A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Question
Why the association of the Reformation and "A Mighty Fortress is Our God?
Answer

October 31, 1517, is an important day in Protestant history. This was the day when Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, posted his 95 Theses against the teachings and practices of the Roman Church on the doors of the Cathedral of Wittenberg, Germany. With this event, the 16th century Protestant Reformation was formally born.

"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" (in German, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott) was written and composed by Martin Luther. The hymn became the great rallying cry of the Reformation. It has been called, "The Battle Hymn of the Reformation." The English Puritan Miles Coverdale (1488-1569) was the first to translate into English the complete Bible and this hymn with the title "Oure God is a defence and towre' (J.C. Jacobi's Psal. Ger., 1722, p. 83).

James Montgomery Boice wrote:

Almost everyone associates Martin Luther with the Book of Romans, particularly Romans 1:17, "The just shall live by faith." We tend to forget that Luther was converted not only by his study of Romans, but also by his study of the psalms. Luther taught the psalms for years and loved them very much, even late in life. His favorite was Psalm 46. It is said of Luther that there were times during the dark and dangerous periods of the Reformation when he was terribly discouraged and depressed. But at such times he would turn to his friend and coworker Philipp Melanchthon and say, "Come, Philipp, let's sing the forty-sixth Psalm." Then they would sing it in Luther's own strong version. We know it as "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Words and Music by Martin Luther, 1483-1546.
English Translation by Frederick H. Hedge, 1805-1890.

Text:

Psalm 46:1-2 God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; His craft and pow'r are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right man on our side, the man of God's own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, his name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.

And tho this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph thru us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure; for lo! his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow'rs, no thanks to them abideth; the Spirit and the gifts are ours, thru Him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God's truth abideth still; His kingdom is forever.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).