Baptist Church History:
Understanding Martin Luther and the
Protestant Reformation

(Pictured above: Martin Luther nails his "95 Theses" to the church door at Wittenburg, accusing the Roman Catholic Church of heresy).
With the current Calvinism controversy which began prior to the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention meeting, it is instructive to understand our Baptist heritage and understand the Protestant Reformation which came after Martin Luther took a stand against the Roman Catholic Church. The Reformation came from Luther's conviction that the Roman Catholic Church did not submit to Scripture.  Therefore, it could not speak for God.


While in seminary, we studied the book "Here I Stand" by Roland Bainton, now in public domain.  Also, one of our classes watched the historic film, "Martin Luther" also now in the public domain.  It is offered here for information and inspiration concerning the life of Martin Luther and the role he played in the Reformation.

The time frame of the film is 1505-1530: Luther's entrance into the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt to the presentation of the Augsburg Confession. It recounts Martin Luther's struggle to find God's mercy: his discovery of the gospel in Romans 1:17, the posting of the Ninety-five theses, and the subsequent controversy, which led to Luther's being separated from the church of Rome. It shows Luther's resistance to the forces of radicalism, and his work to establish and maintain the evangelical movement of his day. The dramatic climax of the film is Luther's "Here I Stand" speech before the 1521 Diet of Worms, and the grand finale is the singing of A Mighty Fortress Is Our God by Luther's congregation.  (Because of the length of the film, for the purpose of this website, it has been divided into 7 parts, with nothing left out.).


Also, the film, which is in public domain, has been embedded in its entirety):

The book, "Here I Stand" by Roland H. Bainton, is now in public domain:
Because I've heard an SBC pastor on TV
in Texas, condemn Martin Luther for being anti-Jewish in an off-the-cuff comment, in passing, in a sermon, with no real explanation or context, I present this short video, with Dr. R.C. Sproul and Southern Baptist Rev. Voddie Baucham, who address that issue:
October 31, 2017, marks the
500th Anniversary of the
Protestant Reformation

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther tacked up 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg. With this act, he hoped to provoke a discussion among the scholars about the abuses of the indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church. He was not trying to create a public furor by any means, but within a fortnight, these theses had spread through the country like wildfire. The last thing Luther had in mind was to start some kind of major controversy, but nevertheless major controversy did begin.

 

From the discussions at Wittenberg, the disputations began to accelerate and escalate. Copies of the theses reached Rome and critical meetings were scheduled with the young monk. In these debates, Luther was maneuvered into proclaiming publicly that he had questions about the infallibility of church councils and also that he thought that it was possible that the pope could err. In 1520 a papal encyclical was issued which condemned Martin Luther as a heretic. Luther burned the document in a public bonfire and his defiance before the church was now a matter of record.

 

In response, Martin Luther picked up his pen to challenge the entire penitential system of the Roman Catholic Church, which undermined in principle the free remission of sins that is ours in the gospel. By doing so, he was unswervingly advocating his commitment to sola fide, the doctrine of justification by faith alone.


In 1521, Luther was summoned to the Imperial Diet, an authoritative meeting that involved the princes of the church, called by the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire to be held in the city of Worms in Germany. Luther was an outlaw. For him to appear at the Diet was to risk his very life; therefore, he was given safe conduct by the Emperor to attend. With a few friends, Luther traveled from Wittenberg to Worms.

 

The eyewitnesses of that episode tell us that when Luther’s little covered wagon appeared around the corner of the bend, there were lookouts posted in the church tower at Worms. All the people were agog waiting for the arrival of this notorious person. When Luther’s caravan was sighted, people were throwing their hats in the air, blowing trumpets, and creating all the fanfare of the arrival of the hero. It was the 16th century answer to a ticker-tape parade.

 

Things, however, became very solemn in a hurry because the next day he appeared before the Diet. His books were stacked on a table in the room, and he was asked and ordered to recant of his writings. This surprised Luther because he thought he was going to have an opportunity to defend his writings; but the only question really of any importance that was asked of him was this: “Are these your writings?” And when he said yes, they said, “Are you ready to recant of them?”

 

Hollywood has their version of Luther standing there boldly with his fist in the air saying, “Here I stand!” and so on. But instead he dropped his chin on his chest and muttered something that nobody could understand, so they asked him to speak up. “What did you say?” He said, “May I have 24 hours to think about it.” And so Luther was granted a reprieve of 24 hours to return to his room to contemplate the seriousness of this occasion.

 

The prayer that Luther wrote in that ensuing 24-hour period was one of the most moving prayers I have ever read in my life. In that prayer, Luther cried out for God in his sense of total loneliness fearing that God had abandoned him, and proclaimed, “O Lord, I am Thine, and the cause is Thine, give me the courage to stand.”

 

And on the morrow, Luther was called once again back to the court and was told to reply to the question. He said to the Diet, “Unless I am convinced by sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant, for my conscience is held captive by the Word of God, and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.” And with that there was an instant uproar.

 

The Emperor himself later indicated his regret that he even gave Luther a safe conduct, and immediately put a new price on his head. As Luther was leaving the city, his friends staged a kidnapping to protect him and took him away in a fast horse through the forest. They hid him for a year in Wartburg at the castle disguised as a knight. During that year, Luther undertook the task of translating the Bible from the biblical languages into German. And that perhaps was his most important legacy of that time - that he made the Bible available to the common people. And with that the Reformation was born.

—R.C. Sproul (from the series, “Heroes of the Christian Faith”)

 

Germany marks 500th anniversary of church's Reformation

In the picture below, visitors of the service sit in the All Saints' Church or Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, Tuesday Oct. 31, 2017. German leaders will mark the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther is said to have nailed his theses challenging the Catholic Church's practice of selling indulgences to a church door, a starting point of the Reformation. (Hendrik Schmidt/dpa via AP)

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, presents a lecture, at the Castle Church, Germany, on Martin Luther, the Bible, and the Wartburg:

What Is Reformation Day?

From Stephen Nichols, Ligonier Ministries, Oct 27, 2017

 

A single event on a single day changed the world. It was October 31, 1517. Brother Martin, a monk and a scholar, had struggled for years with his church, the church in Rome. He had been greatly disturbed by an unprecedented indulgence sale. The story has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. Let’s meet the cast.

 

First, there is the young bishop—too young by church laws—Albert of Mainz. Not only was he bishop over two bishoprics, he desired an additional archbishopric over Mainz. This too was against church laws. So Albert appealed to the Pope in Rome, Leo X. From the De Medici family, Leo X greedily allowed his tastes to exceed his financial resources. Enter the artists and sculptors, Raphael and Michelangelo.

 

When Albert of Mainz appealed for a papal dispensation, Leo X was ready to deal. Albert, with the papal blessing, would sell indulgences for past, present, and future sins. All of this sickened the monk, Martin Luther. Can we buy our way into heaven? Luther had to speak out.

 

But why October 31? November 1 held a special place in the church calendar as All Soul’s Day. On November 1, 1517, a massive exhibit of newly acquired relics would be on display at Wittenberg, Luther’s home city. Pilgrims would come from all over, genuflect before the relics, and take hundreds, if not thousands, of years off time in purgatory. Luther’s soul grew even more vexed. None of this seemed right.

 

Martin Luther, a scholar, took quill in hand, dipped it in his inkwell and penned his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517. These were intended to spark a debate, to stir some soul-searching among his fellow brothers in the church. The 95 Theses sparked far more than a debate. The 95 Theses also revealed the church was far beyond rehabilitation. It needed a reformation. The church, and the world, would never be the same.

 

One of Luther’s 95 Theses simply declares, “The Church’s true treasure is the gospel of Jesus Christ.” That alone is the meaning of Reformation Day. The church had lost sight of the gospel because it had long ago papered over the pages of God’s Word with layer upon layer of tradition. Tradition always brings about systems of works, of earning your way back to God. It was true of the Pharisees, and it was true of medieval Roman Catholicism. Didn’t Christ Himself say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light?”

 

Reformation Day celebrates the joyful beauty of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

What is Reformation Day? It is the day the light of the gospel broke forth out of darkness. It was the day that began the Protestant Reformation. It was a day that led to Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and may other Reformers helping the church find its way back to God’s Word as the only authority for faith and life and leading the church back to the glorious doctrines of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It kindled the fires of missionary endeavors, it led to hymn writing and congregational singing, and it led to the centrality of the sermon and preaching for the people of God. It is the celebration of a theological, ecclesiastical, and cultural transformation.

 

So we celebrate Reformation Day. This day reminds us to be thankful for our past and to the Monk turned Reformer. What’s more, this day reminds us of our duty, our obligation, to keep the light of the gospel at the center of all we do.

Reformation 500 Celebration

The five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation calls for celebration and remembrance lest we forget this event and the doctrinal truths that sparked it. On October 30, 2017 we hosted a special evening celebrating the Reformation. Sinclair Ferguson, Stephen Nichols, Burk Parsons, and Derek Thomas joined R.C. Sproul in covering the Reformation in brief messages that highlighted the gospel, what it means to have peace with God, the historical setting of the Reformation, and other topics.  (Courtesy of Ligonier Ministries).

The Wartburg Choir in Germany: Celebrating 500 Years of Reformation

How did the early church evolve into the Catholic Church; going astray from the actual Bible scriptures?  Why did the Catholic church not translate Scripture correctly when it was producing a Bible in a new language?  Where did the heretical teaching(s) concerning "praying the rosary," "praying to Mary," "purgatory," come from?  How did the Catholic church come to rely on one man, the Pope, as the ultimate authority and interpreter of the Bible? 

In the following three-part program, produced by the Lutheran Hour Ministries, the church during the Middle Ages is explored in detail.

  While the viewer is reminded that, while this program is presented from a Lutheran viewpoint, it shows how God was at work in the Reformation.  Viewers will see how the Reformation transformed European society and, eventually left a profound impression around the globe.
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"For all the Saints"

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"FOR ALL THE SAINTS"