Home | Stories | Praise & Prayer | Who Am I?
Why Did Martin Luther Defy the Roman Catholic Church? Was there any truth to his charges?
Martin Luther is remembered and widely honored today in much of the world—certainly throughout the West.
The recent movie about his life was a Hollywood success that attracted large secular audiences in spite of its religious content.
Luther stood up courageously against the false doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church despite Pope Leo X's determination to arrest and burn him alive at the stake.
He had been disillusioned while visiting the Vatican and seeing the hypocrisy and open immorality among the clergy from priest to pope.
The final straw was Rome's selling of indulgences for supposedly releasing one's dead relatives from purgatory to enter heaven. The infamous sales pitch that raised millions of dollars promised, "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs."
The proceeds from this shameless scam paid for repairing and enlarging St. Peter's Basilica. That awesome structure stands today as a monument to the false gospel that Church still regularly preaches!
Disillusioned and furious, Luther wrote his Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences (known as "The Ninety-five Theses") and nailed it to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church.
Copies were widely distributed in several European languages, shaking Europe, inciting heated debate, sparking the Reformation, and the exodus of millions from the Roman Catholic Church—and hopefully bringing salvation to many of them.
Although Luther retained some of his Catholicism, his bold declaration before the Imperial Diet at Worms (in stark contrast to the attitude of so many Christians today) has inspired millions:
"I am bound by the Scriptures... and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything... Here I stand; may God help me."
That he really meant what he said is proved by the fact that it should have cost him his life had not some powerful German princes taken up his cause and protected him in protest against Rome—an event from which we get the designation "Protestant."
Desperate to maintain the Church's totalitarian authority, Catholic bishops and cardinals launched a counter-Reformation defining Church doctrines and demanding obedience thereto at the Council of Trent (1545‑1563).
Its Canons and Decrees (see below) denounced the sole authority of Scripture affirmed by Luther, denied salvation by faith in Christ without Church sacraments and good works, and basically rejected everything the Reformers asked the Church to accept in submission to God's Word.
The Council of Trent pronounced more than 100 anathemas (excommunications or damnations) against all who accepted any Reformation teaching.
It was costly to stand for the truth of God's Word in those days, and many thousands would not compromise their convictions in spite of torture and death.
We are in great need of a revival of such unwavering conviction today. It will not come, however, without an awakening of an individual hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:6) and deep passion for our Lord and for His Word.
Sadly, the truth of God is not only neglected and compromised today, but is actually undermined by many whom millions of Christians look up to as evangelical leaders.
Tragically, multitudes are being prepared to follow the great delusionthat will befall those who "received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved" (2 Thessalonians 2:8‑12).
Is the fifteenth-century Reformation and Rome's opposition to it at that time merely interesting history with little relationship to the church and world today? Hardly!
The battle continues and has reached a far deadlier phase. A growing delusion has deceived multitudes into embracing ecumenical compromise while imagining that they are still on the Lord's side.
In 1962, at the opening of Vatican II in Rome, Pope John XXIII affirmed, "I do accept entirely all that has been decided and declared at the Council of Trent." Vatican II itself "proposes again the decrees of the Council of Trent." On December 13, 1995, honoring the 450th anniversary of the opening of Trent, Pope John Paul II declared, "Its conclusions maintain all their value."
Regardless of what a Catholic friend, a liberal priest, or a professor at a Catholic university may say, Trent remains the official teaching of Rome and has been reconfirmed many times since by the highest Church authority.
Below are only a few of Trent's anathemas, all of which were renewed by Vatican II, The Code of Canon Law, and the current Catechism of the Catholic Church, and which remain today as the official teaching of Roman Catholicism, sustaining the inflexible dogmas of that "infallible" Church, regardless of statements by anyone to the contrary.
A Few of the Roman Catholic Trent Curses
None of the following have biblical support.
If anyone denies that by... baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted, [or] denies that... [the] justice, sanctification, and redemption... of Jesus Christ is applied both to adults and to infants by the sacrament of baptism... let him be anathema.... (Rome's emphasis.)
If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law (i.e., the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church) are not necessary for salvation... and that without them... men obtain from God through faith alone the grace of justification... let him be anathema...
If anyone says that baptism is... not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema...
If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out... that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema...
If anyone says that the sacrifice of the mass... wherein that life-giving victim by which we are reconciled to the Father is daily immolated on the altar by priests... is a mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross but not a propitiatory one... offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities, let him be anathema.
No bolder nor clearer rejection of the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ could be declared!
This brief sample presents the actual teaching of Roman Catholicism as it is taught to and practiced by hundreds of millions of Catholics today.
There is no disputing the fact that this is a false gospel, which, sadly, holds Roman Catholics in bondage on their way to the flames—not of a "purgatory" invented by popes, but to the eternal Lake of Fire.
How can those who profess to admire Luther and the Reformation defend Catholicism?
Given these indisputable facts, no evangelical should call Roman Catholics born-again Christians.
But the shameful irony is that so many evangelical leaders and their followers, while claiming to honor the Reformation and its gospel of salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ, at the same time close their eyes to the truth and act as though the Reformation never occurred and as if Catholics believe the biblical gospel.
Has it been forgotten that those who do not believe the gospel of Jesus Christ by faith alone and not by works are eternally lost? Will their endless doom be on our hands?
Shameful ironies abound. Although the Roman Catholic Church no longer burns opponents at the stake (a practice now repugnant even to the secular world), it still maintains every false teaching and practice opposed by Luther and his fellow Reformers, thereby deceiving countless millions.
It still teaches salvation through baptism, good works, and the other sacraments mediated by Mary as the "doorway to Christ"; it still offers indulgences at a price for release from purgatory to heaven; and it still rejects the final authority of Scripture!
Eroded dramatically are the teachings of the God-inspired New Testament which was approved at the Roman Catholic Council of Hippo in 393 AD.