not stuck inside a church building or limited to ministers. It’s you, and it’s me. And for a world that has lost sight of so much, each believer has a role to play in helping the rest of the world to look up. Well the time for transformation has begun. You and I have the privilege of taking the Reformation to the next needy generation. Our generation. And you can do that when you come to the deep conviction that the Bible is the Word of God. That God, in the scriptures, has spoken and he has not stuttered. This generation needs people who say, “My conscience is held captive by the Word of God.” “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” When you begin to see that your life, no matter how unrecognized it is – – your life, as a priest before God, means that everything that you do has divine significance, if it’s done in the name of Christ, and for his glory, because we all have the same access to the Father. Most importantly, you can take the Reformation to your generation, to your family, and to your community, by having the vision of reminding people that we are saved by the righteousness of another. You and I are sinners, and we don’t have the righteousness that we need to stand before God, but thankfully, Jesus Christ stands in for us. He represents us, and through faith, his righteousness belongs to us. And we have the privilege of saying to a very confused world That we are able to represent the Good News which actually transforms hearts. God bless you. If you are enjoying this special you will love dr. Erwin Lutzer spook Rescuing the gospel to learn more about the Reformation call now eight eight eight nine nine five nine nine five one Or visit rescuing the gospel dot org get your copy of rescuing the gospel available now for $14 when you call eight eight eight nine nine five nine nine five one Or at rescuing the gospel dot org

6 thoughts on “A Call For Freedom

  • This wonderful documentary is historically accurate and theologically sound. Luther was right! For my conscience is also taken captive by the Word of God. And if not for the Word of God, by which the grace of God is revealed, I would still be dead in my sins. But thanks be to God, I have been ransomed from my futile ways, not with perishable things such as silver or gold (or indulgences), but with the precious blood of Christ. Christ has made me His own, and through faith in Him I have received His righteousness. One day I will stand before God, trusting neither in my own righteousness, nor the righteousness of the saints, but only in the righteousness of Christ, who loved me and gave Himself for me. For Christ is my Lord and my God. He is my Savior. And I will rest in His merit alone, for it is sufficient. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

  • Outstanding presentation! Really appreciated Dr. Lutzer's book as well. I count it an honor to have had him for Apologetics when I was in seminary.

  • I can see why this won three Emmy Awards. This is an important piece of history that benefits us today. And what is learned here is actionable for us and our loved ones.

  • Congratulations to all who had a part in this Documentary, wonderfully done, I never grow tired of hearing Pastor Lutzer. And I love the history of the Bible.

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