Luther and Laodicea

Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.”

Psalm 97:11 NKJV

 “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

Proverbs 4:18

On our Christian walk, we are either constantly growing, receiving, learning, gaining new light and understanding, or we are dying, stagnating, losing light and understanding, and locking ourselves into spiritual darkness and eternal death. This principle is exhibited in nature. Is there such a thing as a plant that simply stays at the exact same point of growth? No, it is either growing, or it is dying.

This same instruction God has given throughout inspiration. We could look at this principle throughout history, but we are going to study a little in inspiration from the life and example of Luther and how God views his work and the work of future generations.

Most Christians are familiar with the reformer Martin Luther and his lifelong striving and gaining greater light and truth from the Holy Scriptures. Those things which he understood in his later years were not even thought of or supposed when he first began his quest for truth. He was constantly seeking a better understanding of God’s word, and because of his faithfulness and earnest desire for truth, God opened up tremendous truth to him.

In the message of God to Laodicea as found in Revelation 3:14–22, Laodicea is content with the “knowledge” that she has. She considers herself “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (verse 17).

Is there not a stark contrast between these two principles, these two attitudes? Which one does God value? Which one does He require?

“The Reformation did not, as many suppose, end with Luther. It is to be continued to the close of this world’s history. Luther had a great work to do in reflecting to others the light which God had permitted to shine upon him; yet he did not receive all the light which was to be given to the world. From that time to this, new light has been continually shining upon the Scriptures, and new truths have been constantly unfolding.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 123.

“Luther and his co-laborers accomplished a noble work for God; but, coming as they did from the Roman Church, having themselves believed and advocated her doctrines, it was not to be expected that they would discern all these errors. It was their work to break the fetters of Rome, and to give the Bible to the world; yet there were important truths which they failed to discover, and grave errors which they did not renounce.” Ibid., 180.

Was it safe to stop with the light that was revealed to Luther and his co-laborers? No. They still retained grave errors. Does God want us in error? No. He wants us in the purity of His truth, untainted with error.

“The infinite God, whose throne is in the heavens, condescends to address His people, ‘Come now, and let us reason together’ (Isaiah 1:18); but frail, erring men proudly refuse to reason with their brethren. They stand ready to censure one who accepts any light which they have not received—as though God had pledged himself to give no more light to any one than he had given to them. This is the course pursued by opposers of the truth in every age. They forget the declaration of the Scriptures, ‘Light is sown for the righteous’ (Psalm 97:11). ‘The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day’ (Proverbs 4:18). It is a sad thing when a people claiming to be reformers cease to reform.” Ibid., 185.

The following is a powerful and wonderful promise of God, and note the condition for that promise, which begins with the mighty word “if.” “If professed Christians would but carefully and prayerfully compare their views with the Scriptures, laying aside all pride of opinion and desire for the supremacy, a flood of light would be shed upon the churches now wandering in the darkness of error. As fast as His people can bear it, the Lord reveals to them their errors in doctrine and their defects of character. From age to age He has raised up men and qualified them to do a special work needed in their time. But to none of these did He commit all the light which was to be given to the world. Wisdom does not die with them. It was not the will of God that the work of reform should cease with the going out of Luther’s life; it was not His will that at the death of the Wesleys the Christian faith should become stereotyped. The work of reform is progressive. Go forward, is the command of our great Leader—forward unto victory.” Ibid., 186.

Dare I say that it is not the will of God that the work of reform should cease with the going out of Ellen White’s life; it was not His will that at the death of Ellen White the Christian faith should become stereotyped.

What is our attitude? Do we prayerfully compare our views with the Scriptures and lay aside all pride of opinion and desire for supremacy? Or, do we, when new ideas are presented immediately defend our position, our way of thinking. In this respect, I must ask a question here. If I genuinely want to understand something better, will I continually be giving my interpretation, my understanding, or will I be eagerly asking questions of those who know with a genuine desire to understand what is being presented? How do you approach “new light”?

Do you think it dangerous to broach “new light” with candor and a desire to understand the position of what is being presented? I submit to you, according to the Lord, it is dangerous to broach “new light” in any other way, or to refuse to broach it at all.

“We shall not be accepted and honored of God in doing the same work that our fathers did. We do not occupy the position which they occupied in the unfolding of truth. In order to be accepted and honored as they were, we must improve the light which shines upon us, as they improved that which shone upon them; we must do as they would have done, had they lived in our day. Luther and the Wesleys were reformers in their times. It is our duty to continue the work of reform. If we neglect to heed the light, it will become darkness; and the degree of darkness will be proportionate to the light rejected.

“The prophet of God declares that in the last days knowledge shall be increased. There are new truths to be revealed to the humble seeker. The teachings of God’s word are to be freed from the errors and superstition with which they have been encumbered. Doctrines that are not sanctioned by the Scriptures have been widely taught, and many have honestly accepted them; but when the truth is revealed, it becomes the duty of every one to accept it. Those who allow worldly interests, desire for popularity, or pride of opinion, to separate them from the truth, must render an account to God for their neglect.” Ibid., 186, 187.

“Those who received the great blessings of the Reformation did not go forward in the path so nobly entered upon by Luther. A few faithful men arose from time to time, to proclaim new truth, and expose long-cherished error; but the majority, like the Jews in Christ’s day, or the papists in the time of Luther, were content to believe as their fathers believed, and to live as they lived. Therefore religion again degenerated into formalism; and errors and superstitions which would have been cast aside had the church continued to walk in the light of God’s word, were retained and cherished. Thus the spirit inspired by the Reformation gradually died out, until there was almost as great need of reform in the Protestant churches as in the Roman Church in the time of Luther. There was the same spiritual stupor, the same respect for the opinions of men, the same spirit of worldliness, the same substitution of human theories for the teachings of God’s word. Pride and extravagance were fostered under the guise of religion. The churches became corrupted by allying themselves with the world. Thus were degraded the great principles for which Luther and his fellow-laborers had done and suffered so much.” Ibid., 194.

“The church cannot measure herself by the world nor by the opinion of men nor by what she once was. Her faith and her position in the world as they now are must be compared with what they would have been if her course had been continually onward and upward. The church will be weighed in the balances of the sanctuary. If her moral character and spiritual state do not correspond with the benefits and blessings God has conferred upon her, she will be found wanting. The light has been shining clear and definite upon her pathway, and the light of 1882 calls her to an account. If her talents are unimproved, if her fruit is not perfect before God, if her light has become darkness, she is indeed found wanting. The knowledge of our state as God views it, seems to be hidden from us. We see, but perceive not; we hear, but do not understand; and we rest as unconcerned as if the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, rested upon our sanctuary. We profess to know God, and to believe the truth, but in works deny Him. Our deeds are directly adverse to the principles of truth and righteousness, by which we profess to be governed.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 83, 84.

“Unless the church will follow on in His opening providence, accepting every ray of light, performing every duty which may be revealed, religion will inevitably degenerate into the observance of forms, and the spirit of vital godliness will disappear. This truth has been repeatedly illustrated in the history of the church. God requires of His people works of faith and obedience corresponding to the blessings and privileges bestowed. Obedience requires a sacrifice and involves a cross; and this is why so many of the professed followers of Christ refused to receive the light from Heaven, and, like the Jews of old, knew not the time of their visitation (Luke 19:44). Because of their pride and unbelief, the Lord passed them by, and revealed His truth to men in humble life, who had given heed to all the light they had received.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 200, 201.

God’s words of inspiration are not only rich with warning and rebuke, but filled with treasures and promises for the true and faithful.

“If the followers of Christ were but earnest seekers after divine wisdom, they would be led into rich fields of truth, as yet wholly unknown to them. Whoever will give himself to God as fully as did Moses, will be guided by the divine hand as verily as was the great leader of Israel. He may be lowly and apparently ungifted; yet if with a loving, trusting heart he obeys every intimation of God’s will, his powers will be purified, ennobled, energized; his capabilities increased. As he treasures the lessons of divine wisdom, a sacred commission is intrusted to him; he is enabled to make his life an honor to God and a blessing to the world. ‘The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple’ (Psalm 119:130).” Ibid., vol. 3, 417, 418.

Do we live by the principles that governed Luther, seeking new light, new revelations from the word of God, or do we exhibit the principle found in Laodicea, satisfied with our current position, “rich and increased with goods.” My friends, we have studied God’s view of both. It is impossible to hold to both principles. Where are you? Are you with Luther, or are you with Laodicea? Your works will tell the tale, not your words. It is time we deal honestly with our souls, for the night is far spent, and the morning cometh.

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the King James Version.)

Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She may be contacted by email at: