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After The Death of Luther —

How the Formula Of Concord Was Forged

(Ten Parts)

Part One: Luther’s Death

When Luther died, Lutheranism collapsed. Military defeat of the Lutherans worsened the weaknesses of the Wittenberg faculty. This era is painful to read about and seldom studied, but it is important for two reasons. First: God used the compounded tragedy to bring about the Formula of Concord and the Book of Concord. Second: our era is very close to that following Luther’s death — orthodox doctrine almost completely forgotten, conservative Lutheran seminary faculty members promoting Calvinism, conflict and confusion abounding.

Luther died on February 18, 1546. On the fourth of July, the Pope issued a bull: “From the beginning of our Papacy it has always been our concern how to root out the weeds of godless doctrines which the heretics have sowed throughout Germany. . . Now it has come to pass that, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, our dearest son in Christ, Charles, the Roman Emperor, has decided to employ the sword against those enemies of God.”

Charles V, the Roman Catholic emperor who heard the Augsburg Confession read in 1530, attacked the German Lutheran forces and quickly defeated them. His victory was facilitated by the neutrality of some Lutheran princes and the secret treachery of Maurice of Saxony, who was given John Frederick’s position. The Elector of Saxony, John Frederick, was taken captive.

Charles V entered Wittenberg on May 23, 1547 and stood at Luther’s grave. He was urged to have Luther’s body dug up and burned at the stake for heresy. He responded by saying he was warring with the living, not the dead. His forces controlled most of Germany, and he used his military might to force the Lutherans back into submission to the papacy.

Luther feared the loss of sound doctrine. Stephanus Tucher reported Luther saying, “After my death not one of these (Wittenberg) theologians will remain steadfast.” Luther not only saw the inconstancy of Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, Cruciger, Eber, and Major, but also their indifference to false doctrine, especially about the Lord’s Supper.

Luther’s blast against George Major us a perfect antidote to the current attitude of “spoiling the Egyptians,” promoting and defending the false doctrine of non-Lutherans:

It is by your silence and cloaking that you cast suspicion upon yourself. If you believe as you declare in my presence, then speak so also in the church, in public lectures, in sermons, and in private conversations, and strengthen your brethren, and lead the erring back to the right path, and contradict the contumacious spirits; otherwise your confession is sham pure and simple, and worth nothing. Whoever really regards his doctrine, faith, and confession as true, right, and certain cannot remain in the same stall with such as teach, or adhere to, false doctrine; nor can he keep on giving friendly words to Satan and his minions. A teacher who remains silent when errors are taught, and nevertheless pretends to be a true teacher, is worse than an open fanatic and by his hypocrisy does greater damage than a heretic. Nor can he be trusted. He is a wolf and a fox, a hireling and a servant of his belly, and ready to despise and to sacrifice doctrine, Word, faith, Sacrament, churches, and schools. He is either a secret bedfellow of the enemies, or a skeptic and a weathervane, waiting to see whether Christ or the devil will prove victorious; or he has no convictions on his own whatever, and is not worthy to be called a pupil, let alone a teacher; nor does he want to offend anybody, or say a word in favor of Christ, or hurt the devil and the world.

After Luther’s death, Major taught that good works were necessary for salvation, a false doctrine refuted by the Formula of Concord.

The Wittenberg faculty abandoned Luther’s theology to such an extent that by 1566 the scriptural truths of the Reformation were taught publicly in only a few places.

–Pastor Gregory L. Jackson