Friday is for Heart Songs
It was 4 P.M. when Luther arrived at Worms, 40 miles south-southwest of Frankfort, Germany. Luther had been told that his views would be heard, but instead a stack of his books were arrayed on a table and he was asked two questions:
- Are these your books?
- Will you recant what is in them?
Luther was shocked. This did not sound like a hearing at all. This was a demand to recant. Luther said the books were his but in answer to second questioned he responded:
“This touches God and His Word. This affects the salvation of souls. Of this Christ said, ‘He who denies Me before men, him will I deny before My Father.’ [Lk. 12:8-9] To say too little or too much would be dangerous. I beg you, give me time to think.“1
Luther was given a one-day reprieve. On that evening, 494 years ago today, Luther spent the evening in prayer, preparing a careful and studied response for his inquisitors. At 6:00 P.M. the next day he gave his famous answer:
“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture
or by clear reason (for I trust neither pope nor councils alone,
since it is well known that they have often erred
and contradicted themselves),
I am bound by the Scriptures I have cited,
for my conscience is captive to the Word of God.
I cannot and will not recant anything since to act against
one’s conscience is neither safe nor right. I cannot do otherwise.
Here I stand, may God help me. Amen.”2
Luther’s example is a model for us. Against powerful forces arrayed against him, Luther stood his ground on the Word of Truth and would not budge. And the result was? The world changed. The Gospel was set free from the shackles of tradition and millions upon millions heard the life-changing power of the gospel with fresh ears. The Bible began to be widely disseminated and read by common people for the first time. When Thomas Linacre (pronounced, “Lynaker”) a British humanist and physician (and late in life, a Catholic Priest) read the New Testament for the first time, he exclaimed, “Either this is not the gospel, or we are not Christians.” Indeed.
That’s what the Bible unleashed, the Bible believed, the Bible proclaimed, the Bible rightly understood does to a man or a culture. It gives them eyes to see and ears to hear. Woe to us if in our time, in our opportunity, with all the forces of the media and the cultural elites stacked against us, we fail to stand for the unadorned truth of the gospel for our generation and the generations yet to be born.
1. The One Year Book of Christian History, E. Michael and Sharon Rusten (Tyndale, 2003), 216.
2. Ibid., 216f.