A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
by Seattle ALC
The strains of the triumphant hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” again are heard as churches throughout the christian world celebrate another anniversary of the reformation. This mighty hymn of faith, composed by Martin Luther, remains the church’s living testimony to its faith in the power of God. Christian hearts rise in praise and thanksgiving as with renewed confidence they sing of the One whose invincible power has done marvelous things, whose right hand and holy arm have obtained victory for them. (Ps. 98) He it is who ransomed them from the power of the grave and who redeemed them from death. The One who said: “0 death, I will be thy plagues. 0 grave, I will be thy destruction.” (Hosea 13: 14)
This hymn is as a battle cry to the church of Christ. It is a call to trust in the power of the One who said: “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16: 18) So often fear is allowed to rule in our hearts–a fear that is so paralyzing that we wonder if we dare to take another step on the way of life. Fear caused all except two of the spies sent on a survey mission to return with the report that they were like grasshoppers in comparison with the inhabitants of the land that God had promised them, and they urged the people to return to Egypt’s bondage. Thank God for the faith of Joshua and Caleb.
In Luther’s day also, he faced formidable odds His own personal safety was at stake. Yet in the same spirit that moved Paul when he left Ephesus for Jerusalem (Acts 20: 22-24) Luther went to the Diet of Worms saying that if there were as many devils in the city of Worms as tiles on the roofs of their houses, he would still go. What moved him? Was it not a love of the truth which had set him free? Was it not a desire to see souls held in spiritual darkness and bondage freed through faith in the gospel? His mission was to preach the gospel–to hold out the cardinal doctrine of the christian faith that the just shall live by faith.
During the time that Luther spent in seclusion at the Wartburg Castle, he continued to propagate the gospel through written messages. When he learned that the work was being hindered by those whose emphasis was outward in nature; i.e., removing the adornment from the churches and destroying the images and the statues and reforming in that way, Luther left the security of his captivity. He once again mounted the pulpit in his familiar place at the Wittenberg church and gave voice to the word which he knew alone is able to change men’s hearts.
Neither could be abide those who tried by political means to work in the kingdom of God. He firmly opposed those who thus exerted influence on people and tried to convert and enlist them in their cause. The history of that age tells us that the exertion of such political power led to bloodshed and that one such reformer in Switzerland died in a sword battle. He had forgotten the words of Jesus: “Put up thy sword again into his place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matt. 26:· 52)
Today we need also respect the One who is the head of the church. Let us trust in and wait on Him, knowing that He who has given us the keys of the kingdom–the keys of loosing and binding-has retained the keys of death and hell in His own hand. The word states that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. We are therefore, to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, putting on the whole armour of God so that we may stand against the wiles of the devil. (Eph. 6) “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” (II Cor. 10: 4)
From the archives of the late Pastor Alvin Holmgren October 1990
Submitted by Pastor Stan
October 29, 2022
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