2017 marks the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which began when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of his church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. The theses were primarily a response to the growing corruption that he saw from church leaders. Specifically, he thought that some ambitious church leaders were cheapening the grace of God by selling indulgences, or certificates, that guaranteed relief from purgatory for either the purchaser, or someone who the purchaser designated. Martin Luther firmly believed that God’s grace was so costly that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was the only payment sufficient enough to pay for our sins and restore us to a right relationship with God. These beliefs laid out in his 95 Theses were just the beginning of what would ultimately become the Protestant Reformation, and the birth of several protestant denominations that split from the Roman Catholic Church.
Since this year marks such a special anniversary, I’ve been reading though some of Martin Luther’s works, and trying to get a better understanding for his convictions about God and the church. As I just recently read through parts of a lecture he gave in 1535 on the book of Genesis, I couldn’t help but notice how much his reflections on the Fall in Genesis chapter 3 speak directly to some tough issues that Christians face today in our current culture.
When discussing the serpent’s conversation with Eve in the Garden of Eden, Martin Luther illustrates that Satan intends to undermine God’s authority by attacking the very words God spoke. In doing this, Satan’s hope is to try and establish a new reality, one in which the words of the creation are thought of more highly by mankind than the words of the Creator. When referring to Satan’s attempt, Luther says:
“Nor is it only his intention, as those who lack knowledge think, to point out the tree and issue an invitation to pick its fruit. He points it out indeed; but then he adds another new statement, as he still does in the church.”
Basically what Luther is demonstrating is that in tempting Eve, Satan doesn’t just appeal to the tree and how pleasing its fruit must be. That is not enough. What Satan has to do is try to establish his own authority, and call into question the very command from God in the hope that Eve might trust his word over God’s. Martin Luther says that Satan is still using this method in the church today, and I think he is spot on, even 500 years later than when he first wrote it. One of the biggest issues that we are facing in our culture today is the rising trend of wanting to define what is real and what is true by our own thoughts and feelings. The problem that this causes in the church, is that there is a growing tendency for many in our culture to read the Bible and reject what it tells us if we feel it shouldn’t be true, or is hard for us to grasp. Martin Luther says that when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they essentially were attempting to make themselves into gods by rejecting God’s account of what is real and true, and claiming that creatures should be able to determine this for themselves. While the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience are wide-spread and have affected every part of creation, we must be watchful and vigilant today in order to not fall prey to the same attempts by Satan in our own lives to get us to doubt the truthfulness of God’s word.