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Articles: Theology A Study of the Reformation notes from a three-part study by Pastor Mason Okubo
  • Part 1
  • Part 2
  • Part 3
Part One: Martin Luther's Struggles

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Introduction to the StudyMartin LutherIn October 2008, in observance of the Protestant Reformation, our church's Adult Bible Study spent three weeks learning about the Reformation and the origins and the foundations of the Lutheran Church.

We Lutherans are not a new church. We consider ourselves to be the continuation of the one true church (the "universal church" across all ages and denominations) since the time of the Apostles. The Reformation was a realignment of the church back to biblical teachings. Salvation was a gift, not by works, received through faith in Christ.

This three-part study is based on the classic 1953 motion picture Martin Luther, which has aired regularly on TBN and is used in Lutheran churches and confirmation classes to teach about Luther and the history of the Reformation. The quotes used throughout the study are taken from the movie unless otherwise indicated.

Luther's Struggle with Guilt and GodMartin Luther, born of a rich family, is terrorized by a lightning storm and vows to become a monk (July 2, 1505). This angers his father, who wanted him to become a lawyer. Luther joins an Augustinian monastery.

Luther struggles with the awareness of his sinful nature. He only saw an angry and condemnning God. He could not believe:

  1. That God loved him
  2. That he could love God enough

He thought that if he could inflict enough pain on himself he could become worthy.

Background on Luther's Struggle
  • Luther is part of the Augustinian order of monks (established in 1256), whose life is based upon the "Rule of St. Augustine"
  • St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430 AD), church father, opposed heresies, such as Pelagianism
  • Pelagianism was the belief that people have the ability to choose to be good to such a degree as to merit salvation without divine aid

Relics, Indulgences and True Salvation The Vicar General of the Augustine Monastery, Johann von Staupitz, sends Luther to Rome to see the Relics of the Church.

Luther rejects the veneration of relics and rebels against the selling of forgiveness of sins through papal indulgences.

During his studies he realizes the true nature of salvation.

"I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first the Jew, then the Gentile. For in the Gospel is revealed a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17)

His three great discoveries: Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura.

  1. Sola Gratia (by grace alone). He finally understands the meaning of the righteousness of God. It delivers, not merely judges. It is a gift placed upon the shoulders of those who put their faith in Christ.
  2. Sola Fide (by faith alone). "The just will live by faith alone! Salvation would not be by works of men or the indulgences of Popes" (Luther).
  3. Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone). He rejects the Roman Catholic laws and papal bulls and indulgences and lifts the Bible (and conscience) above all others. "Conscience" according to Luther refers not to the natural, sinful human conscience, but to the "new man", the new nature given to us by God at our salvation (Ephesians 4:24 NKJV).

Roman Catholic theologian: What would happen if Scripture were placed into the hands of ordinary men to interpret as they please, without the guidance of the church?

Luther's answer: Why, we'd have lots more Christians.

1511 — Luther becomes a professor at Wittenburg University. He is now actively preaching against indulgences and relics.

  • When asked "Would you take away these visible supports to faith?", Luther responds, "Are they symbols to support or simply crutches to hold up a tottering faith?"

1517 — The just shall live by faith, not works. (Romans 1:16)

  • When asked "If you take them away, what will you put in its place?", Luther replies, "Christ! Man only needs Jesus Christ!"
Part Two: The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back

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Martin LutherIn this part of our study we look at the events happening in the church and around Europe that drove Martin Luther to question the practices of the Roman Catholic Church and birth the Reformation.

  • During the time of the Reformation there are several political forces which are kept in balance.
    1. The Holy Roman Empire (Emperor Charles V)
    2. France (King Francis I)
    3. The Free States of Saxony (of which Frederick III is one of them)
    4. Ottoman Empire (Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent)
  • These five forces were in an uneasy balance. To overstep anyone's boundaries was to invite others to alliance to overthrow the one.
The Leaders
  • Charles V of Spain — Emperor (1519-1556) of the Holy Roman Empire established by Charlemagne (747-814).
    1. While Charles V is the emperor, he needs the support of Rome and the Electors of Saxony to stave off the military pressures from the Ottoman Empire. King Francis I is also a thorn in his side
  • Francis I, King of France (1515-1547) — in constant conflich with Charles V over sovereignty of "French" lands.
  • Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. The Ottoman Empire is spreading all along the Mediterranean coast and putting pressure on the Holy Roman Empire, entering almost to Vienna. Francis I makes an alliance with them against Charles V.
  • Pope Leo X, Head of the Roman Catholic Church(1515-1521) — Responsible for the selling of indulgences for the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. While Charles V is an ally of Pope Leo X during the Reformation, he later sacks Rome (1527) and holds Pope Clement VII captive because of the Pope's alliances with France.
  • Frederick III, Elector of Saxony (1486-1525) — Elector is a person who elects the Emperor. One of the free princes of the German Empire. Protector of Martin Luther during Reformation. The Pope nor the Emperor cannot wily-nily chase after Luther through Saxony because Luther is under the protection of the electors.

Events1517 — Pope Leo X sends Johann Tetzel to sell indulgences to the Christian world to make money to build St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Tetzel promised "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs."

Tetzel provokes Luther to write Ninety-Five Theses, protesting against the purchase and sale of salvation.

Oct. 31, 1517 — Luther nails 95 Theses on door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg challenging the power of the Pope. The Theses not only denounced Tetzel's work as worldly but denied the Pope's right to grant pardons on God's behalf in the first place. The pardon of the Church was in God's power alone.

The Gutenberg Printing Press Because of the newly invented Gutenberg printing press, copies of Luther's 95 theses are translated and spread across the continent. People long burdened by the Roman Catholic church find a voice in Luther's teachings.

Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press (1439), which made the proliferation of the Bible in people's language. Without it, the 95 theses, and the Reformation, would not have spread.

At a debate in Leipzig, Luther denounces the heretic John Hus, but says they are right in some doctrines. "You don't need a pope for salvation"; I am free to believe what scripture tells me.

Luther wrote the 95 Theses to start a debater which would help the church see its errors. Instead it started a firestorm, the Reformation.

Part Three: The Birth of the Lutheran Church

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Martin Luther In this final part of our study we follow Martin Luther's defense of salvation by grace at the Diet of Wurms, excommunication by the pope, and events leading to the birth of what we know today as the Lutheran church.

The Pope's Response In response to the firestorm set off by Luther, the Pope responds with his own "theses": Exsurge Domine ("arise, O Lord" in Latin). The Pope compares Luther to a wild boar on the loose, needing to be killed. He orders Luther to be silent and recant or be excommunicated (or die at the stake as a heretic).

The Pope forms an alliance with Charles V and asks him to bring Luther to justice.

The Diet of Wurms Spring 1521 — Luther agrees to meet with the Emperor and his theologians at the Diet of Wurms (the assembly of German states). Charles V demands Luther to recant (confess he was wrong about his 95 Theses). Luther refuses and says "Here I stand. I can do no other."

Elector Frederick, Duke of Saxony, hides Luther at Wartburg castle for many years.

The Augsburg Confession 1530 — At Augsburg the Princes of Saxony face the Emperor and make their own "Here I stand" confession of faith called the Augsburg Confession, written by Philip Melanchton.

The Lutheran Church is born!

Post-Reformation Events and the Creation of the Book of Concord Philip Melanchton — Colleague of Martin Luther and key player in the latter part of Reformation. Responsible for writing:

  • Augsburg Confession (1530) — presented to Charles V at Diet of Augsburg
  • Apology to Augsburg Confession (1531) — in response to the Confutata Pontifica against the AC
  • Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (1537) — appendix to AC

Jacob Andraeae, Martin Chemnitz, Nicholas Selnecker

  • Formula of Concord (1577) — restatement of AC over articles which Lutherans had become divided

Martin Luther — Reformer, writer of 95 theses. Also wrote the following:

  • Small and Large Catechism
  • Smalcald Articles — stated what Lutherans could and could not compromise