In 1519 Luther caused an immense sensation by roundly declaring that the supremacy of the pope was unknown in the Scriptures, that it had grown up only in the previous 400 years, and that Councils had erred in giving their support to it. The die was not cast. Martin Luther saw the full implications of his position. He freed himself for ever from the authority of the popes, Fathers and Councils and from then on took the Word of God as the only rule of faith. He stood before the world as a free Christian man. Martin Luther seemed now to have the strength of a hundred men, and poured forth a constant stream of sermons and pamphlets through the printing press.

In 1520 came the pope's decree excommunicating Luther and ordering his works to be burnt. The Reformer gave an appropriate reply. Having arranged a bonfire outside Wittenberg, he went and publicly flung the decree into the fire. No gesture could have given a more emphatic message of defiance.

In 1521 the emperor, Charles V, called the imposing Diet of Worms (a council), to which princes, dukes and other grandees were invited. His principal aim was to put Luther down. The Reformer's friends urged him not to go. His reply has never been forgotten: 'Though there were as many devils in Worms as tiles on its roof, I would go.' The council, presided over by the emperor in person, was hostile. Luther was roughly questioned about his books and ordered to retract. He declared that he would retract nothing unless it were proved to be contrary to Scripture. His noble declaration: 'Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God. Amen' has thrilled Christians through the centuries.

Luther was condemned and placed under the ban of the Empire. To save his life, s troop of horsemen were secretly sent to arrest him on the way home. He was carried off to a castle and his enemies thought he had perished. In his confinement of nearly a year, he translated the New Testament from the original Greek into German - a work of supreme importance for the Reformation.

Pope Leo X (1513-1521) needed great sums of money to continue the building of St. Peter's Church, and to gratify his own extravagant tastes. To secure the money, he resolved to extend the sale of Indulgences (a payment of a debt that a sinner owes to God). Such sales had produced grave abuses in the past and the new drive for money brought matters to a climax.

One seller of Indulgences, a monk named Tetzel, shamefully offered his wares near Wittenberg, declaring that, 'No sooner will the money chink in the box, than the soul of the departed will be free [from Purgatory]!' The spirit of Martin Luther was stirred to the depths! On the 31st of October 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door at Wittenberg. In this famous document it was emphatically laid down, among other things, (1) that an Indulgence can never take away guilt; (2) an Indulgence can never take away divine punishment for sin; and (3) the Christian who has truly repented has already received pardon from God, and needs no Indulgence.

Copies were made of the Ninety-Five Theses and printed off by friends for circulation in tens of thousands all over Germany. The conflict which was to usher in the Reformation had begun.

The issues raised were far greater than even Luther himself knew. The pope soon summoned Luther to Rome. To have gone would have meant certain death, and he therefore refused. Up until now Luther had accepted the pope's supremacy; but not any more... be continued

Updated: Mar 13, 2020

As part of my Crosslands study I've been reading a book called The Story of the Church by Renwick and Harman. In light of a recent sermon on justification through faith alone here is the first of three lightly edited excerpts from the book about Martin Luther, the great German Reformer...

Martin Luther was a man of intense spiritual conviction, on fire with zeal for the gospel, and possessed with great ability and great courage. Martin Luther was the originator of the Reformation in Germany.

Born on the 10th of November 1483, the son of a poor miner, he knew the struggles and the outlook of the working classes. Having obtained a free school education he entered university in 1501. Luther was a brilliant student, fond of music and philosophy. Suddenly, however, and to the surprise of all his friends, he entered a convent. From boyhood he had had a keen sense of the reality of the spiritual world. His teachers now taught him to save himself through prayers, fasting and penance. The Bible was withheld from him, but he wearied his superiors with his constant confession. But he still found no rest. Then, when he was twenty, he discovered a Latin Bible. His supervisor encouraged him to read it, and pointed him to Jesus Christ, who alone takes away sin and gives us fellowship with God. While reading Romans the peace of God came into Luther's heart. Through studying he came to see even more clearly that men are saved by God through Jesus Christ and not by their own good works, and that this salvation depends on God's grace alone. The monastic life and external observances in religion became of less importance to him. He began carefully to study the Bible, especially Paul's letters. be continued

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Mangotsfield Primary School

Emersons Green

Church Farm Road 

BS16 7EY

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