In April of 1521 a young teacher, Martin Luther, was summoned to appear before the Emperor Charles V at a hearing in the city of Worms, Germany. Luther had posted his 95 Theses on the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, an act consistent with the latest social media communication, with the intent of having a scholarly debate with other teachers of Scripture about what Luther perceived to be abuses within the church and the clergy. He challenged the sale of indulgences, a means of buying salvation with money; he condemned simony, the sale of church offices; together with multiple elements of corruption.
As the Reformation took hold Luther also challenged the authority of Popes and Councils, he questioned the trust in traditionalism over the authority of Scripture, and in his most famous discovery and personal release, he trumpeted Romans 1:16, 17:
16/17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “ But the righteous man shall live by faith."
For Luther this discovery was the conversion moment. All his striving to be good enough for God, all his penance, all his confessions, all his guilt were gone with that great discovery.
At the hearing in Worms, his writings being questioned and condemned, he was ordered to recant what he had said and written. In response to this order Luther made this defense:
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.
Dear ones, we are entering a period of time where the spirit of the age is claiming authority over all within its reach. Those who wish to hold to the testimony of Scripture are going to be confronted with significant challenges. Like Luther, we will be maligned because we do not bow to the spirit of the age. My prayer is that we, like Luther, will know the Word of God, hide it in our hearts, allow its message to guide our actions, and ultimately give us the courage to stand firm for truth, even at the cost of our own lives. May we, like Luther declare “I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis: my conscience is captive to the Word of God…God help me.
With deep affection,