A History of the Christian Church
Part Six, by Denis Jenkins
compiled by Denis Jenkins
Title A History of the Christian Church
Theme Luther, A Great Man Of God
While Satan attacked the heart of the reformation by creating internal strife among the Hussite Protestants in Bohemia, God was not to be defeated as He also had His plans to raise up another powerful reformer within the Roman church. He is none other than Martin Luther.
Luther was deeply concerned by the sale of indulgences by the Roman Church, that was leading sincere people to believe that salvation could be bought, when through his study of the scriptures Luther was directed by God to find the wonderful truth of the Gospel and that is that salvation is a free gift of God through His Son Jesus Christ. This led Luther to draw up his 95 theses that directly attacked the papal abuses along with the sale of these indulgences. The indulgences were a monetary payment to the Roman church in return for pardon from sin for the safe passage into heaven.
Luther was enraged over the fact that the church was wrongfully making itself rich at the expense of the poor who believed they were lost because they could not afford salvation; as a result, some of the poor would place family in hardship for a pardon for a family member - especially if that member was facing death.
With a righteous indignation to see the truth of God revealed to the world, Luther pursued the religious leaders of the Roman Church in an attempt to change their mind and direction to follow the will of God. It was not Luther's will to become a revolutionary or to rebel against the Church but to merely point the way to the truth of God. But Luther understood the Biblical injunction that if man will not align himself with God's will, the only choice is to obey God rather than man.
It is the unwillingness of mankind to bury pride and arrogance at times in order to recognize the will of God and being prepared to obey it, that leads men and women who have formerly followed the Lord's will to stand in opposition to God. This is the reality of the spiritual war between satan and God that rages within the very soul of each human being. So often as human beings we seek the blessings of God and as he blesses us we so much want to attribute those blessings to our own achievements. We try to make God's authority our authority. As a result, we often try to enforce our idea of what we think God's will is onto others. This was the position of the Roman Church - many within its authority, who had observed God's will as Luther had bowed to the seeming power, wealth and authority that appeared to indicate that God was blessing the powerful Roman church. But the Roman Church itself was a compromise that Emperor Constantine created in an attempt to bring both the power of God's will and the principles of paganism together to avoid division within a diverse empire. He believed that in human terms to find common spiritual ground would bring peace and unity to the empire. But the scriptures tell us that we cannot join the power of God and that of Satan together as they are opposed to each other. This is the conflict that Luther was facing with the Roman church and is the conflict that caused the Hussites to be divided even though God used them wonderfully to further God's revelation of His will to mankind. This is the same reason that God is forced to raise up another people who are willing to follow His leadership when those whom God has commissioned have fallen by the wayside seeking their own direction rather than being directed by God and this reveals the reason for so many Christian churches.
Because Luther did not want to be a revolutionary but a catalyst for change, he trod a very thin line between the Roman Church and the Protestant movement. He protected peasants from the excesses of the Roman Church - this made the Roman church enraged against him. Luther and Melanchthon together were opposed to the Baptist movement in Germany. But when the Roman church brought them down, Luther and Melanchthon were both critical of the manner in which the Baptist movement was treated. Luther's desire was to see the truth of God championed in the love of God instead of promoted as a controversy among men and woman in the spirit of opposition that only comes from the character of Satan.
Yet with all these ideals during the major part of his ministry, Luther himself in the hours of his infirmities caved into actions that could only be inspired by the evil one. This quotation below provides us insight into how the devil works with those who have done a mighty work for God and brings them down in their weakest hours of their life. This shows the reality and subtlety of the spiritual war that rages within all people on this earth.
Luther's Last Years of Life (1540-46)
"I am weak, I cannot go on"
During his last years of life Luther fought against many physical ailments. The death of his daughter Magdelena, in 1542, was also very difficult for him.
Luther's relationship to people with different beliefs, especially the Jews http://www.luther.de/en/juden.html, deteriorated drastically during these years. His 1523 work Jesus was born a Jew showed a concilliatory attitude; however, in later years the aging reformer sentenced all who did not want to convert to his beliefs. The strongly anti-semitic work Jews and their Lies(1543) came out during this period.
Luther continued to lead the Reformation in its fight against its enemies even in the last years of his life. With his 1545 work Against the Papacy at Rome Founded by the Devil! he performed his last blow against the Roman Church.
Luther continued his preaching duties despite his various disappointments and ailments.
Luther continued to teach at Wittenberg University until the end of his life; his last lecture ended with the words: "I am weak, I cannot go on." http://www.luther.de/en/tod.html
Thus, as Moses hit the rock in anger against the power of Satan, and so Luther in his declining years engendered an attitude that was not in character with all that he had endeavoured to achieve in the spirit of Godly love. So God needed to raise up others who would expand the understanding of God's character to mankind.
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