The book and film Mutiny on the Bounty tell the story of the notorious revolt that occurred aboard the English ship the Bounty. In 1789 the Bounty and her crew sailed across the Pacific Ocean on a voyage of exploration. After a six-month stay on the tropical island of Tahiti, many of the sailors decided they would not return to England, so they staged a mutiny, which is a rebellion.
Led by an officer on the ship, the sailors captured their captain and those who were loyal to him and set them adrift in a tiny lifeboat. Amazingly those men survived the 3,700-mile journey to civilization.
But the rebellion did not end well. The sailors kidnapped some women, took others as slaves, and then sailed the Bounty to the island of Pitcairn. There they lived lives of drunkenness and murder. Within two years, all the rebel Englishmen, except one, died by disease or fighting.
The lone survivor, Alexander Smith, was the only man left on Pitcairn with the Tahitian women and children. Then he found the Bible, a book that every ship carried on its long journeys. As he read it, he began to change. All else had failed him, but the truth of the Bible offered forgiveness and hope, something Alexander desperately needed.
Soon he was teaching the truth of the Bible to the women and children. Twenty years later when another ship finally landed at Pitcairn, those sailors were surprised when they found a community of Christians living together in peace and harmony.
Another man who was changed by the power of the Bible was Martin Luther. One day when he was 22, Martin was returning to his university when he was caught in a thunderstorm. Unable to escape, he was soaked to the skin and nearly killed by a lightning strike that took the life of his friend who was riding with him.
Martin was badly shaken. He was troubled that he survived and his friend had died. What did it mean? He began to think more about God and wondered, “How can I know God and have peace about life after death?”
For years after this event, Martin Luther worked hard to please God so he could get into heaven. He even studied to be a monk, someone who devotes his life to work in the church. But despite his good works, he felt no closer to God. Then Martin read a verse that changed him:
“The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17
Those two words, “by faith,” brought him the joy of discovery. “By faith” meant that having peace with God was not something he had to earn.
All of us know that it takes hard work to earn good grades in school. There are also rules to be obeyed in our communities, in the workplace, and in our homes. We can easily think that the way to please God is the same—keep the rules and work hard, and He will let you into heaven someday.
That’s what Martin Luther believed until he discovered “by faith.” The words mean that faith in God’s way of salvation through Jesus Christ was enough—no works, no report card, no “I hope I’m good enough.”
In the time when Martin lived, there was a very unbiblical practice in the church. Church leaders taught the people that not only did they have to obey all the church rules, but they also had to pay money to a priest to have their sins forgiven.
One day Martin had enough. The Bible did not teach that sins were forgiven for money! On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther made a list of reasons that this practice, called indulgences, was wrong and nailed the list on the wooden door of the church.
Everyone saw his list as they came to services the next day, All Saints’ Day. The church leaders were furious. They did not want to lose their money.
An order was given to burn all the books Martin Luther had written. The church leaders demanded that he sign a paper saying he had been wrong. He refused.
Sometime later he was taken before the emperor, who demanded that he recant. Instead Martin Luther replied, “Here I stand, I can do no other. May God help me!” He knew the Bible was the true Word of God. He would stand on the truth no matter what came as a result.
Today, those who believe as Martin Luther did are often called Protestants, a name that began with Luther as he protested against the lies of the church that day in 1517.
Questions about truth
- Is there a verse or a phrase from the Bible that has changed the way you think about God and what you believe? Share it with your family.
- When Alexander Smith and Martin Luther discovered the truth of the Bible, they began to share it with others. How can you share the truth with others around you?
- Jesus taught that His followers were not to hide their light, or truth, under a bushel, but they were to let it shine so others could see and also believe (Matthew 5:15, KJV).
Truth in action
As a family, create a list of at least 10 people—family members, coworkers, friends—who need to hear the truth of Jesus Christ. Discuss specific ways you can share the truth with them. Then pray together for each person on the list, asking God to give you the opportunity and boldness to share His truth.
Praying together for truth
I confess, Lord, that it is so easy to forget to read the Bible, Your divine words to me. I forget that every word is inspired, alive, eternal, powerful, and able to change my heart, any heart. Your Word, the unchanging truth, will never change or fade away. Help me to treasure Your truth, to read it eagerly, and to be careful with how I handle Your book—to hold it reverently, for it is holy as You are holy. Amen.