1. LUTHER FINDS THE LIGHT
a. What parable illustrates the experience of Martin Luther when he found the Bible for the first time? Matthew 13:44–46.
“While one day examining the books in the library of the university, Luther discovered a Latin Bible. . . . He had heard portions of the Gospels and Epistles, which were read to the people at public worship, and he supposed that these were the entire Bible. Now, for the first time, he looked upon the whole of God’s word. With mingled awe and wonder he turned the sacred pages; with quickened pulse and throbbing heart he read for himself the words of life.”—The Great Controversy, p. 122.
b. As Luther studied the Word more deeply, what effect did this have upon him? Psalm 119:130; Jeremiah 15:16.
“He who tastes of the love of Christ will continually long for more; but he seeks for nothing else. The riches, honors, and pleasures of the world do not attract him. The constant cry of his heart is, More of Thee.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 187.
2. LIGHT PIERCES THE DARKNESS
a. As Luther studied his Bible further, what conviction did he feel concerning his own life? Isaiah 6:5.
“Angels of heaven were by [Luther’s] side, and rays of light from the throne of God revealed the treasures of truth to his understanding. He had ever feared to offend God, but now the deep conviction of his condition as a sinner took hold upon him as never before.
“An earnest desire to be free from sin and to find peace with God led him at last to enter a cloister and devote himself to a monastic life.”—The Great Controversy, p. 122, 123.
b. As Luther sought to find pardon and peace through painful acts of penance, what was God trying to teach him? 1 Timothy 1:15.
“The pious Staupitz opened the word of God to Luther’s mind and bade him look away from himself, cease the contemplation of infinite punishment for the violation of God’s law, and look to Jesus, his sin-pardoning Saviour. ‘Instead of torturing yourself on account of your sins, throw yourself into the Redeemer’s arms. Trust in Him, in the righteousness of His life, in the atonement of His death. . . . Listen to the Son of God. He became man to give you the assurance of divine favor.’ ‘Love Him who first loved you.’”—Ibid., pp. 123, 124.
c. As he was climbing Pilate’s staircase on his knees, what central Bible truth became clear to Luther? Romans 1:17.
“By a recent decretal an indulgence had been promised by the pope to all who should ascend upon their knees ‘Pilate’s staircase,’ said to have been descended by our Saviour on leaving the Roman judgment hall and to have been miraculously conveyed from Jerusalem to Rome. Luther was one day devoutly climbing these steps, when suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him: ‘The just shall live by faith.’ Romans 1:17. He sprang to his feet and hastened from the place in shame and horror. That text never lost its power upon his soul. From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy of trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ.”—Ibid., p. 125.
3. SAVED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH
a. When in 1517 Luther published his ninety-five theses against the power of indulgences, how did he teach that our works cannot atone for sin? Galatians 2:16; Acts 20:21.
“Luther . . . set before the people the offensive character of sin, and taught them that it is impossible for man, by his own works, to lessen its guilt or evade its punishment. Nothing but repentance toward God and faith in Christ can save the sinner. The grace of Christ cannot be purchased; it is a free gift. He counseled the people not to buy indulgences, but to look in faith to a crucified Redeemer. He related his own painful experience in vainly seeking by humiliation and penance to secure salvation, and assured his hearers that it was by looking away from himself and believing in Christ that he found peace and joy.”—The Great Controversy, p. 129.
b. How alone are we saved from sin and by whom? Romans 1:16; Ephesians 2:8–10.
“By [Luther’s] theses it was shown that the power to grant the pardon of sin, and to remit its penalty, had never been committed to the pope or to any other man. . . . It was also clearly shown that the gospel of Christ is the most valuable treasure of the church, and that the grace of God, therein revealed, is freely bestowed upon all who seek it by repentance and faith.” —Ibid., p. 130.
c. From whom do we obtain a saving faith in Jesus, and how may we increase it? Romans 10:9; Luke 17:5.
“Faith that enables us to receive God’s gifts is itself a gift, of which some measure is imparted to every human being. It grows as exercised in appropriating the word of God. In order to strengthen faith, we must often bring it in contact with the word.”—Education, p. 253, 254.
“Now, brethren, you have educated yourselves so much in doubts and questionings that you have to educate your souls in the line of faith. You have to talk faith, you have to live faith, you have to act faith, that you may have an increase of faith.”—Faith and Works, p. 78.
4. THE SCRIPTURES: THE FOUNDATION OF OUR FAITH
a. What attitude held by Luther towards the authority of scripture became the vital principle of the reformation? Colossians 2:8; Isaiah 8:20.
“[Luther] firmly declared that Christians should receive no other doctrines than those which rest on the authority of the Sacred Scriptures. These words struck at the very foundation of papal supremacy. They contained the vital principle of the Reformation.”—The Great Controversy, p. 126.
b. In an effort to counter the effect of Luther’s teachings, in 1529 the German Emperor prepared a Decree that would end religious freedom and restore the authority of the Roman Catholic church. What two principles contained in the Protest of the Princes of Germany against this decree constitute the essence of Protestantism? Acts 4:18–20; 5:28, 29; Matthew 15:8, 9.
“‘The principles contained in this celebrated Protest . . . constitute the very essence of Protestantism. Now this Protest opposes two abuses of man in matters of faith: the first is the intrusion of the civil magistrate, and the second the arbitrary authority of the church. Instead of these abuses, Protestantism sets the power of conscience above the magistrate, and the authority of the word of God above the visible church. In the first place, it rejects the civil power in divine things, and says with the prophets and apostles, ‘We must obey God rather than man.’ In presence of the crown of Charles the Fifth, it uplifts the crown of Jesus Christ. But it goes farther: it lays down the principle that all human teaching should be subordinate to the oracles of God.’—D’Aaubigne., b. 13, ch. 6. The protesters had moreover affirmed their right to utter freely their convictions of truth. They would not only believe and obey, but teach what the word of God presents, and they denied the right of priest or magistrate to interfere. The Protest of Spires was a solemn witness against religious intolerance, and an assertion of the right of all men to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences.” —Ibid., pp. 203, 204.
“Satan’s manner of working against God and His word has not changed; he is still as much opposed to the Scriptures being made the guide of life as in the sixteenth century. In our time there is a wide departure from their doctrines and precepts, and there is need of a return to the great Protestant principle—the Bible, and the Bible only, as the rule of faith and duty.”—Ibid., pp. 204, 205.
5. THE WORD BRINGS LIFE TO THE SOUL
a. What does the Word of God do for those who hear or read it? Psalm 119:103–104.
b. How did Luther’s teaching of the Word of God affect those he taught? Romans 10:17; Hebrews 4:12.
“The word of God, by which Luther tested every doctrine and every claim, was like a two-edged sword, cutting its way to the hearts of the people. Everywhere there was awakening a desire for spiritual progress. Everywhere was such a hungering and thirsting after righteousness as had not been known for ages. The eyes of the people, so long directed to human rites and earthly mediators, were now turning in penitence and faith to Christ and Him crucified.”—The Great Controversy, p. 133.
c. What will happen as we study and obey the word of God? John 17:17.
“The Scriptures are the great agency in the transformation of character. . . . If studied and obeyed, the word of God works in the heart, subduing every unholy attribute. The Holy Spirit comes to convict of sin, and the faith that springs up in the heart works by love to Christ, conforming us in body, soul, and spirit to His own image. Then God can use us to do His will. The power given us works from within outwardly, leading us to communicate to others the truth that has been communicated to us.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 100.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What was Luther’s reaction to finding a Bible for the first time?
2. What fallacy became clear to Luther as he climbed Pilate’s staircase?
3. In what way alone can a sinner be saved?
4. How can we continue to uphold the essence of Protestantism today?
5. What role do the Scriptures have in transforming character?