It was in His fear that Luther nailed his theses to the door of the church at Wittenburg.
Although the Reformation as we now know it was far from his thoughts when he nailed these theses to the door of the church, it cannot be denied that he was seeking reformation and had clearly seen the deformation that had taken place in the Roman Catholic Church of that day. There was a crying need for reform. The doctrine of the Word of God was corrupted. Corrupt practices abounded and were advocated by the church. And Luther without difficulty was able to list ninety-five points that required reform. These were his Ninety-Five Theses.
All this was in His fear. For the fear of the Lord believes the Word of God. To fear the Lord is to believe that which He declares. The fear of the Lord, therefore, always is humility. And the proud, who dare to deny that which God has spoken in His Word reveal that the fear of the Lord is not in them. The fear of the Lord dares not contradict Him, play with His Holy Word, and press it into the service of the flesh. The fear of the Lord, therefore, also leads to a walk in the way of His commandments. It is for that reason that Abraham told Abimelech the king of Gerar that he lied about his wife because he thought, “Surely the fear of the Lord is not in this place.” In His fear one does not dare to disobey God’s command. And Luther dared neither contradict the living God nor walk in the wicked way that the Roman Catholic Church advocated and practiced in that day.
That same fear of the Lord calls the regenerated believer to reform each day and to turn from his evil ways. It is nothing less than a lack of that fear of the Lord that moves men today to go back to that church at Wittenburg and question whether the Ninety-Five Theses should have been nailed to that door. Many voices are raised and much thought is given to the question as to whether an ecumenical attitude should not have been taken by Luther and his followers. Into this matter we do not desire to enter at the moment, but would only point out that the question is misdirected. How tragic that so-called Protestants raise that question! The Roman Catholic Church never questioned that fact. The matter was settled, not questioned. Luther did not belong in the Church, and Rome promptly proceeded to “excommunicate” him. Who then failed to take an ecumenical attitude? But the point we wish to make here is that only because the fear of the Lord was in the hearts of countless others, the Reformation became an historical fact.
Men in whose heart was found that same fear of the Lord that the Spirit of Christ had implanted in Luther’s soul rallied behind him in the cry for reformation and stood with him for the truth after his “excommunication.” Actually it was a matter of following Christ. It was a matter of following the Word of God rather than the philosophy of man, and the way of the living God rather than of corrupt men. Thus it was also when Paul told the Philippians in Philippians 3:17 to “be followers together of me.” Under the inspiration of the Spirit of Truth, Paul could say this because he was himself a follower of Christ. Such one may follow. Such the fear of the Lord will move us to follow. And the regenerated believers in Luther’s day heard Christ in Luther. The note of truth which he spoke and which he maintained set their own souls vibrating with joy and peace. Christ in them caused them to see that Luther’s stand was in His fear.
One cannot lose his faith. “He who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” according to Philippians 1:6, and in spite of Arminianism’s comfortless doctrine that one can lose it and the grace of God. But faith can smolder, and believers can go into spiritual hibernation so that there is hardly any exercise of faith. This is particularly true when the church does not feed that faith with the truth, and the believer is starved almost to death. He will never be starved to death because God will see to it that he does receive enough of the truth to continue in the faith. The Reformation takes on such great importance for that very reason. The starving were fed again, and in His grace God provided spiritual food for generations to come, that they might be strong in the truth and in faith, and that the fear of the Lord might again be seen clearly and forcefully on this earth. The lie stifles faith and chokes it. It causes the fire to smolder rather than burn brightly. And the Spirit,—who came on Pentecost with the sound of a mighty rushing wind,—fanned the fire of faith to burn brightly again through the Reformation. Not Luther but the Spirit of Christ is the power (wind) that fanned in the regenerated that spark of spiritual life to realize the Reformation, so that today yet we benefit so greatly and the fear of the Lord is a distinct reality upon the earth today.
Indeed, one is inclined to think with Abraham that “the fear of the Lord is not in this place” or in that place. History is repeating itself, and we may go a step farther than Abraham and ask whether the fear of the Lord is in this church or that church! Many a group that calls itself the Church of God denies truths today to which the Roman Catholic Church still gives lip service. Rome still teaches the divinity of Christ while the Modernistic church of today denies it. Surely it is not the fear of the Lord to dare to tell the Son of God that He is not the Son of God! And that such a stand is found in the churches of the Reformation is deformation. Then, too, there is that bold stand, utterly without the fear of the Lord, that man can buy his way into Christ’s kingdom. No, not with gold and silver as the indulgences of Tetzel required, nor by good works for the dead as Rome wants to maintain, but by filling the condition that God stipulates as the price for such a glorious life and kingdom. Neither Luther nor Calvin dared to teach Arminianism which is so highly cherished in well-nigh all of Protestantism today! We are quite well aware of the fact that the Remonstrants taught the act of faith from its very nature is undeserving. In the Canons of Dordrecht, the first Head of Doctrine, Article III of the Rejection of Errors, we read that the Synod of Dordrecht rejected the error of those “Who teach: That the good pleasure and purpose of God, of which Scripture makes mention in the doctrine of election, does not consist in this, that God chose certain persons rather than others, but in this that he chose out of all possible conditions (among which are also the works of the law), or out of the whole order of things, the act of faith which from its very nature is undeserving, as well as its incomplete obedience, as a condition of salvation, and that he would graciously consider this in itself as a complete obedience and count it worthy of the reward of eternal life.” But, if I have to give God something, be it “the act of faith, which from its very nature is undeserving,” and it is counted worthy of the reward of eternal life, where is the difference between buying my way out of “purgatory” by gold and silver and paying the cost of salvation by believing? The fact remains that God exchanges eternal life for that which I have done. The condition means that I have to do something first. Whether God counts an unworthy thing as worthy makes no difference. The price He has set is the act of faith, according to all Arminianism. Whether I get eternal life cheaply or at a great expense makes no difference whatsoever. I must buy it from Him by the act of faith. I must fulfill a condition. I must give God something. Were Luther living today, he would add, the ninety-sixth thesis to the door of the churches that dare to put man and his act of faith before God and His sovereign grace, whereby He gives us that faith before we can ask for it and the desire to ask for it, because, of sovereign election from before the foundation of the world. The church world is on the way do deformation in the measure that it departs from salvation in every part of it by grace alone. Luther did not teach salvation by faith but by grace. To teach that God cannot save us until we ask for it or let Him do so is not only an insult to the almighty, sovereign God but an evidence that we are desperately in need of reformation!
What then must we say of those who are all for a reunion with Rome? Interestingly enough, it may be noted that the Roman Catholic Church quotes the same text that many Protestants quote in defense of church mergers. The words of Jesus in John 17:21, when corrupted, apply in both instances, of course. “That they all may be one . . .” But leave off then what follows: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.” That makes quite a difference. Was Rome right in 1517, or was Luther? Who is right today? Has Rome changed, or is Protestantism changing? Cardinal Cushing, Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston may say, “I am 100 percent” for Billy Graham. And Billy Graham may say, “I feel much closer to Roman Catholic tradition than to some of the more liberal Protestants.” But who has changed? Has Rome changed its stand when Cardinal Cushing states, “If I had to rewrite the article in the Pilot supporting the crusade (of Billy Graham) I would have gone right out and encouraged all Catholic people to attend his meetings. They have everything to gain. The hand of God must be upon him.” Does Billy Graham preach Luther’s doctrine? Or is Cardinal Cushing unaware of Rome’s doctrine? Is there after all so much difference between Tetzel’s indulgences wherewith one could buy salvation by silver and gold and Arminianism’s buying it by our act of faith? Can Roman Catholics gain,—”have everything to gain”—from this doctrine of salvation by works? And is it not salvation by works, if I have to produce the act (the work) of faith before God will elect me, cause me to be a born again Christian. And then, of course, I produce the act of faith before I am born again. I do somethingbefore I am alive. How amazing and wonderful fallen man is after all!! Before natural birth he can do nothing. Before spiritual birth he can perform the spiritual act of faith. He needs salvation but not that badly! God needs something this unregenerated man has. BIG man and a little god! A crying need for reformation from deformation!
A more ominous note, because it carries matters much further away from the Reformation and is a far more bold step, is sounded in Christian Economics, September 22, 1964, page 4, where Rev. I.E. Howard is reviewing the book, “The Cult Of The All-Seeing Eye,” by Robert Keith Spenser. He writes the following:
Mr. Spenser has explored the esoteric lore of ancient religions, tracing a connection to the symbolism associated with the United Nations meditation room, the great seal of the United States and the Temple of Understanding which Edith Kermit Roosevelt describes in the closing chapters.
The Temple of Understanding is supposed to become the center of a new world religion and to achieve this goal, the enthusiasts for a universal world religion hope to destroy loyalty to any particular religion. They also hope to create a world government, or a Universal Theocratic State, which necessitates the destruction of patriotism.
If this book were not so well documented, one would think that he were reading science fiction, but this little volume reveals, not the bizarre product of one’s imagination, but the blueprint of what many people intend for the future of the Christian religion. Is this the end result of the ecumenical movement?
The question wherewith Rev. Howard ends this book review is a very interesting one and ought to be a warning to all those who are interested in mergers for merger’s sake. One can see that there is a blueprint for the kingdom of the antichrist in the mind of Satan and that he is implanting it in the mind of the false church. In His fear let us seek reformation and not the deformation of that kingdom. And let us fear God and not what man can do unto us.