Volume. XXXIV, No. 17
Sunday, 27 October 2019


Martin Luther (Part 1)


“THE REFORMATION IS LUTHER AND LUTHER IS THE REFORMATION.”1

In the 1970’s I got to know Professor James Atkinson, Professor of Biblical History and Literature at the University of Sheffield, whose book “The Great Light: Luther and the Reformation” remains the classic study of Luther. Professor Atkinson’s obituary in the Times read of him “he lived Luther, thought Luther, and breathed Luther.” It was Professor Atkinson who first introduced me as a young Christian to Martin Luther.

 

We are in grave danger of both underestimating and even forgetting the surpassing privilege that is ours in our Reformation heritage. Since Vatican II, many gullible Protestants have dropped their guard and now imagine that Rome has changed.

 

Protestant churches by and large will do nothing to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the nailing of the 95 THESES on the gate of Wittenberg Cathedral on 31 October 1517. The Roman Catholic Church however, sees the 500th anniversary as an opportunity to lure unsuspecting Protestants back into the spidery web of Romanism.

 

  • The Vatican’s Philatelic and Numismatic Office are printing 17 new stamps this year, one of which will feature Martin Luther as the Church of Rome tries to rewrite history. They will also publish a stamp to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the apparition of ‘Our Lady of Fatima,’ and another celebrating the 300th anniversary of ‘Our Lady of Aparacida, Brazil.’
  • The Vatican has also given its backing to a central square in Rome being named after Martin Luther. The site chosen is the Oppian Hill, a park that overlooks the Coliseum and is to be named Piazza Martin Lutero. Note: when Martin Luther visited Rome in 1510, he said, “If there is a hell, Rome is built over it.”
  • Further on 31 October, Pope Francis will visit the Protestant Cathedral at Lund in southern Sweden and that will mark a yearlong commemoration of the Reformation by the Lutheran Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

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1483-1513: LUTHER THE PEASANT PRIEST

Martin Luther was born in the Saxon village of Eisleban on November 10, 1483. Luther never forgot his humble background: “I am a peasant’s son; my father, grandfather, all my ancestors were genuine peasants.”2 The rough surroundings and Spartan discipline equipped him for the rapport he was to have with Germany’s lower and middle classes. Educated at the University of Erfurt, he planned to fulfil his father’s wishes and to practice law.

 

One night, in a violent storm his friend was struck dead by lightning. In this Luther believed he saw the hand of an angry God; and in great fear, and gratitude that his own life was spared, offered himself to God and His service. In the 15th century that meant only one thing, entering a monastery. He returned to Erfurt, not as a student to study Law, but as a monk. At the age of twenty-two entered the Augustinian Eremite monastery on July 17, 1505, in sure and certain hope of delivering his soul from all its present conflict and of gaining eternal salvation.

  

 

1 Atkinson J., The Great Light, Paternoster Press, 1968, p.11

2 Ibid 

  • In September, 1505, he received the tonsure and took the cowl.
  • As a clerical novice he was taught all the prescribed acts to go about with eyes downcast, never to laugh, never to eat or speak except at prescribed times, and to beg for bread in the streets. 
  • He was confined in a single cell measuring nine feet by six feet, in which were one chair, one table, one candlestick and a straw bed. 
  • He ate twice a day, once only on fast days (of which there were a hundred a year). 
  • He had no heating in his cell, which was a very sever discipline in a German winter.

 

Luther had entered the monastery because he was in anxiety about the state of his soul, but found that the spiritual life served only to sharpen his anxiety without allaying it. He knew he could never be certain of having confessed his sins in their entirety, and therefore could never experience forgiveness.

 

The melancholic Luther was in a morbid state of spiritual wretchedness and misery.

 

  • In September, 1506, he professed the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and in May, 1507, he was ordained priest.
  • In the autumn of 1508, the young scholar was called to the new university of Wittenberg. There he taught Aristotle and the Bible and it was there he qualified to hold a university chair.
  • There was a general desire to reform the Augustinian order by bringing the lax houses up to the standards of the strict houses. Luther was assigned the task of taking the appeal of Erfurt to Rome in 1510.

 

The four weeks Luther spent in Rome turned out to be a time of grave disillusionment. The simple, devout, learned monk hoped for spiritual and pastoral guidance from the Eternal City, but all he found were ignorant priests.

 

  • When he celebrated mass, his slow reverence created a bottle-neck, and he was pushed on by mass priests anxious to gabble through their allotted quota, crying “Passa! Passa!”
  • He went on all the pilgrimages available.
  • He crawled on his knees up the twenty-eight steps of the Scala Sancta saying a Pater Noster on each step and kissing each piously. This performance was guaranteed to free a soul from purgatory at one stroke.
  • He was shocked at the profligacy of the Papal curia, as well as the conduct of the common people whom 1500 years of Christianity had seemingly left untouched and who would perform their natural bodily functions in the street like dogs.

 

Upon his return to Erfurt, it was clear to Luther that: first, Rome had lost the keys of the kingdom. He said, I took onions to Rome and brought back garlic.” This led Luther to a re-appraisal of the Gospel. Secondly, Luther began to learn what it was to stand alone against the majority. Ten years later, Luther was to defend himself against the Papal Bull of Excommunication: “Do we not read in the Old Testament that God generally raised up only one prophet at a time? Moses was alone during the exodus from Egypt. Elijah was alone in King Ahab’s day. After him, Elisha stood alone. Isaiah was alone in Jerusalem. Hosea alone in Israel, Jeremiah alone in Judea, Ezekiel alone in Babylon, and so it went. Even though they had many disciples called ‘children of the prophets,’ God never allowed more than one man alone to preach and rebuke the people.”3

 

3 Fuller, Otis: Valiant for the Truth”, p. 120                            To be continued in the next issue..


More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

  • Please observe all parking signs. Council fines apply. Please DO NOT block our neighbours’ driveways & DO NOT park along the streets north & west of our church compound (on Bedford Sq.).
  • Session has appointed Bro Edy Lok as Youth Ministry Mentor.
  • All worshippers are encouraged to bring a dish or two to share for our Communal Fellowship Lunch.
  • There is no Wednesday Bible Study & Prayer Meeting this week (5th Wednesday).
  • Lunch Duty: This week: Neighbourhood Groups. Next week: Volunteers.

 

Praise & Thanksgiving

  • God’s daily providence, protection & guidance.
  • Working Bee
  • Infant Baptism – Zoe Ki
  • Healing - Sis Sally Teng.
  • Sis Lydia Tan – Opening her house for Ladies’ Fellowship.
  • Journey mercies:  Those who have travelled.

 

Prayer

  • Healing: Rev George van Buuren; Rev Pong Sen Yiew (S’pore); Grandpa Ki (S’pore); and others in affliction.
  • University students as they prepare for exams; Year 12 students as they prepare for exams & for God’s direction for their next step in life.
  • Missions – Rev Johnson & Sis Susan George (Gujarat); Rev Stephen & Lydia Choi (Phnom Penh); Pastor Vibol Uong (Cambodia).
  • Batam & Phnom Penh Missions Teams in Jan/Feb 2020 - preparation & planning.
  • Journey mercies:  Those who are travelling.

 

 

 

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PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063