Luther didn’t care about attacking the pope or any other ecclesial authority capriciously. His concern was for God’s Word and the doctrine.
Luther’s father confessor and superior in the Augustinian order, Johann Staupitz, provided Luther the opportunity to defend and discuss his views at the April 1518 meeting of the general chapter of the Augustinians of Germany in Heidelberg. In masterful fashion, Luther explored the assigned topics of free will, grace, and works, with one conclusion: we must trust in Christ, not ourselves.
When we learn it aright, we learn that the call to repentance is the call of a God who loves us and desires us to despair of our self-righteousness and benefit from the free forgiveness that is ours through the merits and sacrifice of Christ Jesus.
The burning of the bull was not something Luther did lightly, or with great pomp necessarily. He later told his friend and superior Johann von Staupitz that he did this while “trembling and praying.”
Upon discovering the truth, Luther also discovered that God intended this Good News to be proclaimed into all the world from the mouths of His Christians so that the intended change would happen: that lost and condemned sinners would be converted by the Gospel into believing, righteous, saved Christians.
Located on the banks of the Elbe River, Hartenfels is not only an impressive Renaissance castle on the outside, but inside contains a jewel of the Reformation: the first newly constructed Lutheran church in the world!
Regarding the truth taught in the Catechism, Luther says, “For this reason alone you ought gladly to read, speak, think, and use these things, even if you had no other profit and fruit from them than driving away the devil and evil thoughts by doing so. For he cannot hear or endure God’s Word… Yes indeed, it is the power of God that gives the devil burning pain and strengthens, comforts, and helps us beyond measure.”
Although most historians would probably date the beginning of the Protestant Reformation to Luther’s publication of the 95 Theses in 1517, it has long been recognized that the Reformers of the 16th century did not appear out of thin air.
The true children of Abraham are not his blood offspring but those who share the same faith as Abraham—faith in the promised Seed of Abraham, our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus once said to some of those who were offended by His teaching, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56) Abraham rejoiced in the day of Jesus, not by physical sight, but by faith in God’s promise to him!
As Western Christians celebrate the church festival of St. Michael and All Angels (also known as Michaelmas) during this Reformation 500 year, it is fitting to explore the topics of interest regarding angels that occupied the thoughts of the Reformers—namely, their existence and how they intervene on God’s behalf in the lives of Christians—and examine what the Church actually confesses concerning these creatures as taught from Holy Scripture.