Martin Luther: The 95 Theses, Take 2

Welcome back to another episode of 5 Minutes in Church History. Last week we were looking at Luther’s 95 Theses, and I ended by reading numbers 92 and 93. Well we didn’t get enough time last week to expand upon that, and they’re so important, so crucial to the Reformation—and also so crucial to Luther—that I thought we needed to spend one more week on Luther. So we’ve called this “The 95 Theses, Take 2.”

For those of you who weren’t with us last week, let me go back and read. This comes from the end of the 95 Theses, and this is numbers 92 and 93. And this is what Luther has to say, “Away then with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, ‘Peace, peace,’ and there is no peace. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, ‘Cross, cross,’ and there is no cross.”

Luther here is actually quoting from the Old Testament; he’s quoting from Jeremiah 6:14. And there Jeremiah is talking about false prophets who say, “Here’s the way to peace—’Peace, peace.'” But in reality, that false way doesn’t lead to peace. Well Luther made a clear connection between what was happening in Jeremiah’s day and what was happening in his day in the church. So he was saying beware of those false teachers who will say, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace there. Instead, what Luther wanted to do, and what he was mentioning here in number 93, he said to the folks, “You need to listen to the prophets who say, ‘Cross, cross,’ and there is no cross.” While there is no cross for us, there is a cross for Christ. But for us, there’s peace.

Well Luther develops this idea even further in the next year. So we have the 95 Theses in 1517, after that, in 1518, we have Luther at the Heidelberg Disputation. And for the Heidelberg Disputation he’s also writing some Theses. And here he develops fully this idea of the theology of glory vs. the theology of the cross. Now usually when we hear glory that’s a good thing, right? We think of the glory of God, and that’s such a noble thing, and such a great thing to talk about. But this is what Luther meant: When he was contrasting the theology of glory with the theology of the cross, for him he was using glory to talk about human accomplishment, human achievement, in short, human glory. And Luther saw that as a way to summarize what was happening in the church in the early 1500’s.

Well, contrary to that Luther was pointing the church to this theology of the cross, because the theology of the cross, as Luther is going to go on to say, points not to our greatness, not to our ability to achieve righteousness, in fact it points to the opposite. It points to our weakness. Luther is going to say that at the cross, God says, ‘No’ to human achievement. He says, ‘No’ to human endeavor. But not only does God say ‘No’ at the cross, but at the cross God also says ‘Yes.’ He says ‘Yes’ to us because we are accepted then, not because of our righteousness, but because of the righteousness of Christ.

So, Luther’s theology of the cross was this counter to a theology of glory, which was the prevailing theology in Luther’s day.

Luther not only talks about a theology of the cross, but he also talks about a theologian of the cross. And to be a theologian of the cross is to be one who remembers that it’s our weakness, our frailty, our inability, and so we need to cling to Christ, we need to cling to the cross. This is a wonderful idea in Luther—the theology of the cross. It’s there in the 95 Theses, and it’s there at the Heidelberg Disputation.

So, the 95 Theses, Take 2.