Last 4 Sermons

Welcome back to another episode of 5 Minutes in Church History. On this episode, we are on location and we are at quite a location. This is St. Andreas Church here in the town of Eisleben in Saxon, Germany. Now, we know that this is the town of the birth of Luther and it is also the town of his death. But we are in the church and this is a significant place because it is here – in fact, it is in this very pulpit that is right behind me – it is from that pulpit that Luther preached his final four sermons. Now, Luther was not brought here to preach sermons. In fact, the reason he was brought to this town or came to this town was to settle a dispute. A dispute had arisen over an inheritance among two of the counts in this area, and if this dispute did not get settled it would threaten this area and it would threaten this town and maybe even the folks in this church. And of course, Luther cares about this place. This is the home of his birth, Eisleben, and he cares about this church. He was tired, he was worn out, he wrote in a letter that he was a worn out, sluggish, cold, tired, one-eyed man at the end of his life. And he probably should have stayed in Wittenberg but he came here. We’ll find out in a little bit about his death but it was here that he preached four sermons between January 28th, 1546 and February 14th.

In one of those sermons Luther, with his typical humor, makes the point that God must be a terrible teacher. In fact, God must be one of the most terrible teachers of all time because his pupils, his students, are constantly trying to improve upon his teaching; that they’re constantly trying to improve upon His Word – upon God’s revelation to us. Now, what Luther meant by that was especially the teachings of God, doctrine, that comes to us through His Word. And he is talking about this tendency that we have, in fact, we see it even before we get to the New Testament. We see how it was done with God’s Old Testament and the Pharisees and the Sadducees, how they added to God’s Word. We see it in the first century, in Paul, as he’s working with the church in Galatia and we see it throughout the centuries, throughout the pages, as it were, of Church history, we see how the church is wrongly trying to improve on God’s Word and how the doctrine, the essential doctrine, the crucial doctrine that matters is, of course, the doctrine of salvation. And how, in Luther’s day, in fact, this is what was at the heart of the Reformation, how the Roman Catholic Church had added to the doctrine of Salvation – that they thought they could improve upon this poorly given and poorly taught doctrine from God. So, we see what’s on Luther’s heart, we see what’s on his mind. What’s coming forth from this pulpit in his literally final days, is that we accept God’s Word as it comes to us. That we don’t try to “improve” upon it but that we accept it and that we believe it and that we obey it. Well, it was from this pulpit that Luther preached those final four sermons.

This pulpit, as we understand it, was constructed in 1518 and this church early on had a Lutheran influence. Curiously enough, through the 1520s and 1530s, this church was both Catholic and Lutheran. In the mornings they would celebrate the mass and in the afternoons there would be a Lutheran sermon. Apparently, they were just going at each other all day long. Finally, by 1540, one of the prominent Catholic citizens of this town – a count who was Catholic – died and upon his death this church could become fully evangelische, as they say in Germany, or, it could become fully Lutheran. That’s a good thing because the Lutheran himself preached here in 1546. That’s St. Andreas Church in Eisleben in Saxon, Germany.

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