Reading an old issue of Tabletalk magazine yesterday, I spotted a fascinating quote Martin Luther made in regard to the Protestant Reformation. I have no idea of the context which occasioned this remark, and perhaps we don’t really need to know why he said it. At any rate, it gives us much to ponder.
I did nothing; the Word did everything.
At first, Luther’s humility might take us off guard. Looking back, we see that God used this little German monk, who otherwise probably would have been nothing more than a footnote in history at best, to change the course of Western civilization. Let me offer just one example of how the Reformation affected history.
Because of Martin Luther, millions of Christians have been liberated to hear and read the Word of God that lead them to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A century later, a group of these Christians would sail to the New World, hoping to establish a land that honored the Lord and reflected His ways. Their descendants, while largely corrupted by 18th Century Enlightenment thought, built a nation based on Biblical principles and faith in a Creator Who endowed us with inalienable rights. Such a nation could never have existed if the Protestant Reformation hadn’t severed Christians from papal authority.
So Luther’s humble words could cause us to stammer incredulously a bit. He did nothing? Puh-leeze!
Yet Luther saw a vitally important point that I believe we must acknowledge. In and of himself, Martin Luther indeed was an insignificant man. But God’s Word opened His spiritual eyes, enabling him to see how the Roman Catholic Church had replaced the true Gospel with human traditions that exploited the common people and permitted popes, cardinals and bishops to live opulent lifestyles.
More importantly, God’s Holy Spirit used Luther to bring the Bible to the people so that everyone had access to the truth. This access to Scripture in turn allowed men, women and children to come to the Lord directly, no longer dependent on the mediation of priests.
Once Luther and the other Reformers began preaching God’s Word and encouraging their hearers to read it for themselves, the Lord began a revival that swept across Europe like wildfire! Despite the many compromises and deviations that have since sullied the visible church, filling it with false teachers and false converts, the Word of God continues to bring people to saving faith.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~~Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
I agree with Martin Luther. Although the Lord used him powerfully to restore His Church to Biblical Christianity, He did so by opening Luther’s eyes to the Word. From that point onward, the Word indeed did everything.