Martin Luther & John Wesley
Category : Glenda's Soap Box
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a German professor of theology, a composer, a Augustinian monk and a priest.
Traumatic Event that Gave Luther a Sense of His Destiny in God:
In July of 1505, Luther got caught in a violent thunderstorm, in which a bolt of lightning nearly struck him down. He considered the incident a sign from God and vowed to become a monk if he survived the storm. The storm subsided, Luther emerged unscathed and, true to his promise gave up his studies to become a lawyer and began living the spartan and rigorous life of an Augustinian monk. His brush with death early on served to convinced him that he had a higher purpose for his life.
REVELATION: Justification for believers is by faith alone.
"...the just shall live by faith." Romans 1:7
After receiving this personal revelation, in 1517 Luther penned a document attacking the Catholic church’s corrupt practice of selling “indulgences” to absolve sin. His “95 Theses,” which propounded two central beliefs—that the Bible is the central religious authority and that humans may reach salvation only by their faith and not by their deeds.
In Luther's time, this statement constituted heresy. The very thought endangered established religious protocol that- when opposed- gained some an invitation to a martyr's death, oddly enough at the hands of the religious leaders of the day. The power of this revelation would literally, not only change the course of Luther's life, but also change the course of history in the lives of millions of people in many generations.
This revelation also signaled a major shift in Luther's life which placed him in direct opposition to the beliefs and practices of the Church in his day.
On November 9, 1518 the pope condemned Luther’s writings as conflicting with the teachings of the Church. One year later a series of commissions were convened to examine Luther’s teachings. The first papal commission found them to be heretical, but the second merely stated that Luther’s writings were “scandalous and offensive to pious ears.” In 1520, Luther was given 120 days to recant his words, which of course he did not, and this led to his excommunication from the Catholic church. A short time later, his writings were burned and he had to go into hiding for a time as he continued writing. When he returned to Wittenberg, the reform movement, which was begun by his words, had grown far beyond his ability to control.
Some of Luther’s most significant contributions to theological history, however, such as his insistence that as the sole source of religious authority the Bible be translated and made available to everyone, were truly revolutionary in his day. His work translating the Bible into German took 10 years and sparked even more controversy, and gained even more followers.
Luther's words effectively fractionalized the Catholic church (which never fully recovered) and sparked the Protestant (Protester's) movement, which was shaped by Luther's radical ideas. What followed was a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics which divided Western Europe for over 150 years.
His central teachings, that the Bible is the central source of religious authority and that salvation is reached through faith and not deeds, shaped the core of Protestantism.
When I think of revivals resulting from the Protestant Reformation, I think of the Scottish Reformation for example in the late-1500 to 1600's when Scotland was aflame with the power of God fueled primarily through the Protestant reformers in that country. Fast forward to the late 1790’s in the frontier of America and you will find descendants of those same Scottish Protestant reformers conducting camp meetings in the Second Great Awakening kindling spiritual fires that literally burned across the new nation.
John Wesley (1703-1791) was a theologian and a priest in the Anglican Church.
Traumatic Event that Gave Wesley a Sense of His Destiny in God:
In 1709, when Wesley was only five years old he was rescued at the last minute from a fire at his families parsonage in Epworth. (The fire being set by disgruntled townsfolk that did not like Samuel Wesley, John's father.) Apparently, John had slept through all the commotion of his family running for their lives from the fire that was consuming the structure. His nursery was directly under the flaming roof. Long story short, he was rescued from a second story window seconds before the roof collapsed.
Haunted for years by that terrifying experience, Wesley wondered why he had been saved as a “brand plucked from burning.” Years later the answer became evident when the Lord used Wesley to carry the message of reform to England.
REVELATION: Salvation for believers is by faith alone.
"...by grace as you saved through faith." Ephesians 2:8-9
Such a simple statement which was given to Wesley by divine inspiration changed the course of his life and deeply impacted the lives of millions of others. This new revelation that transformed Wesley's life would be such a powerful challenge to the beliefs of his day that he would no longer be welcome to preach inside a church, which in Wesley's time was the only place that any Anglican priest was allowed to preach.
Like Martin Luther, this revelation signaled a major shift in Wesley's life which placed him in direct opposition to the beliefs and practices of the Church of England in his day.
So, what happens when Wesley (because of the radical nature of his revelation) is no longer welcome to preach in a church that has been duly consecrated by a bishop? He encounters a friend, George Whitefield that is doing the unthinkable. Field preaching! Preaching to the unchurched in the open fields! Whitefield challenges Wesley to consider the possibility and invites him to preach to a crowd of unchurched people outdoors in Kingswood. Wesley describes the event: "At four in the afternoon I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation to about three hundred people from the appropriate text- 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor'."
Society in his day, particularly religious people, did not appreciate the truth of his message, which brought on what seemed to be continual persecution and opposition.
This story is told regarding the persecution that generally followed his message:
Wesley was riding along a road one day when it dawned on him that three whole days had passed in which he had suffered no persecution. Not a brick or an egg had been thrown at him for three days. Alarmed, he stopped his horse, and exclaimed, “Can it be that I have sinned, and am backslidden?” Slipping from his horse, Wesley went down on his knees and began interceding with God to show him where, if any, there had been a fault. A rough fellow, on the other side of the hedge, hearing the prayer, looked across and recognized the preacher. “I’ll fix that Methodist preacher,” he said, picking up a brick and tossing it over at him. It missed its mark, and fell harmlessly beside John. Whereupon Wesley leaped to his feet joyfully exclaiming, “Thank God, it’s all right. I still have His presence.
He rode thousands of miles (250,000 in his lifetime!), preaching as only a man filled with the Holy Spirit can preach, sharing the gospel with all who would listen. One biographer said he acted “as though he were out of breath in pursuit of souls.”
The original traveling preacher (affectionately known as the Horseman of the Lord) was responsible for launching countless enthusiastic circuit riding preachers bearing the gospel (and little else) to the wild frontiers of America! He did not ask them to do what he had not already done! His passion for souls was reproduced in them.
The rest is history. This once proper churchman (who by the way never left the Anglican church, but they left him) became the living embodiment of revolution and most certainly had the world for a parish. His life's work was, oddly enough, outside of the established church. That is where he thrived as described in this quote:
It is clear that, the ice once broken, he no longer shivered on the bank, but plunged in, and made a success of field preaching wherever he could find hearers and standing room.
Almost everywhere that Wesley preached, people changed for the better. Societies of his converts, known as Methodists, became a national force. It is sometimes conjectured that the Wesleyan revival spared England the kind of bloody revolution that occurred in France.
The revival cut across denominational lines and touched every class of society. England itself was transformed by the revival. In 1928 Archbishop Davidson wrote that "Wesley practically changed the outlook and even the character of the English nation."
It is perhaps no coincidence that the year of his death (1791) signaled the beginning sparks of the wildfire that would become the Second Great Awakening in America, a spiritual event in which his Methodists were among that move of God's most enthusiastic leaders and participants.
(Some of the facts in this article were gleaned from history.com, wikipedia.com, christianityhistoryinstitute.org and christianity.com )