Did you know that Christianity existed between the end of the New Testament and Martin Luther posting the 95 Theses? Sometimes Lutherans seem to ignore the 1,500 years between Christ and Luther. In that time much corruption entered the Church as the Antichrist (the Pope) gained power and influence and came to dominate the Christian Church. But during that time faithful men still proclaimed the truth. As Jesus said, “The gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Hear from two of these faithful men: Justin Martyr (100-165), one of the first Christian apologists (defenders) and Athanasius (296-373), who battled to defend the Biblical truths about Jesus being true God and the triune nature of God.
Justin: “And the Word, being His Son, came to us, having put on flesh, revealing both Himself and the Father, giving to us in Himself resurrection from the dead, and eternal life afterwards. And this is Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. He, therefore, is Himself both the faith and the proof of Himself and of all things. Wherefore those who follow Him, and know Him, having faith in Him as their proof, shall rest in Him. But since the adversary does not cease to resist many, and uses many and divers arts to ensnare them, that he may seduce the faithful from their faith, and that he may prevent the faithless from believing, it seems to me necessary that we also, being armed with the invulnerable doctrines of the faith, do battle against him in behalf of the weak” (On the Resurrection, chapter 1).
Athanasius: “But just as this consequence must needs hold, so, too, on the other side the just claims of God lie against it: that God should appear true to the law He had laid down concerning death. For it were monstrous for God, the Father of truth, to appear a liar for our profit and preservation. So here, once more, what possible course was God to take? To demand repentance of men for their transgression? For this one might pronounce worthy of God; as though, just as from transgression men have become set towards corruption, so from repentance they may once more be set in the way of incorruption. But repentance would, firstly, fail to guard the just claim of God. For He would still be none the more true, if men did not remain in the grasp of death; nor, secondly, does repentance call men back from what is their nature – it merely stays them from acts of sin. Now, if there were merely a misdemeanor in question, and not a consequent corruption, repentance were well enough. But if, when transgression had once gained a start, men became involved in that corruption which was their nature, and were deprived of the grace which they had, being in the image of God, what further step was needed? or what was required for such grace and such recall, but the Word of God, which had also at the beginning made everything out of nought? For His it was once more both to bring the corruptible to incorruption, and to maintain intact the just claim of the Father upon all. For being Word of the Father, and above all, He alone of natural fitness was both able to recreate everything, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be ambassador for all with the Father” (On the Incarnation, chapter 7).
Remember that these men, like Luther, were not inspired by the Holy Spirit. They could and did err. Some of the corruptions of Church came from the writings of the men we call Church Fathers. So, we read with a careful eye, yet we also give thanks where they give witness and testimony to the truth of Jesus Christ.