Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses

Martin Luther helped spark a revival in the church that continues today. If you worship Jesus at any Protestant congregation, you can thank this German monk.

The son of a copper miner, Martin Luther was an exceptionally bright young man. He began studying law at the university level when he was only 13, and he completed his degree in the shortest amount of time allowed. When he was 21, Luther nearly died in a severe thunderstorm. He thought God was threatening him so he vowed, “I will become a Monk if you save me!”

As a Roman Catholic monk, Luther was terrorized by God’s wrath because of his sin. Luther had a tremendously sensitive conscience. Sin tormented him so much so that he tried to justify himself before God by any means possible. Prayers, extreme fasting, self-flagellation, and even staying in the freezing cold were all attempts to get God on his side. Luther’s entire life was one, grand self-salvation project. He once said, “If anyone would have gained heaven as a monk, I would have been among them.”

Luther’s self-salvation project eventually waned and ultimately dissatisfied his soul. While he pursued a doctorate in Bible, he began to see how the gospel is centered upon justification by faith, not works. After God revealed this to him, primarily through Psalms and Romans, Luther stated: “Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.” This God-salvation that transformed Luther’s life led to one of the most courageous, individual acts in world history: nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church in Wittenberg.

Because of Luther’s new birth in Christ, he grew restless with the Catholic Church’s position on a number of issues, including justification, papal authority, the authority of Scripture, and forgiveness of sin. He particularly opposed the church concerning indulgences. An indulgence was a statement made by the church that removed or satisfied the punishment for sin. A person could purchase an indulgence to ensure that they would spend the least amount of time possible in purgatory. This communicated to lay people that sin was not only excused but encouraged because salvation could be bought with money. Indulgences were thus the main issue in his theses.

On All Saint’s Eve, October 31, 1517, Luther marched to the Castle Church to nail his theses to the door. Church doors in those days served as community message boards. Due to the next day (All Saint’s Day) being a church holiday, nearly everyone in Wittenberg would have seen his post within 24 hours as they arrived for services. Luther was calling for a city-wide, public discussion of the church’s wicked practices. Luther wrote in Latin, but the theses were translated to German and because of the invention of the printing press they were spread around Germany within two weeks and around Europe within two months.

The Ninety-Five Theses called the church to repentance. Luther’s first thesis set the tone for the Reformation: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matt. 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Indulgences had become the treasure of the church, but Luther pushed back with perhaps his most majestic contention of all: “The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God” (Thesis 62).

Luther proclaimed that those who sold indulgences within the church were false prophets who declared peace, when there was no peace (Thesis 92). True confidence was found not in works or trying to buy salvation, but through faith in Christ and suffering with him through tribulations (Theses 94-95).

With this protest, Luther sparked the greatest church revolution since the end of the first century: the Protestant Reformation. Luther was called to recant of his beliefs in 1520. He denied and was excommunicated, exiled, and outlawed by Charles V in 1521. He went on to translate the Bible to German, wrote the Larger and Small Catechism, and was even an accomplished hymn writer. Luther’s doctrine was not without flaw, but his legacy continues. On this Reformation Day, however, we do not celebrate Martin Luther. We celebrate Jesus whom he pointed to, and the God whom he received grace from to recognize error, repent of sin, and stand for truth.

Thank you Father, for your servant Martin Luther, and how you used him to restore your church back to the gospel of grace found only in Jesus Christ!

The Psalms and Jesus

I am passionate about gospel-centered ministry and interpretation. Perhaps Luke 24:27 has influenced me recently more than any other verse. After Jesus’ resurrection, he is walking to Emmaus with two disciples. They are depressed because Jesus has died and they thought he was the Messiah. Jesus snaps them out of their depression and tells them that the whole Old Testament is about him. Luke writes, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (24:27).

I have taken this to heart in my ministry and in how I interpret the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament. That was Jesus’ Bible and if we want to know Jesus, it’s not enough just to know the New Testament. The Old Testament is two-thirds of your Bible and we must know it and interpret it through the same lens Jesus used: himself.

The most beloved Old Testament book is Psalms, and each Psalm is “Messianic” in that it points ultimately to Jesus. Because of this, I will begin compiling and posting short Christocentric (i.e. Christ-centered) commentaries/devotions on each of the 150 Psalms. You can check back here as new posts are added (below). This page will also be available on the Past Series page.

Let us search the Scriptures and remember that they only have life in them insofar that they point us to the Lifegiver, Jesus Christ (cf. John 5:39). I pray these equip you to apply Christ and not simply look for a rule to follow or a road map during an emotional trial. Oh, that God would use these to spur you to worship and glorify his Son and in that make your joy complete.

Psalm 16
Psalm 45
Psalm 96
Psalm 101
Psalm 142
Psalm 145
Psalm 146

Psalm 16 and Jesus

Have you ever noticed how seemingly flippant the apostles quote the Old Testament in relation to Jesus? On the surface, it appears that they use the Hebrew Scriptures as a grab bag, just pulling whatever the want out of context in order to built up Jesus’ reputation. This could not be further from the truth.

In Luke 24:27 and John 5:39, Jesus said that the law and prophets bear witness to him. So in Acts 2:25-28, when Peter quotes David in Psalm 16, he is following Jesus’ most basic interpretive principal: everything in the Bible is about Jesus.

In Psalm 16, David asks God to preserve him and be a refuge for him. Peter quotes verses 8-11. In the context of David’s life, he’s making a holy argument for why God should not abandon him, and he seeks ultimate hope, joy, and pleasure in God.

Peter interprets this Psalm through the lens of the resurrection. He says in Acts 2:29-32, “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet…he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.”

Peter’s main point is this: Jesus is the true and better David. David’s corpse is still rotting in a grave. Jesus has risen. David prayed to avoid Sheol. Jesus abolished Sheol. Jesus will never see corruption or be abandoned to Hades because he is the only one whose life has never been corrupted. He is the only one who has perfectly set the Lord before him. He is the only one who perfectly rejoiced in the Lord. He is the only one whose pleasure in life and all things was ultimate a pleasure in the Father. Though Jesus did die, his flesh did not see corruption in the grave. Because of Jesus’ perfect life, the Father justified him by resurrecting him from the grave. Jesus therefore defeated corruption and is now seated at the right hand of the Father.

Only when we see Jesus as the fulfillment of Psalm 16 will we overcome the grave and the corruption it brings. Only then will we avoid eternal judgment and wrath. Only when we look to Jesus, who sought true joy and pleasure in his Father, will we experience pleasure forevermore.

Break Time Blog

You don’t know my sister Amy. She lives in China with her husband and she likes to write. She is incredibly talented and has a mind for crafting words and phrases. She blogs at Letters from the Sky and often posts her creative writing. She’s in a writer’s club and today’s post is a short story in which each letter had to begin with next letter of the alphabet. It will make you smile and maybe think twice about how you respond to children if you are a parent. And maybe it will make you think a bit more about being a better question-asker!

Sarah, the Six-Year-Old with Six-Hundred Questions

A couple years ago, when I was only 6, I went through a phase of asking my mother question after question.

But I was not trying to be annoying and I really did want to know the answer to my question of why stars twinkle.

“‘Cause they just do,” mom would say.

“Do space ships run into stars?

Evan at school told me space ships blow up because of stars.”

Facts were very important to me at that age, and mom never gave it to me straight.

“Go ask your dad,” she said, almost every time!

“How about swallowing gum?

I feel sick because Justine gave me a piece of gum yesterday and I swallowed it and she said it would be in my stomach for 7 years.”

“Justine was only kidding.”

“Kidding!” I yelled.

“Lying is more like it.

Mom, I need answers!”

Never before have I been so desperate.

“Or maybe, mom, I just need to know why stars twinkle!”

“Probably, because you are blinking.”

Question after question, the answers never seemed to fit and I was getting frustrated.

Resting for a moment, mom caught her breath like she was getting ready to say something important, and then she said it.

“Stop… asking… questions!”

That’s when I knew my mom meant business.

Underneath all that yelling, I knew my mom wanted me to ask questions because she wanted to answer me, although she never really did.

Victory struck, though, when I asked one question that made mom leave the room.

“Where do baby’s come from?”

“Xenon; the planet Xenon,” she said quickly and walked away embarrassed.

“Yes, so there is a planet called Xenon,” I yelled to mom from the other room.

Zealous for answers about this new planet, I kept on pressing everyday, but even though I’m 8 now, I still don’t know why the stars twinkle.