October 31 marks Reformation Day. It was on this day in 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. It signaled an urgent call for reform. Luther fiercely defended any perversion of this biblical truth. And this ultimately led him to confront the Roman church. In 1520 at the Diet of Worms, Luther was asked to recant his writings. He responded, “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.”
Erasmus was a contemporary of Luther. He too saw the corruptions in the Roman church. But he valued peace at all costs. And he was unwilling to side with Luther. He wrote, “I for my part would prefer to be deceived in a good many things rather than to fight for the truth in so great a universal tumult.”
It seems that many believers in our time have come to embrace the philosophy of Erasmus. They have come to believe that the gospel can be lived out and proclaimed without making waves, hurting feelings or bringing offense. They think they can follow Jesus and be loved by the world.
But Luther rightly understood that there was no softening of the gospel. It brought division. It forced a decision. It separated even close family members (Matt. 10:34-36). He wrote, “Do not think that the Gospel can be advanced without tumult, trouble and uproar. You cannot make a pen of a sword; and the Word of God is a sword.” This doesn’t give us an excuse to be insensitive jerks. But it is a call to courageously proclaim the full gospel in our time!
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