Reformation ““ A Festival for the Brothers of John the Steadfast, by Pr. Rossow

(October 31 is Reformation Day)


Reformation is a great day for men. It is a festival for men to exhale with all the breath in their lungs the strong notes and vigorous rhythms of “A Mighty Fortress,” until they have to gasp for more air to sing the next measure even louder. It is a festival of blaring trumpets calling out our courage in Christ to stand firm on the edifice of his pure word.


Reformation is a remembrance decked out in the crimson blood of the martyrs who remained steadfast in the pure Gospel, some even to the point of death by burning at the stake. It is a festival that marks the stand that stout John the Steadfast took using his left-hand kingdom authority to form a league of princes who would fight with swords rather than compromise the Word of God.


Reformation is a time for the Brothers of John the Steadfast to rally to the support of brave men like Pastor Wilken whose voice trumpets out each day the cross of Christ as a strong breath of the Holy Spirit against the devil, and against the culture and institutions that seek to muffle the sound of truth. The Reformation Fest calls the Brothers of John the Steadfast to stand on God’s word and on the Lutheran Confessions in order to be real leaders in the home and in the church.


Reformation is a time for men like me, to confess my countless failures at being a real man, Christ’s man. It is a time for me to take one small breath, enough to get me through a sip of the crimson blood from the chalice, so that I might go quietly back to my pew and thank God for his mercy…and then hope for a real rouser of a closing hymn that I might robustly and steadfastly, one more time, sing till I lose every bit of breath in my reanimated lungs.


Blessed Reformation to you Brothers of John the Steadfast and to all our readers,



Pastor Rossow

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Reformation ““ A Festival for the Brothers of John the Steadfast, by Pr. Rossow — 7 Comments

  1. “It is a festival that marks the stand that stout John the Steadfast took using his left-hand kingdom authority to form a league of princes who would fight with swords rather than compromise the Word of God.”

    Dear Pastor,
    As a vocational “southpaw” (US Air Force), I think you might have overstated the above in your admirable confessional zeal. The only biblically and confessionally defensible raison d’etre for the League of Schmalkald was the defense of the Lutheran (and Reformed) Princes’ people and land against invasion by their secular Overlord, Charles V. As Christians we are required to die, not to kill, for the faith, but the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire gave the Princes the left-hand responsibility to defend the life and property of their people.
    Luther was very reluctant to support the political/military nature of the Schmalkaldic League, primarily because he wanted to avoid the appearance of defending the Gospel w/ the sword, which you could be interpreted as supporting in the above quote. I also have problems attributing the defense of the Word of God w/ the left-hand sword to a political League w/ Reformed members.
    It was in his refusal to return to Rome after the League’s defeat at Muhlberg, (and thereby retain his lands and title) that John showed his real steadfastness. I fear we are called to do the same.
    Pax Christi +,
    -Matt Mills (Maj, USAF)

  2. Matthew,

    I think you have described the two kingdom reign well as it applies to our day. Remember, however, that church and state were not so distinct in the days of John the Steadfast and that is OK.

    We are OK if a prince wants to take up the sword in defense/offense for the Gospel, it is just not something that we can command under the right hand reign of the Gospel and of course, no one is converted by the sword, only by the Gospel.

    Interested in your reply.

    Pastor Rossow

  3. (Note to self: don’t use the “tab key”)
    Dear Pastor,
    You might want to re-read “The War Against the Turk,” and perhaps “Whether Soldiers Too May be Saved.”
    I believe that you are missing the distinction between the Prince as “first layman” (for lack of a better term), and the prince as “commander in chief.” That is, between the domestic, and international use of the civil sword.
    As the de facto head of his territorial church, the prince had the responsibility to maintain the Word of God in its truth and purity w/in his own lands, and there were times when Luther approved the use of the civil sword in this context. That however is not what we see in the wars of the Schmalkaldic League, and Luther always opposed the use of the civil sword in “defense/offense for the Gospel” in relations between states (and especially in relations between the Princes and the Emperor.)
    I’m afraid I owe our own “Caesar” a few dreary spreadsheets and reports this morning, but I could certainly pull a few good references over the weekend if you’d like.
    Pax Christi +,
    -Matt Mills
    BA, Early Modern European History, Univ of Minn ’85

  4. Matthew,

    You have your left hand reign duties and I have my right hand reign duties calling so I too am doing this a bit on the fly. Thanks for the references. I will check them out and then check back into the discussion – maybe tomorrow PM?

    Pastor Rossow

  5. A blessed Reformation day!

    Not sure where else to put this but can’t wait to report it, so here goes: Today’s “day sponsors” on KFUO-AM Radio are a couple who have dedicated their day-sponsorship $$ “in gratitude and thanksgiving for Pastor Todd Wilken and Mister Jeff Schwarz” !!!

    LOVE it.

  6. Dear Pastor,
    I still think “War Against the Turk” is the best resource for this specific question, but I’ve got online access to “Temporal Authority: To What Extent it Should Be Obeyed” (1523) and section two of that work is germane to this discussion as well. A few quick extended Dr. Martin quotes from “TA”:

    Again, you say, “The temporal power is not forcing men to believe; it is simply seeing to it externally that no one deceives the people by false doctrine; how could heretics otherwise be restrained?” Answer: This the bishops should do; it is a function entrusted to them and not to the princes. Heresy can never be restrained by force. One will have to tackle the problem in some other way, for heresy must be opposed and dealt with otherwise than with the sword. Here God’s word must do the fighting. If it does not succeed, certainly the temporal power will not succeed either, even if it were to drench the world in blood. …

    Dear princes and lords be wise and guide yourselves accordingly. God will no longer tolerate it. The world is no longer what it once was, when you hunted and drove people like game. Abandon therefore your wicked use of force, give thought to dealing justly, and let God’s word have its way, as it will anyway and must and shall; you cannot prevent it. If there is heresy somewhere, let it be overcome, as is proper, with God’s word. But if you can continue to brandish the sword, take heed lest someone come and compel you to sheathe it-and not in God’s name! [Pretty prophetic as this is exactly what happened after Charles V shattered the army of the Schmalkaldic League at Muhlenberg.]

    Pax Christi +,
    -Matt Mills

  7. Matt,

    I have v. 47 in my personal library (and in our church library) and have started reading the two works you cited. I am about 1/4 through – hope to finish. As with much of Luther’s stuff it is great stuff. It is a great refresher on this aspect of the two kingdoms doctrine.

    Your concern that the sword does not convert was never intended but I can see how what I said might be misleading.

    I guess my point about the Christian prince is to provide a corrective to the misguided notion that we could never allow a prince to actually enforce a Judeo-Christian ethic.

    To be continued…

    Thanks again for your insights and efforts to keep our history and doctrine straight. I hope you will continue to monitor the site and share your wisdom and knowledge. If you are interested in writing for the site or for our quarterly send me an e-mail at [email protected].

    Pastor Rossow

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