Luther — The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer

Luther — The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer

Last year I was introduced to Stephen McCaskell and I knew immediately that he was a gifted man.  McCaskell uses his gifts to tell an important story from church history—one that all of us need to know.  The official trailer of his new film documentary of Martin Luther was unveiled at the 2017 G3 Conference back in January.  Just a couple of weeks ago, the film was released and I had the privilege to view it with my wife this past weekend.  If you’re looking for a simple summary to describe it, I would say it’s historically accurate and brilliantly presented through the interviews and the motion graphics.

Why should you consider watching a documentary on the life and legacy of a man who lived 500 years ago in church history?  Not only is history important, but the study of church history should be something that all Christians give themselves to at some level or another.  It’s important to know where we stand in a long line of gospel people.  This film on the life of Luther gives us a unique look into his life and reminds us of the importance of the Reformation.

The History

This year marks the 500th anniversary of what’s known as the Protestant Reformation.  A simple document, intended to spark a debate among the scholarly world and Roman Catholic community in Wittenberg, Germany, was nailed to the castle church door and turned into a spark that set the world ablaze.  Martin Luther wanted to talk about the theology behind the selling of indulgences, and it turned into a massive world-changing controversy.  This eventually led to a movement which eventually morphed into a protest.

This is a wonderful year to learn more about Martin Luther, the central figure in the Reformation.  If you don’t know much about church history, this documentary will aid you in building your knowledge about the Reformation and key figures of the protest known to us as the Reformation.  Often with documentaries and historical biographies, men can become giants—exaggerated to the level of super human where we often fail to remember that they too have feet of clay.

Stephen McCaskell does a great job of reminding us that Martin Luther was a unique and gifted man that God raised up for a unique purpose in church history.  However, like all of us, he had both flowers and flaws.  In a balanced way, McCaskell tells the story of Luther’s life and provides us a balanced view of his flaws.  This is perhaps best explained by Carl Trueman in one of the sections of the documentary as he called Luther a “bull-headed man.”

The Interviews

As you can expect with any documentary, the film contains footage of interviews with authors, scholars, and preachers on the subject of Luther’s life and legacy.  In a masterful way, these segments are woven together along with the motion graphic sections to make for a stunning presentation.  McCaskell interviews some of today’s leading voices and personalities on the life and ministry of Martin Luther including R.C. Sproul, Carl Trueman, Steven Lawson, and more.

In a way that does more than attempt to memorialize Luther, the authors, theologians, and preachers who are interviewed do an excellent job of providing details pertaining to the man known as Luther.  As Dr. R.C. Sproul stated, “Luther blazed the rediscovery of justification by faith alone, and he restored the church’s focus to Christ alone.”

The Motion Graphics

Not many historic documentaries use animated graphics to tell the story of a person from history, but McCaskell employs animation in his film in a natural and non-distracting manner that ads great value and appeal to the story.

No matter what your knowledge base of Martin Luther’s life and place in church history is, you will find this documentary to be a great resource for your library.  Luther accurately covers the life and ministry of the central figure of the Reformation. This documentary is powerfully presented with key interviews and stunning motion graphics. This is a great time to learn about Martin Luther and the Reformation that not only rocked the false church of Rome—but impacted the entire world.  This resource would be good for both a home and church library.

How to watch Luther:  You can rent it online or purchase your own copy in Blu-ray or DVD.

Connect on Social Media:  FBStephen McCaskell on Instagram | Web

Is the Pope the Antichrist?

Is the Pope the Antichrist?

Five hundred years ago (officially October 31st, 2017), Martin Luther, in opposition to the false salvation that was being sold in the form of indulgences by the pope and the Roman Catholic Church, sparked the Protestant Reformation.  The Ninety-Five Theses called out the false salvation system, and eventually Martin Luther would be brought to embrace the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  What was intended as a debate in 1517 was in full protest mode by the Diet of Worms in 1521.

Pope Leo X despised Luther, and referred to him as a “roaring boar of the woods [who] has undertaken to destroy this vineyard, a wild beast [who] wants to devour it.” Luther described the Pope by saying:

We here are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the seed of the true and real antichrist.  I owe the Pope no other obedience than that I owe to antichrist” (August 18th, 1520). [1]

Luther is also quoted as saying, “I am persuaded that if at this time St. Peter in person should preach all the articles of Holy Scripture and only deny the Pope’s authority, power and primacy and say that the Pope is not the head of all Christendom, they would cause him to be hanged.” [2]  Many preachers and theologians throughout church history in the wake of the Reformation pointed to the pope as the Antichrist.  John Calvin writes:

Some persons think us too severe and censorious when we call the Roman pontiff Antichrist. But those who are of this opinion do not consider that they bring the same charge of presumption against Paul himself, after whom we speak and whose language we adopt… I shall briefly show that they are not capable of any other interpretation than that which applies them to the Papacy. [3]

The question remains, should we look at Pope Francis as the Antichrist, the papacy itself as the Antichrist, or should both be viewed as one of many antichrists referenced by John in 1 John 2:18?  In order to consider this question, I want to cite two historical references and then examine God’s Word for clarification in order to formulate our position.

The Statement of the 1560 Geneva Bible

During the reign of Queen Mary I (aka: Bloody Mary) in England, the protestants fled England and many people landed in Geneva, Switzerland where the protestants were welcomed with open arms.  John Calvin was preaching and teaching in Geneva during that time, and the city had voted to embrace the Reformation.  This provided a “safe city” for the refugees who came looking for religious freedom.

During this time, John Knox fled to Geneva under persecution, and he would eventually become the pastor of the English refugees in the Auditoire De Calvin which is next door to the St. Pierre Cathedral, the church Calvin pastored in Geneva.  Under Calvin’s oversight, John Knox and a group of scholars worked to produce the first study Bible in English history.  The Bible was published in 1560 and was known as The Geneva Bible.  It would be the Geneva Bible that was brought off of the Mayflower onto the soil of America years later.

The 1560 Geneva Bible translated Revelation 11:7 as, “And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that cometh out of the bottomless pit, shall make wars against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.”  The study note attached to this verse stated the following:

That is, the Pope which hathe his power out of hell and cometh thence.

This statement, and a few others in the 1560 Geneva Bible, caught the attention of the Roman Catholic Church.  It was eventually vilified and rejected.  From the political protest that developed, the 1560 Geneva Bible was labeled “Calvinistic,” a term of derision.  Although it was rejected by the Roman Catholic Church, it was well received by the people.  It would serve as the household Bible for over three generations.

The Statement of the 1689 London Baptist Confession

If you are a Baptist today, you are connected to the 1689 London Baptist Confession, also known as the Second London Baptist Confession.  It’s from the pages of this confession that other historical Baptist confessions flow—including The Baptist Faith and Message 2000.  Many Baptist churches still embrace the 1689 LBC since it is much more thorough and contains stronger language on various doctrinal positions.  In chapter 26, on the article of the church, the 1689 LBC states the following in paragraph 4:

The Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the church. By the Father’s appointment, all authority is conferred on him in a supreme and sovereign manner to call, institute, order and govern the church.  The Pope of Roman Catholicism cannot in any sense be head of the church; rather, he is the antichrist, the man of lawlessness, and the son of destruction, who exalts himself in the church against Christ and all that is called God. The Lord will destroy him with the brightness of his coming.

Notice the specific statement regarding the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.  In clear language, without ambiguity, the authors of the 1689 LBC reference the Pope as the antichrist.  For that reason, many people who appreciate the serious approach to theology choose not to embrace the 1689 LBC because they disagree with this statement.  Shawn Wright, in his article titled, “Should you use the 1689 London Confession in your church?” comes to the following conclusion:

The SLC’s historical conditioning is also shown in its view of the Roman Catholic bishop of Rome, the pope. Pejorative references to the Catholic church were part and parcel of seventeenth-century Protestant polemic, but a local church would be wiser to restrain from using such violent language in our day. A church can—and should!—disagree with much Catholic theology without having to affirm that “the Pope of Rome” is “that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (26.4). [4]

The Pope Is Antichrist

According to the official positions of the Roman Catholic Church, the pope is referred to as the “Vicar of Christ.”  The word “vicar” is connected to vicarious, meaning that the pope stands in the place of Christ.  The bishop of Rome (the pope) is likewise referenced as the “holy Father.”  Once again, this is a title reserved for God Himself.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2034:

The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are “authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice.” The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for.

In addition to exalted titles, the Roman Catholic Church also lavishes exalted privileges reserved for Christ.  Note the language of the infallibility of the pope in CCC 891, a teaching that clearly violates the Scriptures.  No matter where you stand on matters of eschatology, the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are blasphemous and heretical teachings that must be rejected.  When we look to the Bible, we see clear warnings regarding the antichrists who were already in the world during the days of John the apostle (see 1 John 2:18 and 2 John 1:7).

The popes of historical periods such as the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have come and gone, so we must reject the idea that one of the historical popes was the Antichrist – that specific man of sin or son of perdition mentioned in Scripture.  While we can, with reasonable certainty, conclude that Pope Francis is not the Antichrist — in like manner we must conclude that he’s not a true Christian.  Such a position is based on the clear heretical teachings of the Roman Catholic Church regarding the office of the pope and their teachings on salvation (for more, see my article titled, “The False Salvation of the Roman Catholic Church“).  Anthony Hoekema provides a helpful point for us to consider in conclusion:

We conclude that the sign of the antichrist, like the other signs of the times, is present throughout the history of the church. We may even say that every age will provide its own particular form of antichristian activity. But we look for an intensification of this sign in the appearance of the antichrist whom Christ himself will destroy at his Second Coming. [5]


  1. LeRoy Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, Vol. 2., (Washington, D.C., Review and Herald, 1948). 121.
  2. John MacArthur, “The Lord of the Church” — Ligonier Ministries, May 14th, 2009.
  3. John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.4.7.
  4. Shawn Wright, “Should you use the 1689 London Confession in your church?” — 9Marks Ministries, March 1st, 2010.
  5. Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 162.

 

The False Salvation of the Roman Catholic Church

The False Salvation of the Roman Catholic Church

As you know by now, Pope Francis has visited the United States within the past week, and prior to his visit, the most recent papal visit came back in 2008.  In a lengthy and politically charged visit by Pope Francis, we have all had news streams filled with images of the Pope being adored by people as they gathered in large crowds to get a glimpse of him.  As he paraded along in his “Pope Mobile” he offered blessings in the sign of the cross to crowds.  You can get a glimpse from one person’s video they took on Fifth Avenue in New York as they captured footage of the Pope riding through the city.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article asking the question, “Are Roman Catholics Christians?”  Today, I want to focus upon the doctrine of salvation taught by the Roman Catholic Church.  With approximately 69 million Roman Catholics in the United States, this is an extremely important subject to consider.  Suppose a person asked, “Pope Francis, what must I do to be saved?”  How would he respond?

The False Salvation of the Roman Catholic Church

According to official Catholic doctrine, in order for a person to be saved, it’s quite a tedious task.  It involves steps such as actual grace, faith, good works, baptism, participation in the sacraments, penance, indulgences, and keeping the commandments.  In short, the doctrine of soteriology taught by the Roman Catholic Church is a works based system where a person must work their way to God.  Below you will see some citations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Necessity of Faith (not alone)

Faith is central to Christian theology, but according to the Roman Catholic Church, it’s merely one aspect of the system of salvation.  According to their Catechism, they write:

  • “Faith is necessary for salvation. The Lord himself affirms: ‘He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned,’ (Mk 16:16)” (CCC 183).

According to the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, faith is necessary for salvation.  That’s good, but they don’t stop there.  Faith, in Catholic theology, is merely the starting point.  They build from there adding to faith other works of man – including involvement in “the Church” and tradition.

  • “Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation,” (CCC 846).

The Necessity of Baptism

  • “Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us through Baptism. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who justifies us. It has for its goal the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life. It is the most excellent work of God’s mercy” (CCC 2020).
  • “Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude…” (CCC 1257).

As you can see, according to the Roman Catholic Church, baptism is necessary for salvation.  In a blasphemous way, they claim, “The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude.”  Their reference to “The Church” is a reference to the Roman Catholic Church.  They don’t recognize any other church as legitimate.  The basis of their claim is centered on their belief that “baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin” (CCC  405).

The Necessity of Good Works and Power of the Human Will

  • “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).

Notice how they place “faith alone” in the direct cross hairs of their teachings.  They vehemently oppose the teachings of Scripture that salvation comes by faith alone in Jesus Christ.  Furthermore, they likewise teach that human will prepares us and cooperates with God in order to bring about justification.  This stands in contradiction to the teachings of Scripture.

True Salvation in Jesus Christ

The Scriptures are clear regarding the doctrine of salvation.  In fact, that was the central issue of the Reformation – salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the remission of sins.  Nearly 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the castle door in Wittenberg.  Luther said, “If any man ascribes anything of salvation, even the very least thing, to the free will of man, he know nothing of grace, and he has not learned Jesus Christ rightly.”  The 5 Solas of the Reformation were based on this clear teaching – salvation is a gift of God.

  • Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
  • Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
  • Sola Fide” (Faith Alone)
  • Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
  • Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory)

Right from the beginning, the Reformers stood upon the sole authority of the Bible as opposed to the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church.  The Bible is God’s Word and we must stand upon it alone as our authority.

The Necessity of Faith Alone in Christ Alone

Was it our works or the work of Christ that satisfied God?  According to passages like Isaiah 53 and 1 John 2:1-2, it was the work of Christ.  Paul makes it abundantly clear that our salvation is a gift of God and not of works as he writes to the church at Ephesus:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8-9).

John Calvin comments:

This passage affords an easy refutation of the idle cavil by which Papists attempt to evade the argument, that we are justified without works. Paul, they tell us, is speaking about ceremonies. But the present question is not confined to one class of works. Nothing can be more clear than this. The whole righteousness of man, which consists in works, — nay, the whole man, and everything that he can call his own, is set aside. We must attend to the contrast between God and man, — between grace and works. Why should God be contrasted with man, if the controversy related to nothing more than ceremonies?

There will be no boasting before the Lord of our works.  The work of attending and joining a church is insufficient.  The work of the “sacraments” is insufficient.  The cooperation of the human will is insufficient.  All of these acts and deeds are nothing more than frail attempts to please God.  We can’t please God in our flesh.  We have nothing to offer Him that would impress Him or satisfy His holy justice.  That’s why Paul makes the clear point – “not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:9).

The Frailty of the Human Will

The Bible teaches that before salvation, our human will is dead (Eph. 2:1).  According to John 1:13, we are not born again by our human will.  If the human heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9), how does the Roman Catholic Church teach that we must cooperate with God in order to receive justification?  Commenting on Ephesians 2:10, John Calvin writes:

What remains now for free-will, if all the good works which proceed from us are acknowledged to have been the gifts of the Spirit of God? Let godly readers weigh carefully the apostle’s words. He does not say that we are assisted by God. He does not say that the will is prepared, and is then left to run by its own strength. He does not say that the power of choosing aright is bestowed upon us, and that we are afterwards left to make our own choice. Such is the idle talk in which those persons who do their utmost to undervalue the grace of God are accustomed to indulge. But the apostle affirms that we are God’s work, and that everything good in us is his creation; by which he means that the whole man is formed by his hand to be good.

Therefore, we must conclude that salvation is a gift of God and is bestowed upon guilty sinners out of sheer mercy and love – not based on any performance or work that we offer up to God.  Everything we do in our worship and service to God is by means of a changed heart that God wrought in us and willed to do before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-7).

I’ve had Roman Catholics claim that they don’t actually believe in a works based salvation and that they cling to Christ alone.  My question to that individual is very simple – why do you remain committed to a church that teaches a doctrine of salvation that is blasphemous to God, robs Him of His glory, and devalues the work of Christ on our behalf?  Why not break from Rome?  Unless you’re committed to their “true Church” theology, you should break from Rome immediately once you come to see the false salvation of the Roman Catholic Church.  Charles Spurgeon, the well known English Baptist preacher, once said:

It is the bounden duty of every Christian to pray against Anti-Christ, and as to what Anti-Christ is no sane man ought to raise a question.  If it be not Popery in the Church of Rome there is nothing in the world that can be called by that name…because it wounds  Christ, because it robs Christ of His Glory, because it puts sacramental efficacy in the place of His atonement, and lifts a piece of bread in the place of the Saviour, and a few drops of water in place of the Holy Ghost, and puts a fallible man like ourselves up as the Vicar of Christ on earth; if we pray against it, because it is against Him, we shall love the persons though we hate their errors; we shall  love their souls though we loath and detest their dogmas, and so the breath of our prayers will be sweetened, because we turn our faces towards Christ when we pray.