Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott” A Mighty Fortress is Our God
Who would have suspected that the sound of a hammer striking a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, 504 years ago this October 31st, would be heard around the world and ultimately lead to one of the greatest transformations of Western society since the apostles first preached the Gospel throughout the Roman empire. Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in 1517 provoked a debate that finally culminated in what we know as the Protestant Reformation.
Now, while on this Reformation weekend much of our society will be focused on candy and scary costumes, some Protestants are celebrating what was one of the greatest movings of God’s Spirit in history. And to us, most importantly, was what Luther declared in one of his 95 Theses, that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, as Paul declares in Ephesians 2. “It is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, NOT OF WORKS lest anyone should boast.” And we know that this was a serious repudiation of the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church of his day.
But Luther was not only a theologian, a reformer, and a linguist who translated the New Testament from Greek into German, he was also a musician. He played the lute and flute, sang tenor, and composed music. In fact, music was so important to him that he said: “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise.” He went on to say that the gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through Music.“
Luther composed thirty-six hymns and along with fellow musicians compiled a hymn book in which the hymn that is most identified with him was included. And I’ll never forget singing this hymn in the Wartberg Castle in East Germany where in 1521 Luther went into hiding after being excommunicated from the RCC and declared a heretic and an outlaw who could be killed without consequence. And as I sang along with the Revival Heritage Tour Group Patricia and I were leading, I couldn’t help but think how the world was so radically changed, not through war or political might, but through one man empowered by God who refused to recant from what he knew was truth. NO WONDER HE WROTE what is called The Battle Hymn of the Reformation. A Mighty Fortress is Our God
1 A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper he, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.
2 Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.
You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name, from age to age the same;
and he must win the battle.
3 And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
4 That Word above all earthly powers no thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever!