Love Under Fire


A Terrible Crisis

That was a terrible crisis for the Reformation. Luther was not blind to the storm that was about to burst, but he trusted in Christ to support and shield him. “What is about to happen I do not know, nor do I care to know.... Not even a leaf falls without the will of our Father. How much more will He care for us! It is a light thing to die for the Word, since the Word that was made flesh has Himself died.”26 LF 62.1

When the papal decree reached Luther, he said: “I despise and attack it as ungodly and false.... It is Christ Himself who is condemned in it. Already I feel greater liberty in my heart; for at last I know that the pope is antichrist, and that his throne is that of Satan himself.”27 LF 62.2

Yet the demands of Rome were not without effect. The weak and superstitious trembled before the decree of the pope, and many felt that life was too precious to be risked. Was the Reformer's work about to close? LF 62.3

Luther was still fearless. With terrible power he flung the sentence of condemnation back on Rome herself. In the presence of a crowd of people from all levels of society, Luther burned the pope's edict. He said, “A serious struggle has just begun. Up to now I have been only playing with the pope. I began this work in God's name; it will be ended without me, and by His might.... Who knows if God has not chosen and called me, and if they shouldn’t be afraid that, by despising me, they despise God Himself? ... LF 62.4

“God never selected as a prophet either the high priest or any other great person, but ordinarily He chose low and despised people, once even the shepherd Amos. In every age, God's people have had to reprove the great—kings, princes, priests, and wise men—at the peril of their lives.... I do not say that I am a prophet, but I say that they ought to fear precisely because I am alone and they are many. I am sure of this, that the word of God is with me, and that it is not with them.”28 LF 62.5

Yet Luther had a terrible struggle with himself before deciding finally to separate from the church: “Oh, how much pain it has caused me, though I had the Scriptures on my side, to justify it to myself that I should dare to make a stand alone against the pope and identify him as antichrist! How many times have I not asked myself with bitterness that question which was so frequent on the lips of the pope's loyalists: ‘Are you alone wise? Can everyone else be mistaken? How will it be if, after all, it is you who is wrong and who is involving in your error so many souls who will then be eternally damned?’ That is how I fought with myself and with Satan, till Christ, by His own infallible word, fortified my heart against these doubts.”29 LF 62.6

A new edict appeared, declaring the Reformer's final separation from the Roman Church, denouncing him as cursed by Heaven, and including in the same condemnation anyone else who received his doctrines. LF 62.7

Everyone whom God uses to present truths that apply especially to their time will face opposition. There was a present truth in the days of Luther; there is present truth for the church today. But the majority today want truth no more than Luther's opponents did. Those who present the truth for this time should not expect to be received more favorably than the earlier Reformers were. The great controversy between truth and error, between Christ and Satan, is to increase to the close of this world's history. (See John 15:19, 20; Luke 6:26.) LF 62.8