April 18, 2004

Martin Luther

Martin Luther 1483 – 1546

Very few historical figures are as controversial as Martin Luther. His supporters call him a Protestant hero, a freedom fighter, a wise and insightful church leader. His detractors call him a heretic, an apostate, a profane ecclesiastical terrorist. Still others call him a necessary evil or the unwitting catalyst guided by the Spirit that set aflame a volatile social and ecclesiastical situation. Luther, himself, often called himself a simple monk or a simple Christian. He marveled that a straight-forward stand of conscience had turned him into one of the most-talked-about people of his time. Yet that simple Christian and that simple stand of conscience started an ecclesiastical shock wave that changed the course of the church. But Luther himself saw the Reformation as something far more important than a revolt against ecclesiastical abuses. He believed it was a fight for the gospel. Luther even stated that he would have happily yielded every point of dispute to the Pope, if only the Pope had affirmed the gospel. And at the heart of the gospel, in Luther's estimation, was the doctrine of justification by faith--the teaching that Christ's own righteousness is imputed to those who believe, and on that ground alone, they are accepted by God. Luther began the Protestant Reformation with the publication of his Ninety-Five Theses on October 31, 1517 that he nailed to the door of Castle Church. In the Ninety-Five Theses he attacked the Church’s sale of indulgences. He advocated a theology that rested on God’s gracious activity in Jesus Christ, rather than in human works. Luther was a champion of sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), and sola scriptura (Scriptures alone). The history of Luther’s life is not simply the history of the professor of Wittenberg. He was a man used by God who became the leader of a movement that spread to the point that nearly all Protestant Churches today could trace their history back to Him in one way or another.

“Lord God, You have appointed me as a Bishop and Pastor in Your Church, but you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had lacked Your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I call upon You: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon You Word. Use me as Your instrument -- but do not forsake me, for if ever I should be on my own, I would easily wreck it all. Amen” Martin Luther

Archived articles available on this site
Putting on
How to be a great Theologian
Eight statments on Justifying Faith

Other articles and catechisms available at Martin Luther archives