Devotion and Prayer for Week of July 29, 2012

Meditation for the Week of July 29, 2012


“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)

When we think of martyrs, usually we think of Christians in the early church who died at the hands of the Romans.  You may also think of Christians in more recent times who suffer in places like Soviet Russia, China, or the Middle East.  You may be surprised to hear that there were Christian martyrs even in places like England.

During the Reformation, it was often dangerous to be identified with Luther and the Reformation.  On July 30, 1540, Robert Barnes was burned at the stake in Smithfield, England.  He had been a good friend and student of Martin Luther and had returned home to England to bring the gospel to his people.  Originally, King Henry VIII believed this message and named Robert a royal chaplain.  Later King Henry’s mind changed and he had Robert killed.  When word of Robert Barnes’ death reached Luther, this was his reaction:

“This Dr. Robert Barnes we certainly knew, and it is a particular joy for me to hear that our good, pious dinner guest and houseguest has been so graciously called by God to pour out his blood and to become a holy martyr for the sake of His dear Son.  Thanks, praise and glory be to the Father of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, who again, as at the beginning, has granted us to see the time in which His Christians, before our eyes and from our eyes and from beside us, are carried off to become martyrs (that is, carried off to heaven) and become saints.

“Now, since this holy martyr, St. Robert Barnes, heard at the time that his King Henry VIII of England was opposed to the pope, he came back to England with the hope of planting the Gospel in his homeland and finally brought it about that it began.  To cut a long story short, Henry of England was pleased with him, as is his way, until he sent him to us at Wittenberg in the marriage matter [i.e. his desire for a divorce from Katherine of Aragon].

“Dr. Robert Barnes himself often said to me, “My king does not care about religion.”  Yet he loved his king and homeland so keenly that he willingly endured everything like that and always thought to help England.  And it is indeed true that one who would not be optimistic toward his homeland and would not wish everything good for his prince must be a shameful rogue, as not only the Scriptures but also all our laws teach.  He always had these words in his mouth, “My king, my king,” as his confession indeed indicates that even until his death he was loyal toward his king with all love and faithfulness, which was repaid by Henry with evil.  Hope betrayed him.  For he always hoped his king would become good in the end.

“Let us praise and thank God!  This is a blessed time for the elect saints of Christ and an unfortunate, grievous time for the devil, for blasphemers, and enemies, and it is going to get even worse.  Amen.”

Martin Luther, “Preface to Robert Barnes’ Confession of Faith” (1540)

 Our Weekly Prayer 

Almighty God, heavenly Father, You gave courage to Your servant Robert Barnes to give up his life for confessing the true faith during the Reformation.  May we continue steadfast in our confession of the apostolic faith and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.