Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Why Martin Luther is My Hero
I’ll get right to the point! Every since Martin Luther received the revelation from God that salvation was a free gift from God, that came through grace and faith…there has been a chasm between the Catholic and the Protestant. As an ordained Protestant minister I know all of the doctrinal problems involved in Catholicism. I have studied church history in college and on my spare time, I know about all of the church councils through the ages and the anti-biblical decisions they made, I know Peter wasn’t the first pope. I know praying to Mary is not scriptural or right. I know we can confess our sins to the Lord directly and not a priest. I know that a wafer and wine isn’t actually Jesus when I take communion.
I also know that if Martin Luther and some of the other reformers could see where the Protestant movement has gone, I think they would be ashamed and disgusted. If the Apostle Paul could see the confusion and apostasy in the church both Catholic and Protestant he would scream. Why? The Protestant church has become the very thing it despised. I have spent 23 years in the Air Force and have traveled all over the world. I have worshipped in nearly every church imaginable; (including Catholic) these are some reasons and observations as to why I feel there needs to be a second reformation. First the observations: While Catholicism has its problems let’s look at the history and flaws in Protestantism.
First Protestantism has many different groups: Fundamentalist, Evangelicals, Charismatic, Pentecostals, Holiness, Oneness (Jesus Only), and The Word Faith groups. This fragmenting of Protestantism is the first problem in itself. Fundamentalist say they believe in the Bible literally yet most reject the gifts of the Spirit, The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and healing for today. They trust Scofield’s teaching more than they trust the Bible itself. While in Bible College I heard teachers and students a like quote Scofield like he was The Apostle Paul. Evangelicals say they believe in fulfilling the Great Commission yet many Evangelical churches are selectively racist; America has driven segregation out of almost every place except their churches. Martin Luther King said Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week. Both white and black churches are guilty of this. However I must say America’s history is silent concerning the Protestant churches silence through 300 years of slavery and annihilation of Native Americans. The Charismatic movement on a positive note brought praise and worship back to it’s rightful place in the Body of Christ, yet they also ushered in a propensity to place trust “new revelations” that don’t always line up with scripture. I believe in the gifts of the Spirit and the gift of prophecy, but these utterance gifts MUST line up with scripture! According to New Testament examples of prophecy, most prophecies are warnings or words of encouragement; NOT insight on how to be a millionaire. In many Charismatic churches, everyone has a “word from God”; this has caused many a problem in the lives of the saints of God.
I am from the category called Pentecostal, oh yeah we have problems as well. Pentecostals stress the need to be Spirit-filled, which I agree with, yet they over emphasize speaking in tongues; the key issue is the need to be Spirit-filled! I believe in the gifts of the Spirit, I pray in tongues myself…But! Speaking in tongues does NOT confirm a person’s holiness or spirituality. (There are 8 other spiritual gifts!) Show me a Christian that shares Christ (Acts 1:8) and shares love (ICor.13) and I’ll show you a Spirit-filled saint. Holiness churches tell people they must dress a certain way to be saved, look sour and not have any fun, holiness is important and all believers must live separated lives, BUT! Holiness is a way of life that can only occur after the New Birth. Wearing long dresses and black suits in the summer DON”T MAKE YOU HOLY! The Word/Faith movement has done some positive things in encouraging people to study the Word, yet the enemy duped some of them into preaching prosperity as the Gospel and not salvation and a hunger for spiritual blessing versus the material. The other problem with the faith camp is the false teaching of believers never having problems and “divine healing” or the denial of sickness in the life of a believer.
I believe in healing and have received healing myself, but Christians are not exempt from getting sick. (Kenneth Hagin Sr.; Fred Price and his wife; and R.W. Shambach have all preached divine healing and have all been severely ill recently) Remember when Jesus encountered a man born blind, his disciples asked the question, “Who sinned him or his parents?” Jesus said, “Neither”. Paul’s dear friend Epaphroditis was sick nigh unto death, but Paul said God had mercy on him. Saved people can and do get sick! The Lord can also heal us as well. Our faith will be tested one way or another, why should we be any different than Abraham, Joseph, Job, or Daniel; their faith was tested greatly on many occasions. It was because of their faith they endured hard times and persecutions. The Oneness or Apostolic camp believes in Jesus only and denies the Trinity. They also over emphasize the act of baptism. Salvation comes through the avenue of GRACE through FAITH! They believe baptism saves yet the Bible is clear, belief MUST precede baptism or it is an empty act. (Read Philip and Eunuch in Book of Acts) What is my point? The bottom line is Jesus died for our sins and we must preach this to a lost and dying world. I went to a revival 5 years ago (A world famous evangelist was there); he preached before at least 3,000 people and talked about prosperity and healing for 2 hours. He called for a prayer line and never mentioned salvation through grace and faith. What does it profit a man to have prosperity and divine health and not eternal life and a close walk with Jesus.
There is a need for unity amongst believers; this is difficult because each of the groups I mentioned has its good points and strengths, yet they are all flawed in some way. The Word of God has no flaws, and this is where we must meet. I was raised in the Baptist church, I went to a Lutheran School (middle school), I have had fellowship with different groups within the military chapel system, and I worked with foreign missionaries in Korea for 2 years. I helped start the first Church of God in Christ in Korea. During Operation Desert Storm I lead 2 Muslims to Christ with an Assembly of God brother and an apostolic brother. (This was not easy…but it happened) I have preached in Honduras, Turkey, and Somalia. Now why am I sharing all of this? Everywhere I went God teamed me up with people from nearly every group I mentioned…AND IT WORKED! It worked because in the military we didn’t have the luxury of always finding Christians just like you. My first assignment overseas I was teamed up with a Southern Baptist Caucasian brother. He was from Forsythe County, Georgia. This is one of the most racist areas in America, yet we worked together like brothers.
The demonic walls of separation in the Protestant church MUST come down. How can we preach to the Catholic about the mote in his eye, while we the Protestants have a beam in our own? The saints of God must gather at the foot of the cross of Jesus. The Word of God must be all of our training manuals. Salvation by grace through faith is what caused Martin Luther to start the first reformation; we have departed from this in a great way. The doctrine of salvation through grace and faith has to be the preeminent prime directive for the church. Paul said it best in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation, to the Jew first and to the Gentile.” We must rally around the Gospel of Christ as our anthem and battle cry. Paul also said, “Woe unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” What is the Gospel? It isn’t politics, it isn’t prosperity, and it isn’t divine healing or speaking in tongues. These things have their place but they cannot replace the simplicity of the Gospel. Jesus came to save the world! Salvation is a free gift that is for all that desire it. This is what Martin Luther nearly died to protect. Paul did die to protect this doctrine! All of the disciples died for this message of hope in Christ. Let us not stain their memory by dividing over things that don’t impact salvation.
Salvation of the soul is the main issue, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul. Eternity is a long time, Insuring people spend it with the Lord is more important than insuring they have wealth! What do you think can help usher in the Second Reformation?
Chaplain Mark H. Stevens, M.Min
NJ Intstitute of Theological Studies