Hymn: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
In 1517, the world changed when Martin Luther, a friar in the Catholic church, nailed Ninety-Five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. With this stand, Luther (1483-1546) helped to launch the Protestant Reformation, which centered on justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. He was excommunicated from the Catholic church by Pope Leo X and his writings were banned.
However, Luther continued writing and with him, the Protestant Reformation grew. One of his most well-known writings is the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” which is based on Psalm 46. The song was a staple and battle cry during the Reformation, and is still sung in churches worldwide. Originally written in German, Frederick H. Hedge’s 1853 English translation of the hymn is the most popular and widely used.
1. A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
2. Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
The Lord of Hosts, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
3. And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
4. That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” points us to Psalm 46, in which paints a picture of a glorious, sovereign God who is with His people in time of trouble. Luther looks around and sees his opponent, the “ancient foe” and “Prince of Darkness”, but instead of fearing the attack of the evil one, directs his gaze to his never-failing, never-changing, ever-victorious God. He acknowledges our temptation to live and fight from our own strength, but reminds us that the Lord of Hosts is for us, and Christ is fighting on our side, equipping us for battle. In our warfare and struggle, may we, with Luther, wholeheartedly believe Romans 8:31-32, which reads, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
Jennifer Grisham (@jennifergrisham) serves as managing editor and administrator at Doxology & Theology, and previously worked as director of administration at Providence Church in Frisco, TX. She’s a graduate of Baylor University, currently pursuing a masters degree at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Find her online at jkgrisham.com.