Share This Episode
Running to Win Erwin Lutzer Logo

Luther: The Wild Boar In The Vineyard Part 3

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
June 8, 2023 1:00 am

Luther: The Wild Boar In The Vineyard Part 3

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 898 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

June 8, 2023 1:00 am

Who gave up all he knew about religion, to break free from centuries of confusion about the Gospel? Martin Luther. In this message, Pastor Lutzer reveals the historical background of Luther’s ninety-five theses, answering questions about the Reformation and the doctrines of the faith. Let’s uncover the treasures of the Gospel.

This month’s special offer is available for a donation of any amount. Get yours at or call us at 1-888-218-9337. 


Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. What makes a man give up all he knew about religion and break free from centuries of confusion about what the Gospel means?

Our current study is all about just that. We're learning how Martin Luther rediscovered the truth of the Gospel and how you and I can do the same. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, the Reformation led to a plethora of denominations, each of which felt they had a corner on the market of Bible truth. Is this an unfortunate byproduct of what Martin Luther accomplished? Dave, I think that your question is very fascinating. It's an excellent question. It's difficult to answer in just a few sentences. On the one hand, it was predicted that there would be a number of different denominations and groups arise when the Bible was taken from the hands of the priest and given to the laity.

In one sense, that was inevitable. If you go on and ask another question, why is it that we don't all agree, having the same Bible you'd think that we would, there are reasons for that. But let's remember that the central issue of the Reformation had to do with the doctrine of salvation. Do we contribute to our salvation through our works, or is it a divine gift? I believe that these messages are critical in helping us to understand and appreciate our faith.

For a gift of any amount, these messages can be yours in permanent form. Ask for the series The Reformation Then and Now. Here's what you do.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now let us listen carefully. Let me ask you something. Was Luther saved when he was confessing his sins six hours at a time?

No. And there are many people today in our churches that confess their sins regularly and they are not converted for the same reason that Luther wasn't. Can't remember them all. Tomorrow's another day. We only are saved when we see that Jesus Christ is our substitute, dying in our place and receiving the gift of eternal life and his righteousness once for all that is credited to us, and that righteousness is ours even while we still struggle as sinners. That's why Luther said that Christians are both saint and sinner.

They're both. And we are both saint and sinner. The righteousness of Christ credited to us. The terrors of law and of God with me, they can have nothing to do. My Savior's obedience and blood hides all of my sins from view. My name is written on the palm of his hands. Eternity cannot erase. Forever there it stands a mark of indelible grace. How do you get to heaven? You get to heaven by recognizing that you bring nothing to the table except your sin. Somebody said, don't I contribute? I said, yeah, you really do. Your contribution is your sin. That's your contribution. God supplies everything.

Everything is one sided. Luther says in his commentary on Galatians that the righteousness of God, he thought of it as a passive righteousness where he says the flowers in the field, they cannot cause the rain, but they receive the rain that comes from above. And it's not because they take their own righteousness as it were.

It is the rain that comes from God. In the very same way, it is the righteousness of God that is given to sinners that saves us. And assurance of salvation therefore comes to us. Assurance comes because we now are no longer depending on ourselves. Our merit is found in Christ alone. We don't have to merit eternal life. Jesus merited it for us and we are saved totally on the basis of what he did.

That is the gospel. Now I was going to tell you that after that Luther walked a half mile and it is about a half a mile from his headquarters there in Wittenberg where the university once was. And he walked to the Castle Church. And at the Castle Church he nailed 95 theses. And the reason that he did that is that Pope Leo back in Rome needed some money. He needed some money because the tears of St. Peter's Basilica that you see on the news all the time today were laid but the project was unfinished.

So the question is how do you get money? So Pope Leo and there was a tradition that went along with this said what we need to do is to sell indulgences. And indulgence was a piece of paper that you received that you were free from the temporal punishment of your sins. Did not mean that you necessarily guaranteed heaven eternal punishment that was in God's hands but you could be free from temporal punishments and here was the thing that was added by Pope Leo. That it not only applied to the living but also to the dead because remember purgatory was part of temporal punishment too. It was not eternal punishment. So you not only were able to receive an indulgence for your own sins but for the sins of your mother and the sins of brothers and relatives and so forth if you paid some money. Well there was a man by the name of Tetzel.

Tetzel came not to Wittenberg because the Elector Frederick wouldn't allow him there but Tetzel came and he began to preach. He brought a cross into the various marketplaces of the towns and set it up and said that this cross was of more value than the cross of Christ. He also said that if you pay a gift you can get your friends and your relatives out of purgatory. There was a little jingle that was played which in effect said as soon as the coin in the coffer rings another soul from purgatory springs. Luther thought that that was an abuse and he wrote the 95 theses. I don't know how many of you have seen those theses. They're very interesting. One of the things that I remember I think it was number 38.

I chose some of my favorites. I think it was number 38 that said this if the Pope is really able to open purgatory if he has that power why doesn't he do it out of pure charity rather than needing money to do it. That's a pretty good thought. If he has the power to do it why does he need to get paid to empty purgatory and on and on it went. He didn't think that indulgences were wrong.

He just thought that they were being abused. It is only later that his theology began to develop and it was later that after the 95 theses were posted that Pope Leo said regarding Luther because word reached Rome regarding the theses which were originally written in Latin translated into German and then because of the printing press spread throughout Germany. Pope Leo said Luther is a drunken German he shall feel differently when he is sober. You know if at that point Pope Leo had said you know we need to reform this things might have been entirely different but because he took such a hard line Luther began to take a hard line and that is how the Reformation began. Well next time I'm going to tell you the story of Luther at the Diet of Worms.

I think that if we see videotapes in heaven that's one that I want to see. Luther before Pope Leo and also the princes of Germany making his famous stand but we're going to discuss other doctrines which began to develop as a result of this Reformation. Well now let me take just a moment to answer some of the questions from last week. Do you see a need for a similar reform today? If so what do you think would be the nature of that reform? I think we do. I think that what we need to do is to return to the gospel. There's so much unclear gospel preaching today. We've taken the cross of Jesus Christ and we have hidden it behind health and wealth and political agendas and all the rest and what we need to do is to get back to the central issue. How do people go to heaven and can you have assurance that you will go to heaven? So I think that the church does need reform.

Here's an interesting one. If we accept the authority of the Jerusalem Council in Acts and the rulings of some of the early church councils at what point would you say non-Catholics, I guess that's us as Protestants, break with the church councils? Actually I'm not sure if you take the first seven councils of the church, I'm not sure that we as Protestants really strongly disagree with any of them because most of the councils have to do like with the deity of Christ and you have Chalcedon, the humanity of Jesus and the deity of Jesus.

We buy into all that. The dividing line comes this way and I'm not sure that the councils deal with this specifically. I'm not up on all of them but the dividing line is this.

Is salvation a free gift to be received by faith or is righteousness something infused in us through religious rituals? And that kind of becomes the dividing point but most of us accept the creeds of the early church. All right, in light of the fact that there have been so many abuses throughout church history, why didn't God treat all of these people who abused the church like he did Ananias and Sapphira and just simply end their lives? Well one reason is because some church basements may not be big enough for a morgue. It seems as if God began the early church with his great emphasis on purity as a lesson about the need for honesty and Ananias and Sapphira were deceptive and God smote them.

Since that time he has not been doing that very, very often. At what point in the history of the church did the teaching practices and theology go wrong? Up until the time of Constantine in about 312, that's when he crossed the Tiber River and conquered Rome. The church had heresies but basically the doctrine of the church was very much in line with what we call evangelicalism. It is true of course that there were those who spoke about the sacraments as containing Christ as if Christ was at least really present in the sacraments and so forth. Sometimes baptism was confused because there are texts that indicate that baptism becomes necessary for salvation rather early on. But it was the time when Constantine took the church and he began to appoint the bishops and pretty soon you have the amalgamation of church and state and that's where you have the grand synthesis of pagan theology and Christianity. For example the Romans had a God if you were going to buy something, a God if you're going to sell something, a God if you're going to go on a journey. Those gods could not be brought wholesale into the church but they were given the same responsibility, the same responsibilities were given to saints.

So if you're going to travel, what is it? St. Jude. If you're going to sell a house, it's a different saint. We have some friends who buried a statue of a saint, a little statue of a saint in their yard when they were selling the house. I forget which saint it was but saints then were given these same responsibilities as the Roman gods. So you have a synthesis because you have mass conversion, sometimes two or three thousand people were converted from paganism to Christianity in one ceremony and as a result of that many practices came into the church with which some of us have disagreement. How then is the Catholic Church's teaching of righteousness different today? Not entirely sure, not entirely sure. Righteousness is still considered to be something that is dependent upon human effort and some of you who are reared Catholic can correct me on that if I'm wrong but I've talked to enough and had enough experience to know that that synthesis of human works and divine works is still out there and the whole uncertainty issue, the inability to be able to have assurance is there too because that goes along with it because if salvation is 90 percent of God and 10 percent of me, I'm never sure that I'm keeping my 10 percent end of the bargain.

So there is always uncertainty and I think that that uncertainty by and large is still there. Why was there not a similar reformation in the Eastern Orthodox Church? That is a fascinating question and I'm not sure that I am capable of answering it entirely except to say that Eastern Orthodoxy went its way after 1054. Hagia Sophia, when I was in that church in Istanbul a couple of years ago, I went to the Western door because I wanted to stand where that delegation came in and where they left and they went back to Rome. When the Pope in Rome excommunicated the Bishop of Constantinople as the city was called at that time and then the Bishop of Constantinople tore the papal bull in two and let it blow in the wind and refused to accept the authority of the Pope and East and West had been drifting apart for a number of different reasons and that was the final break.

And later on there were attempts to bring them together but as time went on that became impossible. Eastern Orthodoxy has some important differences with Catholicism, not only that they don't accept the Pope, they have icons etc. and not statues and there are other doctrinal issues, but I cannot answer that question exactly. Though there are Eastern Orthodox people today who are studying the scriptures and becoming more evangelical as they are doing it.

Like a woman who read the Bible through twice in one year said to me and these are her words, she said, you know the Bible is not a Catholic book, she said, and many Catholics are studying the Bible so there are great changes in the Catholic Church, don't get me wrong, great changes, but for some of us we'd say that things aren't there yet. Do you have a final question? Oh very good, James, faith without works is dead and you're not justified by faith alone but also by works it says in James, right?

Here's a very quick answer. When you read the book of James you discover that he is not using the word justification in the same sense that Paul is. He is using the word justification in the sense of vindication. Your faith is proven. You say well how's that? Do you just do that arbitrarily because it fits?

No. If you read it you'll notice that he says Abraham was justified by faith when he offered Isaac up on the altar. That means that Abraham's faith was vindicated when he did that.

You say well how do you know it? It's because in Genesis 15 before he offered up Isaac on the altar, before he did that it says and Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness. That was Abraham's justification.

Not in Genesis chapter 22 when he offered his son but rather in Genesis 15. That's where you find justification by faith in Abraham's life. When he's talking about offering up Isaac on the altar he's talking about the word justification in the sense of vindication. Jesus used the word justification like that once in a while too. He says by your words you shall be justified and by your words you shall be condemned. Are you telling me that Jesus is saying by your words you're going to be justified in the presence of a holy God?

I don't think so. What he means is by your words you shall be vindicated and in the very same way by your words you shall be condemned. So you reread that passage with that little bit in mind and I will think that James does not contradict Paul. Next time we're going to talk about how the pebble fell into the lake and how all of these ripples began to spread as a result of Luther's Reformation which some of us believe is really God's Reformation ultimately. And by the way are you here tonight and you've never trusted Christ as Savior and you have no assurance that you're going to heaven? The Bible says that if we receive Christ and his gift we have the authority to become the children of God, to be those children. Assurance is yours if Jesus paid it all. And our Lord tonight we want to thank you so much for grace that has been given to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. We thank you today Father that we can be declared righteous by God. Thank you for the gift of righteousness which assures us a place in your kingdom. Thank you that in Jesus we are as perfect as you are. Help us today to walk in that truth and to be fully satisfied with what Jesus did. We pray in his name amen.

My friend this is Pastor Lutzer. Isn't it wonderful to realize that no matter how high God's standard is it's beyond our ability to comprehend but we don't have to meet it. Jesus met that standard for us. And if you believe today that when Jesus died on the cross he did all that will be necessary for you to stand in God's presence and you embrace that for yourself you will be saved and you'll be welcomed by God in the name and the authority of Jesus. That's the good news of the gospel.

We're making these messages available to you in permanent form because we can't help but think that some of you may have missed some of the messages that often happens but furthermore you have friends and relatives who need to understand that the better we come to grips with the past the better it is for us to be able to understand our present and even our future. Ask for the series The Reformation Then and Now. Also I've written a book entitled Rescuing the Gospel the story and the significance of the reformation but if you want more info here's what you do go to that's hope that you have a pen or pencil handy you can call us at 1-888-218-9337.

Let me give you that info again or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the series of messages entitled The Reformation Then and Now. You'll be instructed you'll be inspired and you'll be invigorated as you begin to understand the tremendous price paid for the gospel for its presentation that we enjoy today.

Thanks in advance for helping us and God bless you together we're making a difference. It's time once again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. What kind of structures belong inside a church building? Joseph wrote to us with this question. I heard Pastor Lutzer say he thought having an altar in a church was wrong but he did not expound on the subject. Why is it wrong? Thank you for your time and consideration Pastor Lutzer.

Well my friend thank you so much for writing and asking about this question. The point that I was trying to make is usually when you think of an altar you think of sacrifice and the Bible is very clear that Jesus Christ as our sacrifice was sacrificed for us. So I don't believe that there should be any sacrifices in a church. Now of course there are churches who believe that Jesus Christ is re-sacrificed during what is called the mass. My point was simply that the altar does not need to be there.

I don't think that we should call it an altar even though we have a front platform on a church because now Jesus Christ having been fully sacrificed there are no more sacrifices to make. Thank you Joseph for your question and thank you Pastor Lutzer for your perspectives. If you'd like to hear your question answered you can go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer or call us at 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Next time on Running to Win, a recap of the life of Luther and a look at the drama of his witness before the diet of forms. Make sure you're listening as we see what happens when doctrine determines your destiny. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-08 03:36:25 / 2023-06-08 03:44:37 / 8

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime