RPM, Volume 16, Number 15, April 6 to April 12, 2014

The Reformed and Post-Reformation Creeds and Councils

By Charles R. Biggs

Many Thanks to William Barker, Daryl Hart, and Clair Davis for their lectures in Church History. Also to John Gerstner, Philip Schaff, and Williston Walker who have taught me from their writings

Table of Contents

Class I: The Council of Trent: Sola Scriptura - material taken from the series Important Creeds and Councils of the Christian Church (Class XI) by C.R. Biggs.

Class II: The Council of Trent: Sola Fide- The Ecclesiastical Fall of Rome

Class III: The Reformers and the Lutheran and Reformed Creeds: Martin Luther

Class IV: Martin Luther and the Augsburg Confession, 1530

Class V: An Historical Overview of the Synod of Dort and the Westminster Assembly

Lesson III: The Reformers and the Lutheran and Reformed Creeds: Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Romans 4:2-8, 4:20-25; Galatians 3:2-10

Martin Luther's Life and Reformation

Luther's Faithfulness to the vera theologia of St. Paul and St. Augustine

Luther's Theology of the Cross

Lutheran and Reformed Creeds

The Augsburg Confession, 1530

What happened at the Reformation, by means of which the forces of life were set at work through the seething, struggling mass, was the revival of vital Christianity; and this is the vera causa of all that has come out of that great revolution, in all departments of life. Men, no doubt, had long been longing and seeking after a 'return of Christianity to something like primitive purity and simplicity'…What Luther did was to rediscover vital Christianity and to give it afresh to the world…The Reformation was then- -we insist upon it- - precisely the substitution of one set of theological doctrines for another…Exactly what Luther did was for himself- - for the quieting of his aroused conscience and the healing of his deepened sense of sin, to rediscover the great fact, the greatest of all the great facts of which sinful man can ever become aware, that salvation is by the pure grace of God alone. — B.B. Warfield: The Theology of the Reformation

Martin Luther's Life - 1483-1546

Luther was born a miner's son in Eisleben, Germany. He was preparing himself to be a lawyer. On July 2, 1505 in Erfurt Germany a lightning bolt knocked him off his horse and he vowed to be a monk, he cried: St. Anne help me! I will become a monk."

July 17, 1505: Luther enters the Augustinian Cloister at Erfurt. May 1507, Luther performs his first Mass. Begins teaching at Wittenberg in 1508 and studies the writings of Augustine.

November 1510-1511: Luther visits Rome and climbs the 'Scala Sancta', which were 28 stairs that supposedly had stood in front of Pilate's palace. He who crawled up them on hands and knees, repeating the 'Pater Noster' for each one, could thereby release a soul from purgatory. According to Martin's son Paul, Luther realized the evangelical doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone and walked back down.

October 19, 1512: Luther becomes a Doctor of Theology.

April 26, 1517: Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, dean of the theology faculty at Wittenberg, posts 151 theses for disputation. It reflected Karlstadt's discovery of Augustine's theology, and chiefly the doctrine of justification.

October 31, 1517: Luther posts '95 Theses' on the Church door at Wittenberg in response to Johann Tetzel's selling of indulgences to build St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Tetzel traveled around Germany singing: "When the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs." The '95 Theses' started the chain of events leading to Luther's preaching of Reformation doctrine.

Spring 1518: Luther is called to give an account at the Augustinian Cloister at Heidelberg.

Fall 1518: In Augsburg, Luther has a conference with Cardinal Cajetan. Luther realizes he will break with the papacy if necessary over the gospel.

1519: A most crucial meeting at Leipzig. Luther debated with Johannes Eck and declared: "Believing what is evangelical truth, I will defy Pope, Council, and die if necessary."

June 15, 1520: The Papal Bull- 'Exsurge Domine' is written that will eventually excommunicate Luther- "Arise, O Lord, and judge thy cause. A wild boar has invaded thy vineyard…We can no longer suffer the serpent to creep through the field of the Lord. The books of Martin Luther which contain these errors are to be examined and burned. As for Martin himself, good God, what office of paternal love have we omitted in order to recall him from his errors…Anyone who presumes to infringe our excommunication and anathema will stand under the wrath of Almighty God and the apostles Peter and Paul." Luther burned this Papal Bull publicly.

Luther's Theology: The vera theologia of St. Paul and St. Augustine

SOLA SCRIPTURA: "Scripture Alone." The Formal Principle (source of authority) of the Reformation. The Word of God- - only- -not the church or tradition, is the ultimate authority.

SOLA FIDE: "By Faith Alone." The Material Principle (quintessential message of divine authority) of the Reformation. This was the central message of the inspired and infallible Scripture.

PRIVATE JUDGMENT: To be persuaded by what Scripture teaches alone. If Luther had not stood at Worms (April 1521), humanly speaking, the Reformation would have never occurred. 1525: Luther writes his most important book to Erasmus: "Bondage of the Will." "Martin Luther was a Calvinist; John Calvin was a Lutheran."

1529- COLLOQUY OF MARBURG: The saddest episode and the split of the Reformers in Reformation history. Ulrich Zwingli, a contemporary reformer of Luther in Zurich, Switzerland met at Marburg to discuss Reformation doctrines. Present were Martin Luther, Oecalampadius, Ulrich Zwingli, and Philip Melanchthon. They agreed upon everything but the doctrine of the Lord's Supper.

"HOC EST CORPUS MEUM": "This is my Body." Luther insisted on being a literalist. He said, "If Jesus said 'This is,' then it is his body." Oecalampadius responds, "Martin, 'Est' doesn't always mean and identification of something with something else. It frequently means representation. For example Christ says, 'I am the Vine,' but we would not pick grapes from him." Luther could not come to an agreement on this doctrine with the other Reformers. Luther said in his disagreement (to his discredit), "Zwingli is of another spirit."

CONSUBSTANTIATION: Lutheran doctrine that in the Lord's Supper, Christ's body was "in, of, and under" the bread. Oecalampadius asks, "Martin, what more would you have if Christ's body was actually present, inasmuch as his Divine Spirit is there?" Luther responded, "I don't know. But if Christ asked me to eat dung, I would eat it."

TRANSUBSTANTIATION: Roman Catholic doctrine, affirmed at the Fourth Lateran Council 1215. In the Lord's Supper, Christ's body is actually transferred to the bread and what you see and taste is just the "accidens." Thomas Aquinas used Aristotelian categories to explain the Lord's Supper, explaining that the substance of the bread, through the miracle of the Mass, literally become the substance of Christ's body, but the "accidens" remain unchanged.

B.B. Warfield says concerning Luther and his salvation:

Luther had been taught another doctrine [apart from Justification by faith alone], a doctrine which had been embodied in a popular maxim current in his day: Do the best you can, and God will see you through. He had tried to live that doctrine, and could not do it; he could not believe it. He has told us his despair. He has told us how this despair grew deeper and deeper, until he was raised out of it precisely by his discovery of his new doctrine — that it is God and God alone who in His infinite grace saves us, that He does it all, and that we supply nothing but the sinners to be saved and the subsequent praises which our grateful hearts lift to Him, our sole and only Savior…So he came forward as a teacher, as a dogmatic teacher, as a dogmatic teacher who gloried in his dogmatism. He was not merely seeking truth; he had the truth. He did not make tentative suggestions to the world for its consideration; what he dealt in was — so he liked to call them, were 'assertions'…Christian doctrines are not to be put on a level with human opinions. They are divinely given to us in Holy Scripture to form the molds in which Christian lives are to run.

Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms

On April 17, 1521 the Augustinian monk Martin Luther, under the condemnation of the papal bull Exsurge Domine, stood before the imperial Diet of Worms. Luther made the journey bearing letters of safe conduct issued by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and various German princes. Luther historian Gordon Rupp describes that day:

On the morning of April 16th, a trumpet sounded and the crowd pressed toward the gates…as a proud cavalcade of nobles and knights clattered by; at the end the little covered wagon swaying round the bend. The crowd stared and murmured their fill at the Black monk who stared back with quick, shining eyes…This was the climax of inner struggle. For Luther was no loud-mouthed fanatic with a hide like a rhinoceros. The taunts flung at him by his enemies found an echo in his own tormented self-questioning. "How often has my trembling heart palpitated- -are you alone the wise one? Are all the others in error? Have so many centuries walked in ignorance? What if it should be you who err, and drag so many with you into error, to be eternally damned.

The first hearings at Worms took place on April 17, the day after Luther's arrival. Luther was asked two questions in the presence of his imperial majesty, the electors and princes--all the estates of the empire. "Do you, Martin Luther, recognize the books published under your name as your own? Are you prepared to recant what you have written in these books?" Luther had thought he came to Worms for a debate, but realized quickly it was to be a hearing. Luther acknowledged his writings, and very timidly said that since this involved faith, salvation and the Word of God, he needed time to consider. The next day after much questioning Luther responded to their questions:

Since your majesty and your Lordships ask for a plain answer, I will give you one without either horns or teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture or by right reason (for I trust neither in popes nor in councils, since they have often erred and contradicted themselves)--unless I am thus convinced, I am bound by the texts of the Bible, my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience. God help me. Amen.

Consequently, on May 8 Charles V drafted an edict, and on May 26 he signed it. In this edict he referred to Luther's doctrine as a "cesspool of heresies." He declared: "A single monk, led astray by private judgment, has set himself against the faith held by all Christians for more than a thousand years. He believes that all Christians up to now have erred. Therefore, I have resolved to stake upon this cause all my dominions, my friends, my body and blood, my life and soul." Luther did not set out to be a radical reformer. Roland Bainton, in his biography of Luther says borrowing from Karl Barth: "{Luther} was like a man climbing in the darkness a winding staircase in the steeple of an ancient cathedral. In the blackness he reached out to steady himself, and his hand laid hold of a rope. He was startled to hear the clanging of a bell." R.C. Sproul ask the questions: "Does faith enable us to become actively righteous so that God will declare us righteous? Or does God declare us righteous before we actually become actively righteous by imputing to us the righteousness of Christ? The conflict over justification by faith alone boils down to this: Is the ground of our justification the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, or the righteousness of Christ working within us? For the Reformers the doctrine of justification by faith alone meant justification by Christ and his righteousness alone."

The Ten Commandments, from Luther's Small Catechism 1529

I. The Ten Commandments: The Simple Way a Father Should Present Them to His Household

A. The First Commandment: You must not have other gods.
Q. What does this mean?
A. We must fear, love, and trust God more than anything else.

B. The Second Commandment: You must not misuse your God's name.
Q. What does this mean?
A. We must fear and love God, so that we will not use His name to curse, swear, cast a spell, lie or deceive, but will use it to call upon Him, pray to Him, praise Him and thank Him in all times of trouble.

C. The Third Commandment: You must keep the Sabbath holy.
Q. What does this mean?
A. We must fear and love God, so that we will not look down on preaching or God's Word, but consider it holy, listen to it willingly, and learn it.

D. The Fourth Commandment: You must honor your father and mother. [So that things will go well for you and you will live long on earth].
Q. What does this mean?
A. We must fear and love God, so that we will neither look down on our parents or superiors nor irritate them, but will honor them, serve them, obey them, love them and value them.

E. The Fifth Commandment: You must not kill.
Q. What does this mean?
A. We must fear and love God, so that we will neither harm nor hurt our neighbor's body, but help him and care for him when he is ill.

F. The Sixth Commandment: You must not commit adultery.
Q. What does this mean?
A. We must fear and love God, so that our words and actions will be clean and decent and so that everyone will love and honor their spouses.

G. The Seventh Commandment: You must not steal.
Q. What does this mean?
A. We must fear and love God, so that we will neither take our neighbor's money or property, nor acquire it by fraud or by selling him poorly made products, but will help him improve and protect his property and career.

H. The Eighth Commandment: You must not tell lies about your neighbor.
Q. What does this mean?
A. We must fear and love God, so that we will not deceive by lying, betraying, slandering or ruining our neighbor's reputation, but will defend him, say good things about him, and see the best side of everything he does.

I. The Ninth Commandment: You must not desire your neighbor's house.
Q. What does this mean?
A. We must fear and love God, so that we will not attempt to trick our neighbor out of his inheritance or house, take it by pretending to have a right to it, etc. but help him to keep & improve it.

J. The Tenth Commandment: You must not desire your neighbor's wife, servant, maid, animals or anything that belongs to him.
Q. What does this mean?
A. We must fear and love God, so that we will not release his cattle, take his employees from him or seduce his wife, but urge them to stay and do what they ought to do.

Q. What does God say to us about all these commandments?
A. This is what He says: ``I am the Lord Your God. I am a jealous God. I plague the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who hate me with their ancestor's sin. But I make whole those who love me for a thousand generations.''

Q. What does it mean?
A. God threatens to punish everyone who breaks these commandments. We should be afraid of His anger because of this and not violate such commandments. But He promises grace and all good things to those who keep such commandments. Because of this, we, too, should love Him, trust Him, and willingly do what His commandments require.

This text was translated in 1994 for Project Wittenberg by Robert E. Smith and has been placed in the public domain by him. You may freely distribute, copy or print this text. Please direct any comments or suggestions to: Rev. Robert E. Smith, Walther Library, Concordia Theological Seminary E-mail: CFWLibrary@CRF.CUIS.EDU

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