Who was Martin Luther?

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"Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."

These words concluded Luther's address to the representative of the papacy when he was asked to recant his writings on salvation by grace alone and the authority of Scripture alone or face excommunication, a virtual death sentence.

Martin Luther, was born November 10, 1483 in Eisleben in which is not Germany.  During a thunderstorm in 1505, Luther in fear of his life, made a commitment to God that he would become a monk if he were saved.  He entered the Augustianian monastery in Erfurt.  During his stay, Luther was never able to find peace and assurance regarding his personal salvation.  At this time, Jesus was seen as the most righteous judge not so much as Savior.  Luther could not feel that he was ever the kind of person that Jesus could accept.  His confessor encouraged him to pursue doctoral studies and later to accept a teaching position at the new university in Wittenberg, thinking such activities would engage Luther's mind and quell his anxiety and distress.  This would prove to be the case, but not in the way the confessor thought.

In 1513 Luther began to lecture on the Pslams and began to see a God of grace and mercy in the Scriptures.  Later in 1515-1516 as he turned to Romans, Luther began to discover that the "righteousness of God" was not based on the sinner meeting some standard of behavior that would justify them in the sight of God, but rather was a free gift of God's mercy as sinners were declared to be righteous because of the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Luther's anxieties had been quelled by the simple words of Romans:

19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.  (Romans 3:19-28)

Knowing that others felt the same anxiety that Luther had felt, he began to preach and teach this message of salvation.  In 1517, a firestorm of discussion would erupt that would quickly evolve into what is now called the "Reformation".  When a representative of the church came to town selling indulgences (for a price a person could secure the release of oneself or another from purgatory or a reduction in sentence), Luther could not tolerate the spiritual bondage the people of the church had imposed on them by its leadership.  He challenged the church's "selling" of what God gave away for free in the Gospel.  He posted 95 theses, or statements, on the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg to begin discussion on this matter.  Soon controversy would erupt. There were those who saw Luther's point. Church leaders saw this as a direct challenge to their authority and station.

Soon Luther would find himself before the representative of the pope being order to recant from his positions and writing on salvation by grace and on criticism of those who would lead the church and yet claim authority to sell indulgences and to proclaim other errors in disagreement with the Holy Scriptures.  His refusal to recant would lead to his excommunication by the Roman church.  The leader of Saxony, Elector Duke Fredrick, secretly had Luther kidnapped to secure his safety.  Hidden away, Luther began translating the Bible into German so that his people could read the Word of God and decide on these matters for themselves. 

Luther would spend his life as a vocal leader proclaiming the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, as revealed in the Scripture alone, because Christ alone accomplished it.  He was a prolific writer and preacher who never stopped defending salvation by the grace and mercy found in Jesus Christ.  Luther married and had children.  He passed away in 1546. 

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See longer article   The Life and Work of Martin Luther 







Writings of Luther