The Battle-Axe Of Reform (1483-1546)
By: Roberts Liardon
I was born to war with fanatics and devils. Thus my books are very stormy and bellicose [war-like and belligerent]. I must root out the stumps and trunks, hew away the thorns and briar, fill in the puddles. I am the rough woodsman, who must pioneer and hew a path.1
These are the words of a man who would accidentally reform the world as fourteenth-century Europe knew it. I say accidentally because Martin Luther’s early life as a submissive young monk showed no signs that, within him, he had the potential to lead a spiritual revolution that would blow up the age-old doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. He was a man on a mission, but it wasn’t to expose the errors of religion. His mission was simply to make peace with God. He wasn’t taught what most of us know: that Jesus came to reconcile us to God and that believing in Him was what appeased God.
He knew only what had been passed down for generations through the tradition of Roman Catholicism and the myths of German paganism: God was angry and Jesus was a hard and impossible-to please Judge who delighted in sending men, women, and children to hell.
Luther lay awake quivering many nights as a boy, afraid of the goblins and demons that religion taught lived in the woods. The Dark Ages were what they were because there was no light of truth from the Gospel penetrating the hearts of the people. It was illegal for a common man to own a Bible. The only Bibles available were in Latin, for the exclusive use of the priests, many of whom had never read them. Spiritual darkness always ends up making entire territories, nations, and, in this case, continents dark in every walk of life. And for sensitive Luther, these wrong teachings about God brought unending torment.
Convinced that the only answer for pleasing God was to become a monk, he joined the priesthood. Much to the devil’s dismay, Luther came into contact with the Bible. Educated in Latin as a boy, he dug through it with ease and even learned Greek to further examine the texts.
Luther was a man on a mission. His mission was not to expose the errors of religion but simply to make peace with God.
Luther’s story is one that shows the power of what can happen to someone who gets into God’s Word and doesn’t come out. The light of revelation began to shine in Luther’s dark mind, leaving no shadows where the devil could torment him.
He didn’t get into trouble until he wanted to share the Good News with his mentor and other leaders. He also got in trouble for having some questions that, if it weren’t for divine providence, could have gotten him burned at the stake. The revelations of most of the biblical truths we consider common today came from them.
Luther’s posting of these Ninety-Five Theses on the Wittenburg Church door is one of the most famous events in church history and had such a divine impact upon the earth that we are still experiencing its repercussions today. Although many great men and women had an integral part in what became known as the Reformation, whenever it is written about or spoken of, Luther’s name is at the top of the list of people who spearheaded it. Because God used him in this way, Luther often stood alone, lost friendships and family, stirred international conflict, angered leaders of nations, and created chaos for the Roman Catholic Church.
My prayer for you is that you will see that your past or circumstances have no bearing on what a touch from Heaven, a revelation of God’s Word, and a sense of mission and calling can do for you. There is no way Luther could ever have imagined what his road of obedience would lead to. God used him to affect the whole world, but I’m sure that, as a frightened little boy, this was the last thing on his mind.
“1. Martin Luther, The Later Years and Legacy,” Christian History Magazine 12, no. 3, issue 39, (Carol Stream, Ill.: Christianity Today, Inc.): 10.