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I Could Never Do That!


Publicly post ninety-five theses critical of the church’s money-making practice of indulgences. Question and eventually oppose the Pope himself. Stand before the Holy Roman Emperor and other powerful officials and when ordered to recant, instead state, “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason . . . I cannot and I will not recant anything. . . . Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” Continue preaching and teaching under constant threat of arrest, imprisonment, and even death. Martin Luther did all that and much more. By any measure, his words and actions were bold and decisive.

Luther’s biography reads like
a thrilling adventure novel.  

Against all odds, he accomplished amazing things. But does his life seem so different and far removed from ours that there is no comparison? Do you ever look at Luther in awe and think, “I could never do that! No way!”? I know I have. Instead of taking a stand on the truth, aren’t we often more like Peter, who quickly crumbled under the relatively mild interrogation of a servant girl in the high priest’s courtyard and denied even knowing Jesus? Aren’t we more likely to keep quiet about our faith than tell the next-door neighbor, “I believe Jesus is the Son of God and the only Savior from sin and death”?

Five hundred years later. 

We still look back in wonder at the Reformation and thank God for the courage and faithfulness of Martin Luther. But the lesson to come away with is not simply “Luther was amazing, his work awesome. I could never do that. Thank God the Reformation is accomplished history.” What about the future? The attacks of Satan on Christ and His Church have not stopped. He may have altered his tactics somewhat to maximize the damage he can inflict, but his objective is still the same: to drag as many souls as he possibly can into hell with him. The fight for the truth of salvation by God’s grace alone through faith alone as revealed in Scripture alone will continue to be waged until the end of time.

Luther would be the first to stress that he could not take any personal credit for his role in the Reformation.  

His courage came from the Lord, Who promised to be with him always. His rock-solid conviction that while popes and councils could err, the Word of God stands true forever, was worked by the Spirit. Luther’s calmness of heart, undisturbed regardless of how much turmoil swirled around him, flowed from the peace of God, the reconciliation between sinners and God, won by Jesus on the cross.

This Reformation season, let’s look beyond Martin Luther to the Lord Jesus, Who died for him and all people, Who clothed Luther in His own perfect righteousness, and Who made him a messenger of light in a world filled with the darkness of error and unbelief. May we look to the same Lord for our peace, courage, and boldness. Then when witnessing opportunities come up at work or school, when we are in the right place at the right time to stand up for the truth of the Word, when the Lord opens doors for us as a church body to preach the truth of the Gospel in far-flung corners of the world or inner cities, instead of saying, “I could never do that!” may we pray, “Lord, all things are possible with You!” and eagerly get to work.

Michael Eichstadt is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and president of the Church of the Lutheran Confession.