Volume. XXXIV, No. 18
Sunday, 03 November 2019


Martin Luther (Part 2 - Final)


John Staupitz, his Vicar General and a Professor of Theology at Wittenberg, convinced Luther that his mission was to be a doctor of theology and a preacher, and therefore transferred Luther to Wittenberg once more, where he was commissioned in June, 1512. He was allocated a room which remained his study till his death thirty-four years later. “It was there, on that miserable heap of sand, that this unknown scholarly monk lifted Christianity off its hinges and rehung it strait.”4

 

From his Wittenberg study he stormed the papacy, and prepared his lectures for the university and prepared his sermons. Yet still, Luther did not know the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ. Luther knew nothing of this transition from the fear of hell and judgment to the rapturous enjoyment of the love of God.

 

The seven years of monasticism were years of darkness. Monastic discipline deepened Luther’s despair. Luther had been taught that the moment the priest whispered, I now absolve thee,” all sins were driven from the soul (except, of course, original sin), but Luther did not know forgiveness as a real experience.

  • He turned to all the well-tried means: private chastisement, fastings, vigils, prayers. He tried to propitiate God by doing extra.
  • He ruined his health with his much striving. His bones stuck out like an old nag’s.
  • There hovered over him in his helpless plight the threat of an angry God and the Day of Judgment. He felt an overpowering fear of God, a trembling awareness of Him.
  • So intense was his awareness of the thrice holy God in all His eternal majesty, and so intense his own frailty and sin, that he was like a moth longing for the flame and about to be scorched to death by that desire.

 

Nevertheless, Luther had the hand of the Lord upon him. Luther had scaled the heights by the ladder of medieval mysticism, but when he reached the summit he found there was nothing there. Like Nicodemus of old, he needed to be born again. In the University Library at Erfurt he discovered a complete copy of the Bible, and to his great delight made it his chief study. He began to invest his hope in the Bible, where he would see the harmony between the twin concepts of the wrath of God and the love of God in the unity of the gospel.

 

He heard the word of the Lord and it was that word that he declared. He became God-possessed.

  • He was drawn to the Augustinian view of predestination, a view which seemed best able to explain his own experience as well as the Biblical teaching.
  • The Catholic teaching was that the human element is the determining factor in man’s salvation.
  • Augustine in contrast taught that salvation is due to an eternal decree, and is therefore infallible. It is an eternal election to eternal life, a choice made in perfect justice, a choice not only to grace but to eternal glory.
  • Luther was in a state of spiritual torture at this hour.
  • He grew fatalist, almost determinist. He felt impotent to change his fate decreed for him from all eternity, unable to know for certain whether he belonged to the elect or to the reprobate. He knew God to be thrice holy One and that he himself was a miserable sinner unable to make himself acceptable to God.
  • Staupitz, who was deeply read in the Bible sought to turn Luther’s mind away from the system of penance to the reality of repentance, to the depth of an inward change and conversion.
  • Staupitz for all his faults and inconsistencies, taught Luther to see God in Christ, whom God sent not as a condemning judge but as a living and redeeming Saviour. Staupitz never really understood the battle raging in the soul of Luther, but he comforted Luther by his kindliness, and helped Luther by dwelling on the Cross.

4 Atkinson, p.15

 

As Luther turned to the Bible, he began to go it alone. He was working on his lectures on the Psalms in the summer of 1513 when the familiar phrase of Psalm 31, deliver me in thy righteousnessbegan to disturb him. Wherein lay the “deliverance”? Surely, he thought, if a righteous God met unrighteous man, man would be utterly destroyed. He was confused, and as he meditated and pored over the Bible, he became excited when he read “Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” – Romans 1.17

  • The Holy Spirit began to reveal unto Luther that a man is not justified in God’s sight by his own works, or merits, or righteousness, but by faith in Christ:
  • in other words by Christ’s work and not ours;
  • that salvation was no longer a case of man and his works but God and His work;
  • that it was no longer a matter of man’s righteousness but God’s righteousness. He saw the righteousness of God as the righteousness which reached out for a soul which, if left to its own devices, would be utterly and eternally lost.
  • through the study of Paul’s epistles, he was led to see that justification came by faith in Christ only, with no attending merit on man’s part. A profound peace swept over his soul.
  • Luther writes, “When I realized this I felt myself absolutely born again. The gates of paradise had been flung open and I had entered. There and then the Holy Scripture took on another look to me.”5

He rediscovered and thereafter revived the primitive evangelical faith in God as first expressed in its original purity in the Scriptures of Truth. Luther’s soul was saved by an unyielding and uncompromising faith in the Bible as the inspired, pure and preserved Word of God. He wanted every man and woman to look again with fresh eyes at God’s work for man as recorded in the Bible.

Luther, aided by his friend and associate Philip Melancthon, translated the Bible into the language of the people. It was and remains a magnificent achievement. His ardent desire was: Let the Scriptures be put into the hands of everybody; let everyone interpret them for himself, according to the light he has; let there be private judgment; let spiritual liberty be revived, as in Apostolic days. Then only will the people be emancipated from the Middle Ages, and arise in their power and majesty, and obey the voice of enlightened conscience, and be true to their convictions, and practice the virtues which Christianity commands, and obey God rather than men.”6

Such theology rang the death knell for the sacrificing mass priest and his mediating and mysterious powers. The call now from Luther was for an educated ministry who could teach, preach and minister the treasures of Christ’s gospel.

  • Luther’s burden was to point men to Christ and His Gospel.
  • He saw countless souls lost and dying for want of the saving theology revealed in the Bible.
  • Salvation was not a matter of works, but solely a matter of grace.
  • Faith was no longer a human achievement or effort, but the free gift of God (Eph. 2.8).
  • It was the Word of God and the preaching of that Word rather than the administration of the sacraments which Luther saw as the chief mission of the church.
  • It was the Word of God that gives the church her commission and also preserves and governs the Church.
  • When the Word was preached Christ was active and operative.

 

 

 

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5 Introduction to Latin edition of Works (Wittenberg, 1545). WA. 54, 186

6 Quoted by David Otis Fuller in “Valiant for the Truth”, Oliphants 1962, p.118


More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

  • Condolences to Sis Sarah Carpenter & her family on the passing of her grandfather last Monday.
  • Hope Bookshop Christmas Cards available for $1 each. Buy 5 get 1 free.
  • Missionary offerings will be taken the last Sunday of this month.
  • All worshippers are encouraged to bring a dish or two to share for our Communal Fellowship Lunch.
  • Combined Ladies’ & Seniors’ Fellowship Meeting & Activity, Sat, 30 More details to follow.
  • Visitation to Rembrandt Living Oaklands Park, Sun, 1 Dec @ 2:45pm. Please inform Sis Sally Teng or Bro Zach Liang if you wish to participate.
  • Lunch Duty: This week: Volunteers. Next week: YAF.

 

Praise & Thanksgiving

  • God’s daily providence, protection & guidance.
  • Church activities & visitors in the past week.
  • 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.
  • God’s comfort in grief – Sis Sarah Carpenter & her family on the passing away of her grandfather.
  • Missions – Rev Sun Sokha & family; Faith Krang Angkrang Church (Phnom Penh)
  • Batam & Phnom Penh Missions Teams in Jan/Feb 2020 - preparation & planning.
  • Journey mercies: Those who are travelling.

 

 

 

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