Sunday, September 22, 2019 pm                                                    Songs Index                                        MP3                        PP


A Mighty Fortress
#216 – Sacred Selections


Tonight, we examine another song we sing from time to time.  This is a very old song, written by Martin Luther (1483-1546), known as the father of the reformation movement.   Luther, who was raised in Germany, was a Catholic and studied as a priest.  He saw corruption in the teachings of Catholicism and sought to reform the church.  Rather than succeeding he was excommunicated in 1520.  While we do not endorse much of Luther’s doctrine, he is to be commended for his desire to correct corruption in behavior and doctrinal error. 

This hymn is perhaps the best known that Luther wrote.  It was sung at his funeral and the first line is inscribed on his tombstone (in German).  As to the story behind this hymn, there are many.  One is that after his excommunication, Luther was threatened with arrest and trial (which could lead to his execution), he was taken and given asylum by a German prince at the Wartburg Castle near Eisenach, Germany.  It was while he was there that he began translating the Greek New Testament into German.  Among the things he believed was that the Bible ought to be made available in the common language of men. Some believe that behind those castle walls, he wrote the words to this hymn, based upon Psalm 46. 

The version of the hymn that we sing, is based upon an arrangement by Johann Sebastian Bach (1717), with some alterations.  The original hymn was 4 stanzas.  Our songbook (and most hymnals used by brethren) have 3 stanzas with the last combining portions of the last 2. 

Our purpose in these studies, as always, is to examine the message of the hymn.  This hymn, like many of the older hymns, requires us to THINK about the message, as it is not common, simple English.  It is a deeper, richer message, rather than superficial mantras.  And that is a good thing – 1 Corinthians 14:15, Colossians 3:16. 

 I.                     Stanza 1 – God, Our Mighty Fortress

a.       A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing – the idea here is a protected dwelling, such as a walled city or a castle.  When we think of a fortress, we usually see a fortified place – strengthened with extra layers of protection. 
A bulwark is a defensive wall – oftentimes, it is an extra layer of defense making attacks by the enemy more difficult. 
Often God is referred to in terms of protection - Psalm 91:2; Psalm 31:1-4 – again rock, refuge and fortress. 

b.       Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing – He is our helper, as we deal with the troubles of this life.  “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31); Hebrews 13:5-6 – encouragement to be content and trust God because He is my helper and will not forsake me.  

c.        For still our ancient foe, doth seek to work us woe – Satan is our enemy!  Peter describes him as our adversary – 1 Peter 5:8.

d.       His craft and power are great – never underestimate his power.  1 John 5:19 notes the world lies under his sway (influence).   He will rule you if you let him.  He seeks to defeat us – 2 Corinthians 2:11 – he seeks to take advantage of you; 2 Corinthians 11:3 – Paul’s fear that he will corrupt them, just as he did eve.

e.       And armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal – while he has many “angels” who serve him and do his bidding, He is the ultimate source of evil.  This reminds us that Satan is NOT your friend.  He desires to destroy you – cf. John 8:44.

 II.                   Stanza 2 – Christ Jesus on our side

a.       Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing – We must not trust in our own selves – Proverbs 3:5.  Romans 12:16 tells us to not be wise in your own opinion.  1 Corinthians 3:18-20. 
We cannot save ourselves – Jeremiah 10:23 notes that it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.  Acts 4:12 notes that we need Jesus to be saved. 
Ephesians 2:8-9 – when Paul said, “Not of works, lest anyone should boast”  - this is the point he is making. 

b.       Were not the right One on our side, the man of God’s own choosing – God has provided a way for our salvation.   John 3:16, Ephesians 2:4-5.

c.        Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He – John 3:17, For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
 John 10:9-10, I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Matthew 20:28 – He came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many…

d.       Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same – Sabaoth is a transliteration  that means, Lord of Hosts, or armies –– it is NOT a reference to the Sabbath day, but a reference to His supremacy – He is Lord over all and rules. The term is found twice in the NT – Romans 9:29 and James 5:4. 
He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world – 1 John 4:4.
In this song, we find the power of Satan in vs. 1 and a reminder that in vs. 2 Jesus is OVER Him.
I He is unchanging – the same yesterday, today and forever.

e.       And He must win the battle - He did!  Victory in Him – 1 John 5:4 – our faith (in Him) is the victory that overcomes the world.  1 Corinthians 15:57 - But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   Also John 16:33 – He has overcome the world. The theme of the book of Revelation is victory in Jesus – God wins over Satan.  That is why trusting in Him gives us hope.

 III.                 Stanza 3 – We will trust in Him

a.       And tho this world, with evil filled should threaten to undo us – the temptations of this world are real.  We are tempted on every side – 2 Corinthians 4:8 speaks of how we are pressed on every side, but not crushed. 
We must understand that we live in this world and Satan is continually trying to capture us or defeat us.  BUT, we are also told that temptations can make us better – James 1:2-4.

b.       We will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us – in God’s word, we find the strength we need to win the victory – Hebrews 4:12 – His word is living and powerful;
John 17:17 – when Jesus prayed for us, He asked that God sanctify us through His truth.
Acts 20:32 – Paul commended the Ephesian elders “to the word of His grace which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

c.        Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also – are we willing to let go of the world – 1 John 2:15.
Jesus emphasized our need to let go of the world – Luke 14:33 – we must forsake all that we have.
Philippians 3:7 – what things were gain, he counted as loss…

d.       The body they may kill, God truth abideth still – do not fear those who kill the body… Matthew 10:28 – fear God more than men.  1 Peter 1:25 notes that the word of the Lord endures forever. 

e.       His kingdom is forever – amen.  We have hopes of an everlasting kingdom – 2 Peter 1:11. Hebrews 12:28 – therefore since we are receiving a kingdom…


May we as we sing this song realize what a might fortress God truly is.  Do we put our trust in Him as we ought to?  Think about it.