As we come to the celebration of the Reformation, we hear much of Martin Luther. Martin Luther was God’s “tool” in the Reformation of the Church. There had been many men before Luther who had dared to take on the establishment of the papacy. Some attacked the pope. Some attacked the wealth and politics of the Catholic Church. Some to on the life style of the papacy and the church. While many attacked the false doctrine and practice of Rome, the concern about the doctrine of Rome was Luther’s concentration. Thus while the others prepared the way, it was Luther through whom the Lord chose to bring about the Reformation of the church.
The Reformation, which we celebrate, had three principles: “Scripture alone, Grace alone, Faith alone.” When Luther posted the 95 theses on the church door it was not his intent to leave the Roman church. He was calling for discussion of doctrine. It was Luther’s desire to bring the church back to the proclamation of the apostolic doctrine of which Jesus Christ, not the papacy, is the foundation and the chief cornerstone.
Today the church that was spawned by the Reformation and which holds the Lutheran name is in a very disturbing slide. The majority of Lutherans has or is forsaking the three principles mentioned above as well as the Lutheran Confessions recorded in the Bo of Concord of 1580. We must state clearly and emphatically that something or some church is not Lutheran because it says it is. The fact is that if what is taught is not SCRIPTURE it is not Lutheran. Compromise of the truth of Scripture was abhorrent to Luther. Frankly he would have a difficult time recognizing the Lutheran Church today.
Some have mistakenly suggested that Lutherans worship Luther. Nothing is further from the truth. Luther as a self described “maggot sack” is not worthy of worship. To worship him would be idolatry. Yet we show Martin Luther respect for his steadfastness to the truth as well as for the legacy that he has left us. We thank God for having raised up a man such as Luther at a critical time in the life of the church. To respect our “fathers” and to follow their faith is Scriptural. The Bible says, ” Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation [manner of life]” (Hebrews 13:7). Our faith is not in the fathers. But neither can we ignore the fathers whose personal struggle led them into Scripture from which they set forth the truths of God. Their teaching is to be measured and adjudged in the light of Scripture. When it has been found in accord with Scripture we dare not reject them. Jesus said to His disciples, ” Whoever despises you, despises me, and whoever despises Me despises Him Who sent me”( Luke 10:16). We thank our gracious God in Christ Jesus for the Truth of the Word, which embodies the message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. We thank God for the strength He gave Luther to see the truth, and to stand up for it against great odds. We thank God for Luther. Today the danger is not that Lutherans will worship Luther. The greater danger is that Lutherans will forsake the doctrines of Scripture for which he and others were willing to die!