Several years ago two of us drove the Martin Luther Trail in Germany. Being raised Lutheran but not understanding the heart of the Reformation, I hoped this prayer journey would show me what drove a monk/priest/professor to confront religious abuses of his day.
The issue was this: the Church, and there was only one Church for 1500 years, wasn’t meeting the spiritual needs of the people. God revealed to Luther that He wasn’t an angry God waiting to punish the sinner but a merciful God waiting to save him. That’s not what was preached and Luther decided to do something about it. The decision of posting 95 areas of concern on the door of the church (the community bulletin board) wasn’t meant to start a movement away from the Church but to stimulate debate and restore the purity of the gospel. Luther’s passion, imparted from God for such a time as this, was scriptural truth and he would not veer from it, not even under accusation of heresy. He translated the Bible into German for the people because his heart was for them to know God personally through His Word and experience His love. It was God’s providence that the printing press, mass media technology, was invented at this time in history and paved the way for duplication of the Word.
This sixteenth century man wrote and preached (over 3,000 sermons) for the rest of his life, age 63, and the Reformation began. Luther never wanted to leave the Church but it became dangerous to remain, hence the first denomination within the Church was born. His writings influenced believers of his day and were spread by horseback all over Europe. God’s movement back to Himself had begun and Luther’s mantra is still quoted today:
Grace alone, faith alone, scripture alone.
He suffered from physical ailments and depression consequently his later writings reflect his disillusionment. However, what he left us is a treasure-house of sound doctrine and good theology. He encouraged prayer, individual study of God’s Word, understanding Biblical doctrine, family-life in Jesus, personal holiness and God-centeredness. His impact cannot be stressed enough since his theology is the foundation for all protestant denominations.
Why is it important for a believer to know about Martin Luther who lived over 500 years ago? I think it’s because we can again veer away from those three truths. It’s vital we remember God’s love and grace shown in Jesus Christ, it’s not about who we are but Whose we are, and that’s revealed throughout the Bible, especially the New Testament. We have the responsibility to defend our faith like Luther but we can’t defend what we don’t understand. I’m encouraging you: listen to Biblical preaching, check it out in your own Bible, and allow the Holy Spirit to impart revelation to you.
As I followed the trail of Martin Luther I began to understand the passion of this man and hope I’ve now succeeded in relaying to you.