You may be familiar with male leaders of the Reformation, but do you know the empowering stories of the women of the Reformation? By celebrating the legacy of women heroes of the Reformation, we learn how to speak Gospel truth in love. To learn life lessons from 52 women heroes of the faith, read Sacred Friendships, which is the source for today’s blog post.
Argula von Grumbach: Refusing to Bury Her Talent
Argula von Grumbach was a Bavarian noblewoman who lived from 1490-1564. In the early 1520s, she became a serious student of the Bible and Lutheran doctrine. In 1523, the University of Ingolstadt tried a student, Arcasius Seehofer, for his Lutheran sympathies and extracted a humiliating recantation from him. Von Grumbach took up pen on his behalf, arguing with university and secular officials in a series of letters in which she insisted that the Bible was on his side and that she would prove it.
In her letters, Argula proclaims the importance of Scripture and her right to determine faith and practice thereby.
“I beseech you for the sake of God, and exhort you by God’s judgment and righteousness, to tell me in writing which of the articles written by Martin or Melanchthon you consider heretical. In German not a single one seems heretical to me.” She continues by quoting Luke 7, 1 Corinthians 9, Psalm 36, John 2, 8, 9, 10, 14, 16, Matthew 24, and Isaiah 40 highlighting the Word of God and illumination.
Argula then defends her source of authority and commitment to it.
“I have always wanted to find out the truth. Although of late I have not been reading any [information published by the Reformers], for I have been occupied with the Bible, to which all of Luther’s work is directed anyway. . . Ah, but what a joy it is when the spirit of God teaches us and gives us understanding, flitting from one text to the next—God be praised—so that I came to see the true, genuine light shining out. I don’t intend to bury my talent, if the Lord gives me grace.”
Taking God’s Word Seriously
Argula was tempted and confronted to bury her talent. Her husband was fired because of her and he mistreated her as a result. Her family reviled her, others wrote against her. In a letter to her cousin, Adam von Torring, she explains:
“I hear you have heard that my husband has locked me up. Not that, but he does much to persecute Christ in me. At this point I cannot obey him. We are bound to forsake father, mother, brother, sister, child, body, and life. I am distressed that our princes take the Word of God no more seriously than a cow does a game of chess.”
Bury her talent she did not!
Responding to rebuke for not remaining silent, she retorts:
“I am not unacquainted with the word of Paul that women should be silent in the church (1 Tim. 1:2) but, when no man will or can speak, I am driven by the word of the Lord when he said, ‘He who confesses me on earth, him will I confess and he who denies me, him will I deny,’ (Matt. 10, Luke 9), and I take comfort in the words of the prophet Isaiah (3:12), ‘I will send you children to be your princes and women to be your rulers.’”
And speak she did.
“When I heard what you had done to Arsacius Seehofer under terror of imprisonment and the stake, my heart trembled and my bones quaked. What have Luther and Melanchthon taught save the Word of God? You have condemned them. You have not refuted them. Where do you read in the Bible that Christ, the apostles, and the prophets imprisoned, banished, burned, or murdered anyone?”
As was typical of the women of the Reformation, Argula based her confidence upon Christ and His grace, not upon herself. “I do not flinch from appearing before you, from listening to you, from discussing with you. For by the grace of God I, too, can ask questions, hear answers and read in German.”
Here we detect Argula boldly applying to her life as a woman the Lutheran doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.
Martin Luther’s Testimony
Of her, Martin Luther reported to Spalatin, “I am sending you the letters of Argula von Grumbach, Christ’s disciple, that you may see how the angels rejoice over a single daughter of Adam, converted and made into a daughter of God.”
To another friend, Luther wrote of Argula:
“The Duke of Bavaria rages above measure, killing, crushing and persecuting the gospel with all his might. That most noble woman, Argula von Stauffer, is there making a valiant fight with great spirit, boldness of speech and knowledge of Christ. She deserves that all pray for Christ’s victory in her . . . . She alone, among these monsters, carries on with firm faith, though, she admits, not without inner trembling. She is a singular instrument of Christ. I commend her to you, that Christ through this infirm vessel may confound the mighty and those who glory in their strength.”
In Christ Alone
Since her confidence was neither in herself nor in Luther, but in Christ, Argula adds these final words.
“And even if it came to pass—which God forbid—that Luther were to revoke his views, that would not worry me. I do not build on his, mine, or any person’s understanding, but on the true rock, Christ himself, which the builders have rejected.”
Argula von Grumbach offers all women, and men, the biblical reminder that we base our ministry upon Jesus, the ultimate Soul Physician and Spiritual Friend.
The Rest of the Story
Return tomorrow to learn from Katherine Zell how to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
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