Dr. Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Following the great spiritual conflict at the imperial diet at Worms between Martin Luther and his accusers (1521), the Roman Catholic Church issued a Papal Bull for Luther’s excommunication. Not only was Luther’s soul threatened, but also his physical life. A supportive German Prince, Frederick of Saxony, providentially arranged for his “kidnapping” from the Roman Catholic authorities. Heavily-armed knights, loyal to Frederick, disguised themselves as common thieves and captured Luther, whisking him off to a castle high in the mountains of Thuringia. For almost a year he lay hidden in “The Wartburg” under the false name “George the Knight”. During this time he grew a beard and carried a large sword to complete the disguise. Although the Reformation went on without him, he did not fall into a period of melancholy and apathy. Instead, he used his time of concealment well, translating the entire New Testament into the German vernacular (1522). He also began work on a translation of the Old Testament which he completed later (1534).
Moreover, during this time of forced detainment he wrote many stirring hymns of which “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is the best known. When you consider the promises of Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength”, and how Luther was safely hidden in the Wartburg, then it is easy to understand his powerful lyrics:
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
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 doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great; and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.
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.
Dost 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.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath 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.
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.
May God Encourage You in the On-going Battle for Truth,
Rev. Marcus J. Serven, Th.M.
Lyrics from A Mighty Fortress: Trinity Hymnal (rev. edit.), Atlanta, GA: Great Commission Publications, 1990.
Copyright November 2005. Rev. Marcus Serven, Th. M.
Used by Permission. All Rights Reserved.