On 31 October 1517, Martin Luther, an obscure monk from the small town of Wittenberg, presented 95 theses that unleashed a Reformation in Christianity, culture, politics, printing and more. Luther’s rediscovery that we are justified — made right with God — by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, came from a conviction that Scripture alone should be our highest authority.
500 years on, at a breakfast table in Sydney, Australia, I attempted to read a Psalm in Latin to our children. Then I read today’s passage from Psalm 119:1-8. The idea was to show how special it was to hear God’s Word in a language we understood (though I suspect our girls were a bit distracted!)
Classes today were tinged with a Reformation hue: our principal greeted us in German, some students dressed up as monks, and questions about Luther and his views on anything and everything punctuated the day. There was a bit of SMBC’s own door-posting mischief. For lunch the college kitchen cooked up some bratwurst (someone said it was the “wurst” meal they’d had). We even had an anniversary cake.
Looking back over the years, I can personally trace the ripples of Herr Luther’s mallet blow throughout so much in my life. I’m grateful to God for:
- The teacher that showed Christ-like love to a scrawny kid who babbled through his first year of primary school
- The violin teacher who invited me to my first Christian wedding
- The volunteer at an evangelistic rally who shared the message of God’s grace in Christ to a lost 17 year-old high schooler
- Two sisters who gave me my first Bible (a “radical faith” CEV emblazoned with a dude on rollerblades)
- Pastors who taught me the Word of God and trusted it completely: John Humphrey, Peter Somervell, Calvyn Jonker, Joe Fleener, Richard and Sam Cutforth, Tim Bradford, Dave Pym, Stuart Coulton, Geoff Harper and many others
- Authors who explained how the Word of Christ applies to every area of my life: Rosaria Butterfield, Tim Chester, Lee Strobel, Vaughan Roberts, Jerry Bridges, Faith Cook, Don Carson, Mark Dever, Tim & Kathy Keller and countless others
- Hymnwriters who followed in Luther’s footsteps and penned profound songs of praise I love to sing: Anne Steele, Isaac Watts, John Newton, Charitie Bancroft, Stuart Townend, Keith & Kristyn Getty, Bob Kauflin and plenty of others
- In Cheryl, a wife who is more of a creature of the Word than I am, and who opens it faithfully with our children
- In Luke, Jono, Enoch, Dave, Steve and Christian, a band of book-reading brothers sown into good soil and cast out into the Lord’s service around the world
- Our HBC young adults homegroup, who have a rare zeal for the Word: savouring it, diligently studying it and sharing it with others.
Each of these people were shaped by the Word unleashed 500 years ago. And each of us have the call to hold out this life-giving Word for as long as we live.
The Word is precious. We are always being reformed by it. We behold the beauty of Jesus through it. And we will never tire of looking into it.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
– Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress is our God”