Today is Reformation Day, and a special one at that. 500 years ago, Martin Luther mailed a collection of 95 statements to Archbishop Albert of Mainz and, it is believed, nailed them to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Known as the famous Ninety-five Theses, they represented his disagreement with some of the practices and positions of the Roman Catholic Church in his day, and they have changed the world—though not in the way it needs to be changed.
Of course, today we live in a culture increasingly ignorant of history and of the moments and individuals of the past who helped to create the world in which we now live. Talk about Martin Luther to someone young enough, and he might assume you mean Martin Luther King Jr. (Confirmation: I note with a quiet sigh, that when I type “mlk” into Google, the top search it currently suggests is “mlk 95 theses.”) In fact, if you strike up a conversation about Luther some individuals, they will probably assume you are talking about the archenemy of Superman.
That is a shame. Luther’s Ninety-five Theses proved to be the theological equivalent of an atomic bomb, cracking the foundations of what was called “Christianity” in his day and rearranging many of the pieces in a different way for the generations that followed.
Most pointedly, the theses attacked the Roman Church’s practice of selling “indulgences”—a remission of sins, according to Roman Catholic belief—that would allow “immortal souls” currently suffering in Purgatory to be released earlier into heaven than they would be otherwise. It was truly a diabolical practice, in which the “Church” preyed upon ignorant people, worried about the status of their loved ones, in order to raise money to build monuments to its own glory—and to feed a corrupt and carnal political system within the church’s hierarchy.
(For the biblical position on the topic of the soul and salvation—which is quite the opposite of the Roman Catholic Church’s—please consider reading our publications Is This the Only Day of Salvation? and Do You Believe the True Gospel?)
It was this damnable practice that Luther targeted 500 years ago.
Consider point 82 of the 95: “Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church?” After all, asks Luther, if the Pope has such power to release suffering souls, isn’t the former desire—freeing them out of love—far more worthy than freeing them for a price?
Or consider point 86: “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?”
Bold words, indeed! Words that proved to be the seed of the Protestant Revolution—named for the spirit of protest it represented—in which theologians felt freed from the boot heel of papal authority to teach the “truth” of God’s word, unencumbered by unbiblical traditions.
But is that what truly occurred?
Sadly, history is clear: The Protestant Reformation succeeded in changing the religion from which it was born, but it failed to truly reform it.
Examine the confusing morass of Protestant denominations around the globe, and you will see not only a mind-numbing Babylon of different, competing belief systems, but also the continuing practice of putting tradition over Scripture (cries of sola Scriptura notwithstanding). Like daughters reflect their mother, the countless churches that were born of Luther’s efforts continue to reflect the system from which they were spawned. To find the truth, you will need to look deeper.
We invite you to read our series on the Protestant Reformation, written by the late Dr. Roderick C. Meredith. It is a tale that will not be told in any of the other celebrations of Martin Luther going on around the world. But it differs from those celebrations in all the ways that truth demands.
The series continues in the next issue of Tomorrow’s World, but you can get started with the links below:
- Part 1: The Plain Truth About the Protestant Reformation
- Part 2: Setting the Stage for Revolution
- Part 3: The Break with Rome
- Part 4: The Reformation Grows
The next startling installment, “Part 5: Martin Luther Unleashed,” will be published within days on this very website. We hope you will come back to read it.
Everybody loves a fish story. Somehow such stories often grow with the telling, stretching the credulity of the listener. Laughs and knowing nods are the response as the listeners express their doubts about the tale of the fisherman.
It may surprise you to know that the Bible contains some fish stories, as well—all true. Jesus, as He began His ministry, called Peter, Andrew, James and John, who were commercial fishermen. He saw something in them that He could use, and He told him that He would make them “fishers of men,” indicating a much more important “catch.” Later, after His resurrection, Jesus was on the shore of Lake Gennesaret. He instructed the men, who had fished all night without a catch, to launch their nets into the deep. They protested, but they did as they were instructed and their nets were so full of fish that it almost sank the boat. Jesus reminded them of His desire for them to become “fishers of men” (Luke 5:1–11).
However, the most interesting and well-known fish story in the Bible is found in the Old Testament Book of Jonah. God instructed Jonah, a prophet, to give a warning message of repentance to the Assyrian city of Nineveh. The Assyrians were a warlike, conquering people, bitter enemies of the Israelites. Jonah wasn’t concerned about the Assyrians’ impending punishment and attempted to shirk his duty. He abandoned his post and ran away. Hiding from God never works, and it didn’t work for Jonah. He booked a passage on a merchant vessel to go to Tarshish. As Jonah slept in the hold of the ship, “a great wind” and a “mighty tempest” suddenly developed and the ship was in imminent danger of breaking up. Realizing that something was causing such a catastrophic turn of events, the captain and crew confronted Jonah. He admitted his sin of disobeying God and urged the crew to throw him overboard. They were reluctant to take this drastic action, but as the storm intensified, they did finally throw him into the churning sea!
Now, this is where the fish comes into the story. Most who are familiar with this Biblical account will tell you that a whale swallowed the reluctant prophet. But, that is not what the Book says. Jonah 1:17 states, “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Then, after that time he was unceremoniously vomited out on land, miraculously surviving this ordeal.
Imagine the terrifying experience of Jonah, enduring three days and nights in the belly of a special fish. The confinement and the smells, being tangled in sea weed, as it says in chapter 2:5, were something he never forgot. God gave Jonah another chance to deliver the warning message to Nineveh.
To Jonah’s surprise and dismay, the Assyrians heeded the warning. They repented, fasted and prayed for forgiveness. God heard their sincere cry and relented, sparing the city and its people. This should have been a cause for great rejoicing. Yet, Jonah was not happy about it. He pouted, sitting on a hillside overlooking the city, waiting for it to be destroyed. The hot sun bearing down on him put him in distress. God mercifully caused a broad-leafed plant described as a gourd to spring up overnight to provide shade for him, which pleased him greatly. To help Jonah learn a lesson, God prepared a worm to attack the plant so that it quickly withered. Jonah again suffered as the hot sun beat down upon his head until he was faint. God used this as a teaching moment, asking Jonah if he was angry about the destruction of the plant. Jonah was belligerent about losing his valued shade. God then said to him, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jonah 4:10–11).
We don’t know if Jonah got the point or not. We hope that he repented and became more concerned about his fellow man.
As we consider this familiar story, we see that God, as Creator, can use the elements of His creation, even a fish and a worm, to accomplish His will.
If you want to know more about how God works with mankind and about His Plan here below, our Bible Study Course (24 lessons) is a fascinating and informative source of Biblical knowledge. It is self-graded, and is available in print or online—totally free of charge.
Article source: https://www.tomorrowsworld.org/commentary/a-fish-and-a-worm