The Courage of Luther

On this Reformation Day, in which we commemorate Martin Luther’s act of nailing the 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, on October 31, 1517 (which began the Protestant Reformation), we can be encouraged by his boldness to stand for the Gospel and the Word of God.

Luther was protesting the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church. Luther wanted to get back to the heart of the Gospel–justification by faith alone, which is one of the Five Solas. They are listed below:

Luther suffered consequences for his principled stand. In 1521, he was excommunicated by Pope Leo X and called upon to defend himself at the Diet of Worms before the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. There he uttered these words:

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

Interestingly, it is debated whether he said the famous words, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Many scholars say there is no evidence for this particular phrase. Regardless, Luther showed true courage in standing against the Pope and Emperor.

In the Edict of Worms, Luther was declared to be a heretic and had to flee to Wartburg Castle, where he translated the Bible into German. Luther never was arrested. He was protected by German princes, and the Emperor was soon distracted by other problems.

On this Reformation Day, we should remember the courage that Luther showed in standing up to the Pope and Catholic Church, and the reason for his stance–fidelity to Scripture. We could use more people like Luther today, people with courage and conviction to follow Christ regardless of the consequences.

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