The other day, as Dr. Albert Mohler was finishing up this season of his daily broadcast, The Briefing, he brought up some very troubling and, honestly, appalling news.
In the Evangelical Protestant community, we point back to Martin Luther, the leader of the protest from which our theology has sprung. He literally protested the Roman Church (I will not call them Catholic) and its teachings on justification. That means that this small, monk took to task the most powerful men on the planet at that time. Luther became fed up with the outright heresy and corruption that was found in the Roman Church.
From Martin Luther’s 95 Theses nailed to the Church door on October 31, 1517 in Wittenberg, Germany.
1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.
5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons.
6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God’s remission;
36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.
62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.
To put it plainly, Luther and the Pope were not friends. They were at odds because the Pope had abused his power and the Church had begun selling positions therein. Martin Luther was not, in any way, in favor of the Pope’s grand claims.
Many times in the 95 theses, Luther mentions “pardon-preachers.” These were those who were selling “pardons” for their sins for a price. This was gross misconduct in the office they had been given. They also sold “indulgences” that would supposedly lift loved ones out of Purgatory and into Heaven.
The leaders of the Church had corrupted the Truth of the gospel with their blatant greed and power-grabbing. Luther protested against these people and kicked off what we now know as the Protestant Reformation. Outraged by the charge against his power, the so-called “Vicar of Christ” wanted something done. After the attempts on Luther’s life were alleviated in lieu of a meeting, the Diet of Worms was realized. There Luther admitted that the books that had been rounded up and that had been in direct conflict with the Roman Church were authored by him. He was ordered to recant. Luther asked for a day to think it over and it was granted him.
The following day at the coming together of all the laypeople and the pope and the king against him, Luther said that he would gladly recant if anyone could show him in the Scriptures where he had erred. But if no one was able, then these, the most powerful words of the sixteenth century, took effect, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Outrage broke out. Luther himself was in grave danger and went into hiding thereafter.
Pope Francis, just a few days ago, subverted his own position by saying that Luther was right in his claims about justification, the process by which sinful man is justified, or in right standing, before God the Father. The problem is that Martin Luther was necessarily against what the Roman Church teaches and vice versa. Luther said that justification was enacted and completed by faith alone in Christ alone. The Roman Church teaches that justification comes about by faith AND the Sacraments, Communion, baptism and marriage. This is a very big difference. Luther believed, as we so often sing, that Jesus paid it all! The Roman Church believes that Jesus paid some. We must pay the rest? Not only this, but the Roman Church also teaches that if you believe that justification is by faith alone, then you are “anathema,” beyond true salvation. Don’t believe me?
CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.
This is the ninth canon of the Council of Trent held to discuss the doctrine of justification. You can find it here if you do not believe me.
Pope Francis cannot have my Martin Luther. He cannot claim him for the Roman cause. Luther was through-and-through a protestant, in open protest of the Roman Church and the Pope himself. If you would like to listen to the episode of Mohler’s The Briefing that inspired this post, and I strongly encourage you to do so, here is the link for that as well.
Let us continue contending, I pray in the precious name of Jesus Christ, amen.