On June 15, 1520 Pope Leo X issued a papal bull titled Exsurge Domine. This document was the official condemnation of Martin Luther as a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church.
In condemning Luther the pope wrote of Luther and is followers as trampling on the vineyard of the church.
The wild boar from the forest seeks to destroy it and every wild beast feeds upon it.
The charge of heresy was no small matter. According to Rome, Luther had put his soul’s ultimate destination at risk of hell. The bull spelled out 41 specific teachings of Luther as heresy and demanded recantation of these teachings. Luther responded by burning the bull.
The pope also warned those who sided with Luther.
We forbid each and every one of the faithful of either sex, in virtue of holy obedience and under the above penalties to be incurred automatically, to read, assert, preach, praise, print, publish, or defend them.
Luther’s works were to be burned in order to prevent the spread of his teaching. On this day nearly 500 years later, I have several volumes of Luther’s works and am enriched each time I read from them.
What was it that caused Leo to target Luther? We could discuss various theological and ecclesiological teachings, but it all boiled down to one theological truth – Justification by Faith Alone.
That truth, taught in the Scriptures, rightly sets forth that man cannot earn his salvation regardless of how hard he tries. He only can place his faith in that which God has brought about through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
For this reason, I stand with this wild boar and with the Apostle Paul in their declaration:
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
(Romans 4:3-5 ESV)