Welcome back! This week, we present to you another sermon in the “Singing with Understanding” series. We are looking at the words of songs that we sing, and showing the biblical ideas behind them so we can truly understand what we’re singing. In case you missed the previous lesson (God’s Family), you can read it here.
The name of Martin Luther is familiar to most people. He is the founder of the Lutheran Church. He was one of the catalysts in the Reformation Movement back in the 1500s. He was a former Catholic priest who nailed a list of 95 things that the Catholics were doing that he believed were opposed to the Bible.
He famously declared that the Pope was the “man of sin” described in II Thessalonians 2. The Catholics afterwards declared that Martin Luther was the “man of sin” described in that chapter.
But one thing you might not know about him is that he also wrote hymns—and we still sing one of them occasionally today.
The song is called “A Mighty Fortress.”
There are different stories about the first time this song was sung publicly. But all are agreed that the idea was taken from Psalm 46.
- Some have said that it was sung by Martin Luther and others as they were entering the room where they were to be examined by a Catholic inquiry against them.
- Others have said that it was a song written for armies to sing as they battled the Ottoman (Muslim) Turks.
Whichever it was, the point of the song was to encourage the singers to rely on God for strength.
Today, our lesson will come from the biblical truths expressed in this song.
Verse 1 – The combatants in the great war.
Verse 2 – Our strength in the war.
Verse 3 –The war continues
Verse 1 – The Combatants in the Great War.
God is the first Combatant in this war.
A Mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.
There is safety and security in God. He’s like a strong, fortified castle that cannot be breached. You are completely safe from death inside His walls. A “bulwark” is a defensive wall, a means of protection—and God’s protection never fails!
Romans 8:38-39 – No outside force has the power to separate us from the love of God which is IN Christ Jesus.
Our helper He amidst the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
If we were to rearrange the words to our normal usage, it would be He is our helper, prevailing in the midst of the things which have the power to kill (aka, sin).
In James 1, Christians are told to rejoice in the midst of trials and temptations; they are told to go to God for help in the midst of temptation. So, in the midst of a world of sin and surrounded by temptation, God is our helper—He can help us overcome the enemy!
But who is the enemy?
Satan is the other combatant in the war.
He’s still fighting against us.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe.
Or, Our ancient foe is still seeking to harm us. Satan is not some new enemy; he’s our ancient foe. Satan is the originator of all things evil, for he has been evil from the beginning (John 8:44). He is always described in the Bible as evil—thus he has always been opposed to God. And he is continually trying to destroy us.
Our adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8). He is constantly firing flaming arrows at us (Ephesians 6:16). He is indeed a very powerful enemy.
His craft and power are great
His methods (craft) are strong and effective. After all, everyone who’s ever lived has fallen prey to his methods (Romans 3:23). All, that is, except one—Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 5:20-21).
His power is great. He is a strong enemy—defeating him isn’t easy. Just try to go a week without losing at least one battle against him.
and armed with cruel hate.
Unlike the United States has historically been, Satan views the enemy with hatred. The US, as a general rule, treats their enemies with respect and kindness (see the general treatment of prisoners of war, or even terrorists).
Satan is fueled by hatred, and doesn’t just want victory—he wants to destroy us completely! He is “seeking whom he may devour.”
on earth is not his equal.
No one on earth can stand against Satan on his own.
This thought leads us into the second verse.
Verse 2 – Our strength in the War.
We touched on the two combatants in the war, but something that needs to be remembered is that we are in this war as well.
Remember Job? There was a war between God and Satan, and the battlefield to determine the winner was Job himself. Satan is not just God’s adversary, but OURS as well (I Peter 5:8).
Since there is no one on earth equal to Satan’s power, we cannot defeat him on our own.
Did we, in our own strength, confide, our striving would be losing.
Satan is too powerful for us to defeat on our own. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Every person is a slave to sin if he is on his own.
There is good news, however: we don’t have to fight Satan alone—God has sent one to defeat Satan for us!
Our striving would be losing were not the right One on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.
God so loved the world that He sent someone save people from perishing (John 3:16). Our strength in the battle—our ability to overcome Satan—is found in one Man.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He.
- It is Jesus Christ who has fought for us.
- It is Jesus Christ who has already won the victory (Hebrews 2:14, Revelation 12:7-11).
- It is in Jesus Christ that we win the victory as well (I John 2:13).
- The One who fights with us is more powerful than the one who fights against us (I John 4:4)!
Lord Sabaoth is His name.
The word Sabaoth means armies. Christ is the captain of the armies of God (Joshua 5:13-15). Christ is called “the captain of our salvation” (Hebrews 2:10). In Revelation, He is described as the leader of the army of God (12:7-11).
From age to age the same.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is eternal—He is God (John 1:1). If God (Christ) be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).
And He must win the battle.
The outcome of the war has already been determined, for Christ has won! Now, all that we have to do is choose which side we are on!
Verse 3 – The war continues.
Even though Christ has won the victory for us, we must still continue with the battle here on earth.
And though this world, with evil filled, should threaten to undo us
Just because Jesus has won the victory, that doesn’t mean we can rest. We must be vigilant because Satan is still on the attack (I Peter 5:8). Christians cannot get the idea that we can sit back and relax!
We will not fear, for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.
Christians have need to fight, but they have no need to fear, for God has given us a spirit of power, not of fear (II Timothy 1:7). God has already determined that His truth will endure; His truth will triumph; and that victory is through US!
- WE—the church—are the pillar and ground of the truth (that which hold up the truth).
- WE—the church—are the ones who have been entrusted with the faith (Jude 3).
God’s word will stand forever, and we are the ones who are supposed to carry it to others so that we can conquer hearts! In order for us to be victors in the war, we have to stay focused on heaven!
Let goods and kindred go.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Don’t be like the rich young ruler (Mark 10:29-30). We can’t let the things of this world take our eyes off the prize: eternal life in heaven with God!
This mortal life also; the body they may kill.
When this song was written, the Catholic Church had threatened to take property of those who fought against it. You could be tried and executed for heresy if you left the Catholic Church. So when this song was written, they had a great fear of being killed for their faith.
In the first century, it was much the same—the Jews killed many Christians. But the point is that even though they may be faced with death, they must remain faithful (Revelation 2:10).
God’s word abideth still, His kingdom is forever.
Regardless what happens to us, God’s word still stands. Even if thousands—millions—of Christians fall away, God’s word still says what it says.
God’s kingdom will never fall. It is eternally victorious—and those who are part of that kingdom have eternal life in heaven awaiting them (Matthew 25:34).
Let us never forget that we are in the greatest war in history! The two greatest enemies of all (God and Satan) are fighting on the biggest battlefield of all—the human race! And WE are in that war!
We have a promise of protection and help from one side if we join Him. We have a promise of being destroyed if we join the other side.
Which side are you on? God never fails. We cannot win the battle on our own; we can only win it through Jesus Christ. But that victory is guaranteed if we stay on God’s side.
Whose side are you on?
-Bradley S. Cobb