Pastor’s Notes – Reformation Q&A

Reverend Jonathan Kern

Dear Immanuel Family,

“Thank You” to everyone who has signed up for a Shepherd Visit thus far. I have enjoyed the opportunity to visit you in your homes, and I am looking forward to hearing more of your stories and hearing the ways that God has been working in your lives! If you have not had a chance to schedule a visit, there is a sign-up sheet on the Welcome Center counter with available time slots. You may also call or email me any time.

In my last article, I shared with you many of
the ways that Immanuel will be celebrating the
500th anniversary of the Reformation, and I also discussed the reason for our celebration. The Reformation has always been about Jesus, and we celebrate the comfort of the Gospel being made available to people who desperately needed it. One of the greatest ways we can celebrate the Reformation is by dusting off our Small Catechisms and taking time to refresh ourselves in what Luther taught about the faith.

This month, I wanted to share with you common questions you may encounter as you discuss the Reformation with people outside of the church. In the Lutheran Church, we give thanks for all of the ways that the Lord used Martin Luther as an instrument for sharing the Gospel. Outside of the church, Martin Luther faces some troubling accusations regarding some of his later writings. Many of the accusations are without merit, though Luther was far from a perfect man.

Martin Luther did write some very upsetting things against the Jewish people near the end of his life. The Lutheran Church has repeatedly said that we do not follow nor agree with those statements. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod does not follow Luther’s writings as doctrine or divinely inspired. Luther himself was inconsistent on his writings about Jewish people. He did write against them, but he also said that Christians should honor Jewish people and thank God for them. Lutherans believe that God loves everyone, all people, and that Jesus Christ died and rose for every single person— regardless of their nationality. Because God so loves the world, Christians are called to love, also.

Martin Luther’s writings have also been indicted as propaganda that eventually lead to Hitler’s rise. Some people presume that Luther taught the German people to never resist government authority, even if it is corrupt. This is not accurate! Luther taught that God rules in two different realms: the right-hand realm of the Church, in which God rules by grace through His Word and Sacraments; and the left-hand realm of society, in which God rules by human reason and force to curb evil and preserve order. Luther said that it is not God’s will for the Church to try to rule in the left-hand realm, just as it is not His will for the government to mandate what the Church teaches. Luther did not, however, advocate unquestioned quietism. Toward the end of his life, Luther acknowledged that there are times when the secular authorities might be so corrupt that Christians must resist. Yet Luther said that this should never be violent, but always done in good order and according to law.

You may also encounter people who wonder why we call ourselves Lutherans. The name Lutherans is not primarily a reference to Martin Luther the man, but to his teachings about the truth of the Gospel. Luther reformed the Church by teaching the truth of Scripture. Luther taught that God saves people through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. This salvation is given by grace through faith and not by works. Luther taught what the early Church and the apostles taught in the New Testament. This return to the truth of God’s Word is the cause and reason for celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Many of our congregations are named for saints, yet, it is not the saints we worship, but the Christ whom they taught. The same is true for Luther. It is not the man we treasure, but the truth about Jesus that he proclaimed.

If you have any other questions regarding Luther or the Reformation, I would be happy to address them. They could show up in a future article! You can also check out our synod’s website for all things Reformation: LutheranReformation.org. And don’t forget to sign up for a Shepherd’s Visit!

The Lord be with you all!

Pastor Kern

Comments are closed.