500th ANNIVERSARY OF THE REFORMATION: OCTOBER 1517-2017 (Guest Matt Trewhella is in Central Time)

October 2017 marks the 500th Anniversary of The Reformation.

But how much do we know really know about Martin Luther’s bold actions in 1517 A.D. other than the nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Catholic Church?

 Most do not know that, if not for a Confession written by the pastors of Magdeburg Germany, the Reformation would have been crushed and there would be no 500-year anniversary.


 Question: What happened that the Reformation was almost crushed?

Answer: After Luther died in 1546, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V made his move to put down the Reformation. He imposed what is known as the Augsburg Interim which put all Protestant lands in Germany back under Roman Catholic rule and practice.  All the cities and towns throughout Germany went along with the Interim except one – Magdeburg. They were the lone city to stand in defiance of Emperor Charles. This is the story about a city that defied an empire.

  1. Question: So how did this defiance play out?

Answer: The pastors first sat down; took pen in hand; and wrote this Confession on why the magistrates of Magdeburg were right to defy the emperor. This Confession came to be known historically as The Magdeburg Confession. They issued their Confession on April 13th, 1550 – made hundreds of copies and sent it out across the Holy Roman Empire. Charles responded by marching on Magdeburg in October of 1550. The Magdeburgers burned everything outside the city walls and closed the city gates – the siege of Magdeburg had begun.

  1. Question: Obviously Magdeburg must have won but what was the result of the siege?

Answer: The siege lasted 13 months. Over 4000 of Charles’ men were killed and about 500 Magdeburgers.  The impact of the Confession itself was massive for Western Civilization. The ideas presented in the Confession were picked up by other Reformers like John Knox and Theodore Beza who furthered what came to be known as the doctrine of the lesser magistrates. The Magdeburg Confession was huge for the development of political thought in the West – bringing in freedom and understanding checks and balances in government. You can follow its influence all the way to our Declaration of Independence.

  1. Question: Why is this Confession significant in our day?

Answer: Because the Confession first formalized the lesser magistrate doctrine. The doctrine simply teaches the interposition of government officials. That when the higher ranking civil authorities make unjust or immoral law, policy, or court opinion – the lesser ranking civil authorities have both the right and the duty NOT to obey the higher authorities and if necessary to actively resist them. The Confession made clear the importance of what Western Men had long understood – that divine law trumps human laws. We now have the first-ever English translation of the Magdeburg Confession since the Confession was penned nearly 470 years ago. This is really the story about a city that defied an empire and paved the way for freedom enjoyed by many nations of the world today. We must continue to take a stand against unjust/immoral/unconstitutional actions by federal officials.

Question 5.  What is this creature on the cover of The Magdeburg Confession book?

Answer: It is a baerwolf. A baerwolf was a monster from German folklore. Martin Luther used the baerwolf as a symbol of tyranny. The pastors of Magdeburg wrote of the baerwolf in the Magdeburg Confession while speaking about the fourth and most severe level of tyranny. This is from a 1517 woodcut by Hans Weiditz – the same year Luther posted his 95 theses.

Question 6. Where may our listeners get more information on today’s topic?

Answer: The first-ever English translation of the historic Magdeburg Confession is available at:




Matthew Trewhella is the pastor of Mercy Seat Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He graduated with honors from Valley Forge Christian College located in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania in 1987.

In 1981 he married Clara Tolnai and they have 11 children together – six daughters and five sons; they also have 15 grandchildren.

Pastor Matt has lectured at hundreds of Christian and political gatherings and has been a guest on hundreds of radio and tv shows. He has also been invited to speak with eleven different state legislatures, as well as attorney generals, Lt. Governors, and governor’s men.

Pastor Trewhella is the author of the book “The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates: A Proper Resistance to Tyranny and A Repudiation of Unlimited Obedience to Civil Government.” This is the first book written on the lesser magistrate doctrine in over 300 years. And he has published the first-ever English translation of the Magdeburg Confession which was first issued in the year 1550. The Confession first formalized the doctrine of the lesser magistrates, a material part of keeping the Martin Luther Reformation in place, against steep odds.

CONTACT: To set up an interview with Pastor Matt Trewhella on the topic of the Reformation and the Magdeburg Confession, contact Jerry McGlothlin of Special Guests at 919-365-6149 or jerry@specialguests.com 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *