Saturday, February 18, 2017


Reformation 500 WEEK 8: Martin Luther’s 1521-1525
     When Martin Luther refused to recant at the Diet of Worms, he sealed “his doom as a heretic. German nobles quickly surrounded him and led him safely from the hall,” and “when it became clear that the German nobles would not hand Luther over to the papal authorities, Charles V placed him under the imperial ban. Luther could be hunted down and killed by anyone – a ruling that he lived under for the rest of his life. Further, anyone harboring Luther would also fall under the same condemnation. Frederick the Wise [Luther’s prince and friend] fully predicted the outcome at Worms. He arranged for Luther to be kidnapped and taken to one of his castles” (Nichols, 42).

     Luther was taken to the castle, “the Wartburg, whose wooded rocky heights overlooked the pretty little town of Eisenach. Here Luther stayed for ten months [from 1521 to March 1522] while the storm quieted” (Kuiper, 181). Writing occupied most of his time. “He translated the Bible into the German language, the language of his people. In the Roman Catholic Church the Bible was studied only by the church leaders and scholars. Luther held that every man has the right and the duty to read and study the Bible for himself” (Kuiper, 184).

     When Luther returned to Wittenberg in March, 1522, “his breach with Rome was both irreparable and final. Now Luther had to oversee the establishment of a new church” (Nichols, 45). “Luther retained the idea that there is only one, true, visible Church. He did not think of himself and his followers as having left the Church. The Romanists were the ones who had departed from the New Testament Church. Luther did not feel that he had established a new church. All that he had done was to reform the Church that had become deformed” (Kuiper, 185).

     Luther “instituted numerous reforms, including congregational singing, the use of German in addition to Latin, and a new-found emphasis on the sermon” Nichols, 47). We still sing his most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”

     “Luther challenged the celibacy of the priesthood and monks,” and backed it up “by marrying priests and by assisting nuns in escaping the convents at great personal risk. On one occasion, he assisted twelve nuns,” who “escaped on a wagon containing barrels used to store herring” (Nichols, 48). Luther later married one of these nuns – Katherina Von Bora – on June 13, 1525. They lived happily ever after.

     Two months before his wedding, Luther’s reform efforts were taken in a fanatical direction in the Peasants’ War. “German peasants found inspiration in both the life and writings of Martin Luther. As Luther threw off the shackles of the Medieval Roman church’s oppressive theology, so the peasants sought to rid themselves of the oppressive economic and political structures of the Medieval political world” (Nichols, 47). At first, “Luther was in sympathy with them. But when under the leadership of fanatics they began to kill and destroy, Luther turned against them and urged the government to put down their uprising with a firm hand. From that moment the lower classes turned their backs upon Luther and the Reformation” (Kuiper, 237).      

While Luther was finishing (in his opinion) his greatest work, The Bondage of the Will, another radical movement was taking place in Switzerland, led by a group who felt that Zwingli’s reforms were not going fast enough or far enough. Stay tuned.

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

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation500 Heidelberg Catechism QAs 24-25

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 8

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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