500 years ago today—April 13, 1521—Martin Luther stood before the assembled heads of state of the Holy Roman Empire at the Diet of Worms, Germany.  Roman Catholic historian Lord Acton termed the moment “the hinge of history…” Luther himself had a different hinge in mind—a hinge on heaven’s door.  He was there to defend his writings, which contradicted church rules and traditions. They all stemmed from a revelation he had while meditating on the first chapter of Romans in his monastery cell a few years earlier.  Verse 17, an old familiar passage, hit him like a thunderbolt this time—“…the righteous shall live by faith.” R. C. Sproul relates, “And he began to understand that what Paul was speaking of here was a righteousness that God in His grace was making available to those who would receive it passively, not those who would achieve it actively, but that would receive it by faith, and by which a person could be reconciled to a holy and righteous God… ‘When I discovered that, I was born again of the Holy Ghost. And the doors of paradise swung open, and I walked through.’” That led to his writing 95 Theses, controversial issues and practices he wished to debate with church authorities, which he had nailed on the Wittenberg Church door. It shook the world like a massive meteor strike that became known as the Protestant Reformation and led to Luther’s command performance at Worms. But there was no defense or debate allowed, just a demand by the church authorities to recant. Luther refused. He declared, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God,” and in the providence of God he changed the course of world history.   

Out of a few hundred works of art I’ve produced on my scroll saw, this depiction of the Reformation is my favorite: Luther’s Rose, his personal seal, itself rich in symbolism, anchored to the framework of the Triune God whose Gospel is explained by the five “Sola’s,” (Latin for “alone”), of the Reformation:  We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone as revealed in Scripture alone, all by Grace alone for the glory of God alone.

Catholics and Protestants, though we share the foundational Apostles Creed, will earnestly debate the sola part of these “Sola’s,” clarified in the Reformation, till Jesus returns. No matter where you attend church, know its doctrinal claims. Be a Berean. Search the scriptures. Pray that the Holy Spirit would enlighten you through His Word. Examine yourself. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. There’s nothing more important in life than the state of your eternal soul. Five hundred years after saying it, knowing it could bring a death sentence in that era but fearing God more than man, Luther’s courageous words at Worms still resonate in millions of Christian minds around the world, including mine—“Here I stand.”

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