Saturday, February 4, 2017


Reformation 500 WEEK 6: Here I Stand

When a copy of Luther’s 95 Theses reached Pope Leo X, he “dismissed the document as nothing more than the ramblings of a drunken German who, he believed, would think differently when sober” (Nichols, Martin Luther, 34).

    Eight months later, in July 1518, the pope “issued a summons to Luther to appear before him in Rome. If Luther had gone to Rome it would have meant his certain death” (Kuiper, Church in History, 170). But Luther’s prince, Frederick the Wise, intervened to protect his most famous and popular professor at the University of Wittenberg. “Frederick did not too well comprehend Luther but was concerned that a German subject should not be taken to trial outside of Germany, and should receive an impartial hearing” (Roland Bainton, The Reformation, 55).

     In the meantime, at Leipzig in 1519, Luther debated Dr. Johann Eck, a trained theologian, who had already written a tract against the 95 Theses. Eck maintained that the Pope was the successor of Peter, and the vicar of Christ by divine right. Luther said this “was contrary to the Scriptures, to the ancient church, to the Council of Nicea, …and rests only on the frigid decrees of the Roman pontiffs” (Schaff, 7:181). But when Eck had gotten Luther “to say that some of the teachings of Hus had been unjustly condemned by the Council of Constance,” he “had made Luther take his stand openly on the side of a man officially condemned by the Church as a heretic” (Kuiper, 172). The Leipzig debate strengthened Luther’s followers and won many new followers, one of whom was Martin Bucer, who later helped to shape the views of John Calvin.

     On June 15, 1520, Leo X issued a papal bull, calling for the immediate restraint of the “wild boar in God’s vineyard.” Luther had 60 days after receiving the bull to recant or be excommunicated. After the 60 days expired, Luther burned “the Detestable Bull of the Antichrist” in Wittenberg. 

     “Yet, because of political considerations, excommunication did not immediately follow; and Frederick the Wise arranged that Luther should have a hearing before the diet [imperial meeting] of the German nation about to meet early in 1521 in the city of Worms with the newly elected Holy Roman Emperor Charles of Hapsburg [Charles V], the King of Spain” (Bainton, 58-59).

     “Luther arrived to a hero’s welcome at Worms…. When it was time for him to appear before the Diet, he was simply asked two questions: Are these your writings? Do you recant? Luther stood stunned before the assembly. How could they expect him to recant? His writings contained the words of Scripture, the words of the councils, and even the words of the popes.... Luther requested one day to think things over, and Charles V granted this request” (Nichols, 41).

     The next day, April 18, 1521, Luther once again stood before the diet of Worms. He then delivered his famous speech. “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by clear reason, for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradict themselves, I am bound to the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand. May God help me.” 

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Here is a link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation500 Martin Luther Here I Stand

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 6

Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

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