Lucy Neeley Adams
Try reading the book of Acts in the Bible and not getting excited about the growth of the early
church. The disciples heard and obeyed the risen Christ when he commanded, "go into all the world and preach the gospel."
Through that phenomenal growth, the Roman Catholic Church developed. It was the only official
body of believers for hundreds of years. At times there was discord among the leaders. But when one 16th-century priest publically
disagreed with some practices, it was a turning point in church history.
It happened during this time of the year. I believe the sound of a hammer was heard throughout
the Christian world and it did not come from a construction site. It originated in the heart and soul of an angry Roman Catholic
priest, Martin Luther, on October 31, 1517.
Luther took a bold and dangerous step as he nailed a paper to the door of a Cathedral in Wittenburg,
Germany on which he had written 95 complaints against the only Christian community of his day - his own Church. It is known
as the 95 Theses.
It went down in history as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The protests that were
written that day for the public to see began the most dramatic reform within Christianity.
It did not take many days after the appearance of these complaints for discontent to grow into
conflict. Some believers wanted change and some did not. Fearing for Martin Luther's safety, a sympathetic friend led him
into the protection of a castle .
It was there that Luther reaffirmed the strength and comfort of a mighty God.. Within his temporary
hiding place, the words of Psalm 46:1 came alive and vibrant for him: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help
in times of trouble."
During those days of solitude, prayer and Bible study, Luther began a translation of the Scriptures
into German. He firmly believed that "all people must be able to read God's word for themselves." It was the accepted norm
of the day that the Bible, written in Latin, was only read by the priest.
Likewise, he believed that church music was for everyone to sing. "The devil who is the originator
of sorrowful anxieties and restless trouble, flees before the sound of God's music almost as much as before the Word of God,"
With that inspiration, he composed the hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." It is a bold affirmation
of our powerful and loving God:
"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 power are great, And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not His equal."
Luther was armed with renewed determination that he would not recant his protests against the
Catholic Church. After a struggle of several years with officials in Rome, he was excommunicated in 1520.
This was only the beginning of his continued teaching and preaching with great enthusiasm. He
proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ to small gatherings. Soon those new fellowships of Christian believers grew. Some scoffed
at them by calling them, "Lutherans." Thus, the first denomination was named, because of the leadership of one of the greatest
men in Christendom.
He died in 1546 at the age of sixty three in the town of his birth, Eisleben, Saxony, Germany.
The birth of the Protestant movement will always be attributed to Martin Luther.
From the writings of professor Kenneth Osbeck in 101 Hymn Stories, we read that Luthers' famous
hymn is the most powerful one of the Protestant Reformation. Osbeck writes: "It became the battle cry of the people, a great
source of strength .This hymn has been translated into practically every known language and is regarded as one of the noblest
and most classic examples of Christian hymnody."
This is one of my favorite hymns to sing because it covers so much territory for the Christian's
life. We find the answer to conflict, striving, spiritual warfare, and at last, victory. The second verse describes it beautifully:
"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 might be? Christ Jesus it is He.
Lord Sabaoth His name, From age to age the same.
And He must win the battle."
O God, you are my fortress. I am protected and empowered to obey as I go into my part of the
world, determined to live your powerful gospel of Truth. Even when discord develops, you are able to redeem those times for
your glory. Thank you that you never fail and because of your presence I too can win any battle. In the name of Jesus our
Lucy Neeley Adams