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A Renegade Monk sounds like a punk rock band.  Actually, it was God's means of starting the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther is the subject of this issue!

"Who is This Drunken Monk?"

This was the question Pope Leo X posed in October of 1517 as he scoffed at the list of 95 topics some obscure priest wanted to debate.  He tossed the paper aside thinking that little would come of it.

Boy was he wrong.

Not only was that monk not drunk, that little piece of paper virtually changed the world.  At the very least, it sparked a whole movement we now recognize as the Protestant Reformation. 

In this issue of the Providence newsletter we are going to seek to answer this same question: “Who is this drunken monk?”  While we owe much to the man who penned that document, he continues to be an obscure little monk for many Christians.  Few evangelicals know anything of the life of Martin Luther or the great things that God did through him to reform Christ’s church.

For this reason we ask that you take a moment to learn about our forefather in the faith as we reflect on his initial dispute with the Church of Rome.  

Where It All Started

Luther's 95 Thesis:   It sounds like petty vandalism to us, but it was the Facebook of its time.  Nailing notices to the door at Castle Church was the way to “get the word out” at the university in Wittenberg.

That is why Luther tacked his 95 thesis there on that October day in 1517. 

Luther was a little peeved at the church’s rabid abuse of a thing called indulgences.  The Church of Rome had started a number of building projects, and they needed some money to fund it.  So they ramped up their advertising and started marketing these indulgences to the people.

An indulgence was basically a means of purchasing one’s salvation.  The church taught that the souls of saints would not go directly to heaven upon death.  Instead they must first undergo a period of punishment in order to pay for the sins that they had committed during their life. Purchasing an indulgence, however, could reduce or relieve the duration of one’s time there.

John Tetzel summed it up best when he said, “When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”

It may very well be that Luther was not altogether against indulgences at the time of his posting his 95 thesis.  Many scholars believe that he was merely protesting the widespread abuses of the practice at the time.  They argue that it was only later that he rejected them altogether.

Whatever the case may be, Luther at least initially understood that the church had no power to grant what God freely offered.  Pardon for sin was only right of God.  Moreover, forgiveness was to be received, not by payments of money, but solely by faith in the promises of God.

This is why he penned his 95 thesis, otherwise known as “A Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.”  He wanted to expose the fraud in the church and see to it that the proper reforms were made.

(Read the 95 thesis. I dare you.)

How Dare You Question the Holy Church?

Luther's blasphemous claims:  The 95 thesis was only the first domino in the Reformation.  Once it fell, a number of others would soon topple.  One in particular was the issue of the church's over reaching claim to authority.

In raising the question regarding indulgences, Luther was doing something that you really weren’t supposed to do back then.  He questioned the extent of the church's authority. 

Through the preceding centuries, people always held the church in high regard.  The church was God’s divine instrument, after all. 

While having a high view of the church is a good thing, having too high of a view is not so good.  The church came to be viewed as so holy that its teaching was considered just as authoritative as the Bible.

In sum, questioning the church was on par with questioning God himself.

One of Luther's arch-opponents in the Roman Church, Sylvester Prierias, wrote in response to Luther's 95 theses and captured this idea.  He said, "He who does not accept the doctrine of the Church of Rome and pontiff of Rome [i.e. the pope] as an infallible rule of faith, from which the Holy Scriptures, too, draw their strength and authority, is a heretic" (1)  

You can see why Luther’s disputes with the church’s doctrines ruffled a lot of feathers.  He flipped that idea on its head and said that the church derives its authority from the Bible!  

So maddened were they that Luther's defiance was perceived as blasphemous.

This is why Luther ended up articulating the doctrine we now know as “Sola Scriptura” (i.e. the Bible alone).  Luther argued that the popes and church counsels were fallible.  That is to say, he believed that they could err and contradict themselves.  As such, they must be subservient to the perfect word that God had laid down in the Scriptures.

Luther would never debunk the church altogether.  He recognized that the church’s testimony was useful in understanding the Scriptures.  However, he made it clear that the Bible was the final authority.  No matter how helpful the church and its clergy may be (or princes and political figures for that matter), they are not the ultimate standard for life and faith.

It always comes back to "What doth the Bible say?"

It has been dubbed "The Battle Hymn of the Reformation," and rightfully so.  Luther's triumphant hymn "A Mighty Fortress is our God" has prevailed as the classic rallying song of Protestantism.  If you are not familiar with it, give it a listen here!

Or, if you'd like something a little lighter, listen to the not-so-classic Reformation Polka.  Or, for the hip hop crowd, the Reformation Rap.
"Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying."
Martin Luther

Have you seen the new website?

If you haven't seen the new look of our cyber presence, make sure you check it out!  

You not only see that it has got a snazzy new design, but you will notice a number of new features.  One of the updates is a blog where we will be posting pictures, news items, devotions, and other useful little tid bits relating to the church's life & ministry.  We have also integrated our other social media so that people can easily access our e-newsletters and facebook page. 

When you have friends and family you are talking to about the church, be sure to direct them to www.free-reformed.net

Here I stand.  I can do no other.
If you would like an enthralling introduction to the life and work of Martin Luther, you can begin with this clip.  (We can also get you the whole movie, if you are interested).  This scene re-enacts Luther's courageous stand and historic speech before the Diet of Worms.

Luther was called to this gathering to recant his “heretical” teachings.  The drama of the moment is astounding as the stakes were high.  Before him were the cardinals of the Roman Church and the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire himself.  

Luther knew that his very life was at stake.  The Emperor could have him executed right there if he failed to heed the will of the Church.

For a further introduction to the life of Martin Luther read this brief bio that our brother Mark Hamilton wrote.

Reformation Sunday!

This Lord's Day Providence will has a number of special activities planned in honor of Reformation Day.  We will begin with our regular Bible reading at 9:30 am.  At 9:50 we will then view a short documentary on the life of Martin Luther.  

Our 10:30 worship service will also have a distinctive Reformational flavor.  We will be singing a number of Reformation hymns and hear Mark Hamilton preach from the Scriptures on the doctrine of faith alone.

Providence Church meets in the Lion's Club in Mifflin, OH on Sate Route 603.  

At Providence you'll find a traditional service that integrates the great hymns of the church with quality contemporary songs and psalter selections.  The service is saturated with Scripture and focused on the majesty of God.

For more information go to www.free-reformed.net.

Congregational Life

Great pictures of great activities!:  The Providence family enjoyed a great day of worship and fellowship at the Mohican Outdoor School this past month.  We even have the pictures to prove it.  You can give them a gander at our website.  

We also had a fantastic turnout for the Ashland Care Center's Walk for Life (as you can tell!)  We appreciate all who participated, whether it was by walking or by financial contribution!  

Do know that we are always looking for pics to post.  So if you have any, feel free to send them to Matt.

All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart,
will certainly be heard,
and will receive what they have asked and desired

Martin Luther 

Reformed, and always Reforming

Get in the Word!: If the Reformation did anything, it pointed people to the Scriptures.  The goal was to be continually reformed by the Scriptures.  

That's exactly what we at Providence Church wish to do, and that's why we offer all kinds of discipleship opportunities.

We are happy to announce that a Bible study is being formed in the Mansfield area!  Our first meeting will take place on Sun. Nov. 4th at 6:30 p.m. at the Kennards (Email for directions).  We will have a study and then discuss how we want to procede as to format and frequency of meetings.

Of course, we have a number of other studies going that you can choose. if you would like to link into one.  Or, if you would like more personal and intensive discipleship, our leadership is always open to doing that kind of mentorship.  Just let us know!

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