Next week, I will be teaching and preaching through Germany on a Reformation tour as we follow in the footsteps of the epic event that pierced the bowels of the Roman Catholic Church and unleashed the Word of God upon a dark world after approximately one thousand years of darkness. As I consider the preaching and the teaching of Martin Luther, the leading figure in this movement, some of what he said should be repeated and reconsidered in our present day.
Consider the following statements of Luther taken from his Tabletalk—a collection of Luther’s teachings and “table talk” conversations around his supper table with various students in his home.
Regarding God’s Word
The books of the heathen taught nothing of faith, hope, or charity; they present no idea of these things; they contemplate only the present, and that which man, with the use of his material reason, can grasp and comprehend. Look not therein for aught of hope or trust in God. But see how the Psalms and the Book of Job treat of faith, hope, resignation, and prayer; in a word, the Holy Scripture is the highest and best of books, abounding in comfort under all afflictions and trials. It teaches us to see, to feel, to grasp, and to comprehend faith, hope, and charity, far otherwise than mere human reason can; and when evil oppresses us, it teaches how these virtues throw light upon the darkness, and how, after this poor miserable existence of ours on earth, there is another and an eternal life.
Regarding Free Will
Ah, Lord God! why should be boast of our free-will, as if it were able to do anything ever so small, in divine and spiritual matters? when we consider what horrible miseries the devil has brought upon us through sin, we might shame ourselves to death.
For, first, free-will led us into original sin, and brought death upon us: afterwards, upon sin followed not only death, but all manner of mischiefs, as we daily find in the world, murder, lying, deceiving, stealing, and other evils, so that no man is safe the twinkling of an eye, in body or goods, but always stands in danger.
I would not have preachers torment their hearers, and detain them with long and tedious preaching, for the delight of hearing vanishes therewith, and the preachers hurt themselves.
A good preacher should have these properties and virtues: first, to teach systematically; secondly, he should have a ready with; thirdly, he should be eloquent; fourthly, he should have a good voice; fifthly, a good memory; sixthly, he should know when to make an end; seventhly, he should be sure of his doctrine; eightly, he should venture and engage body and blood, wealth and honor, in the Word; ninthly, he should suffer himself to be mocked and jeered of every one.
Regarding the Devil and Sin
The devil seduces us at first by all the allurements of sin, in order thereafter to plunge us into despair; he pampers up the flesh, that he may, by and bye, prostrate the spirit. We feel no pain in the act of sin, but the soul after it is sad, and the conscience disturbed.
As for purgatory, no place in Scripture makes mention thereof, neither must we any way allow it; for it darkens and undervalues the grace, benefits, and merits of our blessed, sweet Saviour Christ Jesus.
Regarding Jesus Christ
It is, indeed, a great and a glorious comfort (which every good and godly Christian would not miss, or be without, for all the honor and wealth in the world) that we know and believe that Christ, our high-priest, sits on the right hand of God, praying and mediating for us without ceasing – the true pastor and bishop of our souls, which the devil cannot tear out of his hands.