On June 26, 1520, Luther published a book called Appeal to His Imperial Majesty and to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, on the Reformation of Christianity. In this work, Luther attacked the errors of the Roman church.
Luther wrote, “The Romans have raised around themselves three walls to protect them against every kind of reformation.” Luther said the three walls were:
- Worldly authority – No earthly ruler has the right to correct the church. The Roman Catholic Church is under no earthly authority; the spiritual authority of the church is greater than any authority on earth.
- Scriptural authority – No one can use Scripture to correct the church because only the pope has the right to interpret Holy Scripture.
- Spiritual authority – A council of Christians cannot correct the church because only the pope has the right to call a council together.
Luther said that because the church built up walls to protect itself, it could not be corrected, but had given itself up to every wickedness.
In his Apppeal, Luther attacked many teachings of the church. He said there was no such thing as an ecclesiastical state. The church taught that the pope, bishops, priests and monks made up an ecclesiastical or spiritual state that was separate from a secular, or worldly, state made up of kings, princes and citizens. Luther said this went against the Bible’s teachings and that holiness did not belong to one class of people because they held a position in the church.
Luther said, “We have all one baptism, one faith; and this is it which constitutes the spiritual man.” Because of this, Luther said rulers had the right to correct church leaders when they break laws and are in the wrong. He quoted Romans 13:1, which says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God,” arguing that this verse includes the pope along with all Christians, warning that all are accountable to rulers since God has given rulers their power.
Luther then criticized the pope’s extravagant lifestyle, saying, “It is a horrible thing to behold the man who styles himself Christ’s vice-gerent* displaying a magnificence that no emperor can equal. Is this like the poor Jesus, or the humble Peter?…But Christ, whose vicar he boasts of being, has said, My kingdom is not of this world. Can the dominions of a vicar extend beyond those of his superior?”
Luther not only accused the church of draining money from Germany but said the worst thing was robbing the people of spiritual nourishment. “Oh! If they only despoiled us of our goods! But they lay waste the churches, fleece the sheep of Christ, abolish religious worship, and annihilate the Word of God.”
Luther called for a separation of church and state and said that the pope and church leaders should devote their energies to preaching the Word of God and praying. He said church leaders should stay out of politics and business. Quoting 2 Timothy 2:4, Luther said this is what the Bible teaches: “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”
Quoting 1 Timothy 3:2, which says, “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife,” Luther said that all the priests should marry because God created marriage for the good of humanity. He knew monks who lived unholy lives gave the church a bad name and that not allowing priests and monks to marry made them hypocrites. Luther said that all the monasteries should be closed.
Luther knew his Appeal to the German Nobility would offend a lot of people, but he wasn’t afraid. He wrote, “Let the world be offended with me, rather than God!”
If there had been any question whether Luther could be reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church, Appeal to the German Nobility answered with a loud “No!”
*Someone ruling for another, in this case, the pope ruling in God’s place on earth.