Diet & Protestation at Speyer

Martin Luther had been condemned by the Roman Catholic Church in 1521, but his legend and writings continued to spread. Luther, undaunted by the full fury of Rome, also wrote more pamphlets and books in opposition to Roman Catholic doctrines. Furthermore, he attempted to clarify the Bible’s core teachings on justification through Christ alone, apart from any sacramental necessity. Luther was no political genius, but his voice and pen were certainly fueling reform in the civil realm as much as in the religious.

The Roman Emperor, Charles V, called the Diet of Speyer in order to do something about all the political and religious instability Luther and his followers were causing. A “Diet” is a legislative assembly, a meeting of political and/or religious leaders for the purpose of passing judgments and/or laws. Speyer was the German town in which the Diet was to be held.

On March 15, 1529, Charles V sent his younger brother King Ferdinand to oversee the Diet of Speyer. The Roman Catholic leaders were outraged by the doctrines of the Reformation, and there was no room for agreement. Philip Melanchthon (Luther’s partner and pupil) spoke for the Protestants, asking that there at least be the liberty to believe and practice religion according to one’s own conscience.

Ferdinand wanted no more of this unproductive discussion, so he ruled that Roman Catholicism would be the religion of the land. After demanding a full submission on the part of the Protestants, Ferdinand left without giving a moment of time to any objections. It was ordered that the Protestants of Germany live as Catholics whether they wanted to or not.

Some civil and religious leaders among the Protestants refused to give up on their petition to believe and practice true Christianity as they understood the Bible to teach it. They organized and requested an official opportunity to protest.

One month later, another Diet was arranged at Speyer, this one was called the Protestation at Speyer. It was there that civil leaders and reformers objected to the previous ruling of King Ferdinand. John the Steadfast, Elector or Governor of Saxony, read the protest aloud.

“We are resolved, with the grace of God, to maintain the pure preaching of God’s holy Word, such as is contained in the biblical books of the Old and New Testaments, without adding anything to it that may be contrary to it. This word is the only truth; it is the sure rule of all doctrine and of all life, and can never fail or deceive us. He who builds on this foundation shall stand against all the powers of hell…

For these reasons, most dear lords and friends, we earnestly entreat you to weigh carefully our grievances and our motives. …we protest before God, our only Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer and Savior… we, for us and our people, neither consent nor adhere in any manner whatsoever to the proposed decree in anything that is contrary to God, to His holy Word, to our right conscience, and to the salvation of souls.

There is no true preaching or doctrine but that which conforms to the Word of God. The Lord forbids the teaching of any other faith… This Holy Book is in all things necessary for the Christian and easy to be understood. It shines clearly in its own light, and is found to enlighten the darkness… We therefore reject the yoke that is imposed upon us.”[1]

This protest is the foundation of the label which all Protestants wear today. The Protestation at Speyer remains the protestation among all true Protestants since. We reject any yoke imposed upon us but the yoke of the Lord Jesus Christ. His Word and His Word alone shall rule and govern what we believe and how we live.

May God, our Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer, help us to build on the sure foundation of His Word in order that – come whatever will – we may stand.

[1] Kleyn, Diane. Reformation Heroes (Kindle Locations 1010-1026). Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.

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