A Little History Lesson as we Celebrate the Lutheran Reformation
From the Field October 17, 2016
This month we celebrate the Lutheran Reformation. God restored so very much to His church of the Word’s teachings that had been hidden for so long as the antichrist covered over the truth. We must also admit though that we Lutherans were slow to carry the Word into all the world. Many thought that the Great Commission of Matthew 28 had already been fulfilled by the apostles so that they did not consider it an ongoing command of our Lord to go into all of the world.
In the 17th century in Germany, that is the next hundred years after the Reformation, the voices cried out in the wilderness for mission work beyond the land of the Lutheran Reformation.
–Michael Havemann, general superintendent of Bremen and Verden, “We spend much for wars and vanities; we seek free commerce, trade, and travel in Asia and Africa, where the grandest churches of the apostles and their successors were established, and it is all for the purpose of gain. But to make Christ better known there and to help those nations out of the darkness of Islam and heathenism, there is little effort in that direction.”
–John Dannhauer of Strassburg advocated the founding of seminaries and schools to instruct and prepare missionaries to go to the New World, the Turk and the Jews.
–Christian Scriver of Quedlinburg in his Seelenschatz, “When the soul reads that nineteen parts of the known world are occupied by heathens, six by Mohammedans, and only five by Christians, its heart heaves, tears start to the eyes, and it wished it had a voice that might sound throughout all parts of the world to preach everywhere the Triune God and Jesus Christ, the Crucified, and to fill all with His saving knowledge…”
–Ludwig von Seckendorf, Reformation historian, did not apologize for the indifference and inactivity of the Lutherans who did not use every means to extend the true doctrine among the heathen. His Duke, Ernst the Pious of Gotha, tried to reach out to the distant Abysinians in 1663 using the Reformed missionary Peter Heyling and a John Wansleb, who turned out to be a scoundrel. This as well as an emissary to the Persians did not work out very well.
-Of these and other voices the foremost was certainly Baron Justinian Ernst von Weltz who published five treatises on missions.(In an April issue of From the Field) He put forward searing questions, “Is it right that we, evangelical Christians, hold the gospel for ourselves alone, and do not seek to spread it? Is it right that in all places we have so many students of theology, and do not induce them to labor elsewhere in the spiritual vineyard of Jesus Christ? Is it right that we spend so much on all sorts of dress, delicacies in eating and drinking, etc., but have hitherto thought of no means for the spread of the gospel?” Ignored by the Lutherans in Germany, he went to Holland for commissioning and proceeded to Dutch Guiana where he died as he had lived, a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ and His great love for lost mankind.
Today we see so many Christian churches have abandoned the Gospel outreach. Some opt for reaching out with social, medical and other help as if the Gospel of Christ is no longer needed.
The Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest advocated getting there “Fustest with the mostest,” in order to achieve victory on the field of battle. In the great struggle against the gates of hell the Lutherans in the 17th century did not get there fustest, and definitely not with the mostest. And were you to investigate the names mentioned in the forefront of reaching out, you would find that some of them though Lutheran in name, were not necessarily of the orthodox party. In the 18th century you would find that those in the forefront of outreach were Pietists. Though Lutheran in name, they were because of adherence to some false teachings, not the orthodox. The accusations would fly against the ‘barren orthodoxy’ and ‘dead formalism’ of that segment of the Lutheran church, which while possessing the truth did not venture forth to share it.
We need to thank God that He has given us in our little Lutheran synod both the true teachings from the Word and the earnest desire to spread it far and wide in our small way with His great help and support. Forward with what God gave us in the Lutheran Reformation!