[A lecture given in Barnoldswick on 31 December 2016]
We are on the threshold of a new year. This year ends with much anticipation of change in 2017. Election results contrary to the expectations of many, both for Brexit in the United Kingdom and for a radically different president in the United States, have dramatically upset the normal course of events. Just how momentous any changes will be remains to be seen, but 2016 ends on an uncertain note, politically at least.
500 years ago, the year 1516 did not end like that. It drew to a close just as the year before it had done, and indeed many a year before that. Europe had been in the unyielding grip of the Church of Rome for centuries. Popes had come, popes had gone; but fundamentally the power of the papacy remained largely unchallenged over the nations of Europe. Rome’s overarching influence exerted itself not only in the religious realm but also in the political. Yes, there were growing calls, particularly from the humanists, for improvements to Rome’s morals and ways of conducting itself, but nothing had come forth to threaten the all-encompassing sceptre of Roman Catholicism. As 1516 came to its close, there was nothing to hint that any great change was afoot. It looked as if 1517 was going to be business as usual.
And so it was, for the first ten months of the year. But God had appointed a day in 1517 that would spark off such a movement as Europe has never seen before or since. Rome would be shaken to its very foundations. Biblical truth would begin to triumph over Roman Catholic heresy. On 31 October 1517, an insignificant monk in a relatively small German town would nail some written propositions on the church door. In his mind, it was intended to stimulate discussion among the learned. But in God’s purpose, it was the trigger for setting in motion a chain of events that we call the Protestant Reformation. Europe would never be the same again. Some nations, especially in the north, would be delivered from the yoke of Rome.
That monk’s name was Martin Luther. To understand his actions in October 1517 we will have to go back some years. Born in 1483, his father was a miner who had come to own several foundries. Recognising their son’s intellectual prowess, Luther’s parents sent him to university at Erfurt. His father’s intention was for him to become a lawyer. All went according to plan until July 1505. Walking alone, 21-year-old Martin was caught in a mighty thunderstorm. A lightning bolt struck so close that it knocked him off his feet. In terror he prayed to St Anne, the patron saint of miners, and promised that he would become a monk if he reached his destination safely. He did reach it safely, and two weeks later he was in the monastery, a novice monk in the Augustinian order, much to his father’s dismay.
Luther could not have been a more devoted monk, and was soon made priest. That ushered in the next major crisis of his life – the performance of his first mass, in May 1507. During it he was suddenly overwhelmed with a terrifying sense of the majesty and holiness of the God whom he thought he was serving. It was at the point where the celebrant is to say “We offer unto Thee, the living, the true, the eternal God”. He wrote later:
At these words I was utterly stupefied and terror-stricken. I thought to myself, ‘With what tongue shall I address such Majesty, seeing that all men ought to tremble in the presence of even an earthly prince? Who am I, that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my hands to the divine Majesty? The angels surround him. At his nod the earth trembles. And shall I, a miserable little pigmy, say ‘I want this, I ask for that’? For I am dust and ashes and full of sin and I am speaking to the living, eternal and the true God.
Luther’s increasingly awakened conscience drove him with unceasing rigour to all that the Romanist system prescribed for relief. Over and above the ordinary round of monkish duties and deprivations, “he fasted for days, spent sleepless nights in prayer and whipped himself”, as one has put it. When others would spend a few minutes in the confessional, telling their sins to the priest to obtain absolution in the so-called sacrament of “penance”, Luther would spend hours, and then condemn himself if he later realised that he had omitted the smallest sin.
Whatever he did, he could not obtain peace: his confessions were incomplete; his sinfulness was much more serious and went much deeper than a list of misdemeanours in any case – corruption was rooted in his very nature; and his experience was telling him that the Romanist solutions – like the Old Testament blood of bulls and goats – could never take away sin.
His efforts could never be enough to please the God of holiness. His own words, written later, describe the culdesac he had reached:
I was a good monk, and I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I. All my brothers in the monastery who knew me will bear me out. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, reading, and other work.
In November 1510 Luther had the opportunity to visit the city of Rome, the pinnacle of the whole Romanist system. In the age of pilgrimages, relics and indulgences, he hoped that Rome would have the answer. He visited every shrine and relic he could, seeking to accrue the merit he needed. The Romish system spoke of a treasury of merit, stored up from the works of supererogation performed by the Virgin Mary and eminent “saints” over and above what they needed for themselves. A share of this merit could be obtained by visiting relics and purchasing indulgences. Indulgences, issued by the Pope in return for money or visiting a relic, promised the pardon of sin or reduced punishment for sin.
Luther recorded: “In Rome I was a frantic saint. I ran through all the churches and catacombs and believed everything.” He ascended the 28 steps of the Scala Sancta on his knees, praying the Pater Noster on every step. These steps were said to have been transported from Jerusalem, the very steps in front of Pilate’s palace on which Jesus Himself had been condemned to death, but no deliverance came to Luther’s burdened conscience. At the top, rather than being assured that he had released 28 souls from purgatory, he exclaimed “Who knows whether it is so?”
Luther left Rome a disillusioned man. All he had seen was the corruption, degradation and moral and spiritual bankruptcy of the entire papist system. “Godlessness and evil are great and shameless there. Neither God nor man, neither sin nor modesty, are respected”, he later wrote. He had visited a spiritual graveyard looking for life, but all he found was death.
Back in Wittenberg, he shared his troubles with Staupitz, the superior at the monastery. Whilst having no grace himself, Staupitz was nevertheless helpful to Luther. He directed him to the Bible, and even told him to look to the merits of Christ and trust in Him for forgiveness. This sounded good, but the Christ of Staupitz was at best the medieval mysticism of Thomas à Kempis who wrote the famous book The Imitation of Christ. Peace with God cannot be found by attempting to imitate Christ. There was no answer here to Luther’s great need: How can a sinful man get right with a holy God?
Staupitz then tried a new way. From October 1512 he had Luther become Doctor of Theology, based at Wittenberg University, in the chair of Bible instruction. Little by little, amidst many a struggle, the light came. In August 1513 Luther began lecturing through the Psalms. Psalm 22 was clearly speaking of Christ’s sufferings on the cross. Luther well understood why he himself, a sinner, should be forsaken by God, but Christ was pure and sinless. This insight helped to deliver him from thinking of God and Christ as capricious and vindictive. If God’s own Son should so partake of human nature as to share in the sufferings of mankind to that degree, surely God was merciful and loving.
However, the problem of God’s righteous justice remained. Yes, God was merciful, but Luther still deserved punishment, and God was also just. His lectures in Romans, begun in April 1515, brought him face to face with the predicament. In Romans 1:17, Paul says that the gospel reveals the righteousness or justice of God. Luther’s first interpretation was that the very gospel was demanding sinners to produce such a perfect righteousness that God would accept them on that ground. This was not good news to his sin-burdened soul. But forced by his lecturing schedule he did not give up his studies. He struggled to reconcile the demand for righteousness with the statement that the just live by faith. His own words record the struggle:
I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, ‘the justice of God,’ because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.
Poor Luther was turning the gospel into more law; the way of justification into ever heavier condemnation; the free gift of Christ into a demand for his own perfection. He thought that the gospel was demanding him to produce a righteousness of his own good enough to please God. However hard he tried, he could not do it. Any mention of God’s righteousness meant to him inflexible and implacable justice, which can do nothing but damn the sinner.
Then the Lord opened his understanding to see the connection between the “righteousness of God” and “the just shall live by faith”. In his own words:
Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that ‘the just shall live by his faith.’ Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the ‘justice of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.
The gospel did not demand the sinner to produce a righteousness of his own. On the contrary the gospel provided the righteousness the sinner needed. This realisation, as good news from the far country of heaven, was to sin-burdened Luther as cold waters to a thirsty soul. He saw that justification was by faith, not by works. He saw that it was grounded on the finished work of Christ, not the endeavours of the sinner. He saw that reconciliation with God was not by works of the law, but by God’s free grace and gift, received by faith alone.
The sound conversion of this one man was going to be used by the Lord to inflict a wound upon the Papal Antichrist from which it has still not recovered. All Luther knew at the time was that he had found peace with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Naturally he wanted others to know this real Christianity. In the university lecture hall and in the church pulpit, he expounded his new-found faith.
His next lecturing series, and the choice is revealing, was Galatians, begun in October 1516. As he explained Paul’s distinctions between the true gospel and the false gospel of the Judaisers, so Luther explained the difference between the clear light of the gospel into which he had been brought, as distinct from the gospel of Popery, which is “another gospel” and therefore no gospel at all.
None of this had much effect beyond the bounds of his immediate hearers. But God had a plan and purpose to use the doctrine that Luther had discovered – Justification – for a radical Europe-wide revolution. Back in apostolic days, when the Lord’s time had come for the gospel to be spread further afield, great persecution arose after the death of Stephen. That sore trial for the Christians scattered them “everywhere” – and everywhere they went they preached the gospel, and many more heard the word of life. In a similar way, in the Providence of God something was to happen in 1517 to provoke Luther into the action that triggered the Reformation.
The pope needed money for completing the pretentious new St Peter’s basilica. Albert of Brandenburg, the chief ecclesiastic in Germany, needed money to pay off the debt he incurred to purchase the archbishopric of Mainz. They agreed to issue a special indulgence, with the profits to be split 50:50. Albert made no mention of using half the proceeds to repay his own debts but only a heart-rending appeal to remedy the neglected state of the remains of Peter, Paul and countless saints in Rome. Those who paid for the indulgence were promised, as one has put it, that they:
would enjoy a plenary and perfect remission of all sins. They would be restored to the state of innocence which they enjoyed in baptism and would be relieved of all the pains of purgatory . . . Those securing indulgences on behalf of the dead already in purgatory need not themselves be contrite and confess their sins.
Tetzel, a Dominican friar and experienced hawker of indulgences, entered town after town with great pomp, and with the deceiving words of medieval religion beguiled the simple, as he stood before the raised cross and the signed indulgence lying on a velvet cushion. He would say:
Listen now, God and St Peter call you. Consider the salvation of your souls and those of your loved ones departed . . . Visit the most holy cross erected before you and ever imploring you. Have you considered that you are lashed in a furious tempest amid the temptations and dangers of the world, and that you do not know whether you can reach the haven, not of your mortal body, but of your immortal soul? Consider that all who are contrite and have confessed and made contribution will receive complete remission of all their sins.
Listen to the voice of your dear dead relatives and friends, beseeching you and saying, ‘Pity us, pity us. We are in dire torment from which you can redeem us for a pittance.’ Do you not wish to? Open your ears. Hear the father saying to his son, the mother to her daughter, ‘We bore you, nourished you, brought you up, left you our fortunes, and you are so cruel and hard that now you are not willing for so little to set us free. Will you let us lie here in flames? Will you delay our promised glory?’
Remember you are able to release them, for
As soon as the coin in the coffer rings
The soul from purgatory springs.
Will you not then for a quarter of a florin receive these letters of indulgence through which you are able to lead a divine and immortal soul into the fatherland of paradise?
Tetzel could not come to Wittenberg itself, because the ruler of Saxony, Elector Frederick the Wise, was intent on preserving Wittenberg’s own indulgence trade connected with its vast store of relics. During 1517, Luther had already been preaching against indulgences, even though his own Church and University were financed by them. But Tetzel had made a mistake in coming close enough for Luther’s parishioners to hop across the border and return with their indulgences. This too-good-to-be-true scam, to buy divine forgiveness with money, provoked Luther into action.
He wrote in Latin a series of 95 propositions, intended for theological discussion and debate among Roman Catholic scholars, contradicting the claims made for indulgences. On 31 October 1517 Luther nailed them to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. They came to be called The 95 Theses.
We make a selection from the Theses:
1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, in saying ‘Repent ye, etc,’ intended that the whole life of his believers on earth should be a constant penance.
2. And the word ‘penance’ neither can, nor may, be understood as referring to the Sacrament of Penance, that is, to confession and atonement as exercised under the priest’s ministry.
6. The Pope can forgive sins only in the sense, that he declares and confirms what may be forgiven of God . . .
21. Therefore, those preachers of indulgences err who say that, by the Pope’s indulgence, a man may be exempt from all punishments, and be saved.
27. They preach vanity who say that the soul flies out of Purgatory as soon as the money thrown into the chest rattles.
28. What is sure, is, that as soon as the penny rattles in the chest, gain and avarice are on the way of increase . . .
32. On the way to eternal damnation are they and their teachers, who believe that they are sure of their salvation through indulgences.
33. Beware well of those who say, the Pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to God.
36. Every Christian who feels sincere repentance and woe on account of his sins, has perfect remission of pain and guilt even without letters of indulgence.
52. It is a vain and false thing to hope to be saved through indulgences . . .
62. The right and true treasure of the Church is the most Holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God.
75. To think that the Popish pardons have power to absolve a man . . . is madness.
76. We assert on the contrary that the Popish pardon cannot take away the least of daily sins, as regards the guilt of it.
Luther sent his Theses to Albert of Mainz, with a letter in which he remonstrated:
Is this the way the souls entrusted to your care are prepared for death? It is high time that you looked into this matter. I can be silent no longer . . . Christ did not command the preaching of indulgences but of the gospel, and what a horror it is, what a peril to a bishop, if he never gives the gospel to his people except along with the racket of indulgences.
The consequences went much further than Luther intended. Not only did Albert forward the Theses to the pope, but more importantly they were translated into German, printed and sent throughout Germany, spreading like wildfire among the people. They became the topic of conversation everywhere, soon reaching other European countries too. The Theses themselves were somewhat narrow and aimed only at the wicked practice of indulgences. They did not contain an explicit statement of justification by faith alone, nor did they dispute the Romish doctrine of purgatory. Nevertheless the implications were there, and God used them as the first sharp edge of the Reformation axe which was to smite the edifice of Popery. The 95 Theses were the trigger for the Protestant Reformation.
Right across Europe, multitudes of souls that had been kept in Roman bondage were going to experience the liberating power of the true gospel. Nations, particularly across the north of Europe and into Scandinavia, were going to be utterly transformed. Over the centuries to come, the truth of the gospel would spread from Protestant Europe to distant parts of the world. Our own church privileges that we enjoy today stem originally from the seeds sown by Luther’s 95 Theses. The Reformation was “the doing of the Lord, and wondrous in our eyes.”
On the threshold of 2017, we should glean a few abiding church principles from this brief remembrance of 1517. There are four: the primacy of Scripture; the necessity of a real conversion experience; the fundamental nature of the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone; and the much-forgotten, much-neglected and much-denied truth that the papacy is very Antichrist.
Firstly, Luther’s experience shows the paramount place and authority that must be accorded to Scripture. When he was in confusion, he gave heed to the Bible, as to a light shining in a dark place. Even when the Bible seemed only to speak against him, he kept studying it. He had to wrestle with its meaning, as he tried to reconcile one part with another.
In the end, Scripture yielded its treasures. The entrance of God’s Word gave him light, and he saw how mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other, in the cross of Christ. As one has put it, from Psalm 22 “the cross had resolved the conflict between the wrath and the mercy of God, and [from Romans] Paul had reconciled for him the inconsistency of the justice and the forgiveness of God.” By having real dealings with the very words of God contained in our Bibles, we have dealings with God. Let 2017 be a year in which we are found searching the Scriptures.
This was no small thing for Luther, who had been taught from his youth to submit to the authority of the church, especially the pope, and to abide by tradition. To go with Scripture against all that was a massive step. But with the Scripture at his side, he could go forth and slay the giant of indulgences. This same confidence in the Word of God would enable him to stand four years later at the Diet of Worms for justification by faith alone, when he would say:
Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.
It was Luther’s conviction about Scripture that would lead him to make one of the great Reformation translations – the Luther Bible – into the German language.
Secondly, although Luther’s experience was exceptionally long and drawn-out, vividly dramatic and definitively clear, yet it contains the very same ingredients that must and do appear in every true conversion. “Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.”
1. Although Luther’s ability and strength of character were exceptional, clearly it was not his own effort and will-power that effected his conversion – he had to be brought to the end of his own resources. His conversion was the Lord’s doing – it was “the work of God’s Spirit”. It must be the same with us. “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Romans 9:16).
2. His prolonged agony under the law shows the Spirit’s “convincing [him] of sin and misery”. We may not feel the same degree of guilt, our law work may not be as long, our struggles to find deliverance may not be as desperate – but thorough conviction of our sinfulness and hell-deservedness cannot be missing. “When He [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).
3. Luther’s “enlightening [of the] mind in the knowledge of Christ” came with an unquestioning persuasion that Christ was the sufficient and only way to acceptance with God. Our coming to know Christ may not be as dramatic. It may not be as immediate in our discernment of it. But a clear and saving view of Christ in His person and work for sinners as taught in the Word of God, spiritually different to what the natural intellect can attain to, is essential. “The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received . . . the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God . . . But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God . . . neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:11-14).
4. Luther experienced the Holy Spirit’s operation in the “renewing of [the] will” as forcefully as anyone. Later he would write The Bondage of the Will, evidencing his acquaintance, by experience as well as Scripture, with the sinner’s inability and unwillingness to repent unto life and believe savingly on the Lord Jesus Christ. Luther shows us clearly that it is the Spirit who changes us in regeneration, “persuading and enabling us to embrace Jesus Christ”. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power” (Psalm 110:3).
5. Luther shows that conversion centres on the exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. True conversion is not just knowing about Christ, but actually “embracing” Christ. The soul lays hold on Christ for righteousness through a faith that includes trust and reliance. The idea that people can be converted and yet have no real dealings of heart with the Lord Jesus Christ through faith is utterly foreign to Luther’s experience. “By grace are ye saved, through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).
6. Luther’s conversion shows that sinners find Christ as He is “freely offered to us in the gospel”. Luther was held in darkness, self-condemned and law-condemned, thinking that the solution must lie in himself, in what he could do or turn himself into. Deliverance came when the gospel opened up to him the provision that God had already made in Christ, and that this was not something that he had to earn, but was offered to him freely, without money and without price. The only place we will find Christ is in the free offer of the gospel, as He invites us: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Thirdly, this review of Luther and 1517 shows us the absolute necessity and fundamental importance of the doctrine of justification. This foundational doctrine was the watchword of the Protestant Reformation five centuries ago. Luther is credited with saying that justification is “the article of a standing or a falling church”. This is an essential reminder in our day, when it is not just popery but even part of professed Protestantism, with its heretical Federal Vision and New Perspective on Paul, that cannot be incisively clear on this.
Justification is the Bible’s answer to the great question: How can man be right with God? More pointedly: How can a sinful man and a holy God be reconciled? What is the answer? Justification. Justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. That is the way – the only way – for man to be right with God.
The Shorter Catechism summarises: “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” There are five parts to this, all seen in Luther:
1. Justification is by grace alone: it is “an act of God’s free grace” – not an act involving any merit of ours in any way. So says Paul in Romans 3:24: “Being justified freely by His grace”. To be pardoned and accepted, this is all of grace. No sinner deserves such a blessing. No sinner can do anything to make himself worthy of it. No sinner pays for it, but he receives it freely. Justification is all of grace. We must join Luther in learning the lesson well that we deserve nothing but wrath. “For by grace are ye saved” (Ephesians 2:8).
2. Justification is through faith alone: “received by faith alone” – not involving works at all. So says Paul in Galatians 2:16: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ”. What did Luther have to do to be right with God? He had to believe on God’s dear Son. He had to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is the alone instrument of justification. “For by grace are ye saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8 again). Nothing was greater to Luther than this: salvation was through faith.
3. Justification involves faith in Christ alone: “only for the righteousness of Christ” – not involving anyone else at all. So says Paul in Galatians 2:16 again: “We have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified”. Luther was turned from focussing on himself to Christ. “Look unto Me and be ye saved” says the Saviour still.
4. Justification means the pardon of all a believer’s sin: “He pardoneth all our sins” – this removes the obstacle to being right with God. So says Paul in Romans 4:7-8 quoting Psalm 32: “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Luther’s sin had burdened him for so long – here was the answer: Christ bore the guilt of sin and His death atoned for sin.
5. Justification also means that the believer is declared righteous before God: “accepteth us as righteous in his sight” – this is the positive benefit of being right with God. So says Paul in Romans 4:6, “David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” The righteousness of God – that was Luther’s problem for so long. What a wonder when He found it provided in Christ! Altogether insufficient for Luther the modern mantra of so much evangelicalism today: I’m justified; it’s just as if I’d never sinned. He needed more than that, and he found it in Christ: It’s also just as if I’d always obeyed – with Christ’s righteousness imputed to me.
Fourthly, these things starkly remind us of the true nature of Popery. Roman Catholicism is not a branch of the visible church but a synagogue of Satan, for it denies and contradicts fundamental doctrines of the faith – in particular, justification by faith alone in Christ alone. It actually taught and practised that the gift of God – salvation and pardon – could be purchased with money, showing that like Simon of old the whole Romanist system has “neither part nor lot in this matter” of God’s saving grace in Christ.
Further, as the Reformers including Luther were to articulate clearly as time went on, the papacy is the very Antichrist predicted by the Word of God. Contrary to Rome’s claims, the pope is not head of the church, but as the Westminster Confession of Faith (25:6) says, “is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God.”
The pope’s true credentials were made clear in Luther’s struggles. Luther did not see this initially, but the things he saw from the first would inevitably lead him to a radical break from Rome. Remembering that Antichrist is not simply one who opposes but one who seeks to replace Christ, so exactly is the pope. Whereas Christ is truly the alone head of the church, Rome claims that honour for the pope. Whereas forgiveness of sin is to be dispensed by Christ alone, Rome accords that honour to the pope. Rome is not Christ, but Antichrist. The pope is not Christ’s vicar, but Christ’s usurper.
When others have backtracked and are backtracking on this identification of the papacy with the Antichrist and Man of Sin predicted in 2 Thessalonians 2, and thus opening the way to all kinds of ecumenical compromise, let us never be deceived! Luther tried the Romanist system to the utmost. It works only condemnation and death – it can never bring justification and life. Those who embrace the true gospel doctrines that Luther did cannot continue or join with Rome.
Scripture’s absolute authority, a true conversion, justification by faith alone, the papacy as the Antichrist – here are four vital church principles to take with us throughout this coming year, half a millennium after Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church. These four principles form a fundamental part of our own church heritage. Let us hold fast to them. And let us be found beseeching the Lord to visit Britain, Europe and the whole world in 2017 with another, much-needed, Reformation.
Rev Keith M Watkins