Wednesday, October 25, 2017

God's Man in God's Time - Reformation 500

   In this second post of a three-part series celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, my brother Gabriel shares some interesting information about the man behind the Reformation.  


     Martin Luther was a man that had a profound influence on the Reformation. Martin Luther was born in Germany to Hans and Margarethe Luther on November 10, 1483. His father, Hans, worked diligently at a copper mine. Mr. Luther had plans for his oldest son, Martin. He sent him to Latin school for a time and then to the University of Erfurt at the age of thirteen. Martin’s father wanted him to be well educated in order to become a lawyer. Martin, however, wanted none of this. Though Mr. Luther knew that his son did not like training for a lawyer, he still enrolled him in law school.

     One day, as Martin was going to the University, he was overtaken by a mighty thunderstorm. Before he reached his destination, a lightning bolt struck near. In his distress, he cried, “Help! Saint Anna, I will become a monk.” The thunderstorm subsided, and he was able to make it to safety. True to his word, Martin stopped school and put everything away to become a monk. His father was enraged. He complained that he spent money on his education, and Martin wasted it. However, Martin Luther did not listen to his father’s words. He focused on living the religious life of a monk.

     The lifestyle of a monk was not pleasant. Martin Luther was constantly beating himself, fasting, staying awake all night, and in continual confession of sins. When Luther was not physically torturing himself, he studied the Bible. One day, he came across Romans 1:17, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Initially, Martin Luther hated this statement, “The just shall live by faith.” All Luther could understand was that he was not just, and would be judged by a righteous God. This made his blood turn cold. He was terrified of being judged by Jesus Christ. He did not understand that by grace we are saved through faith and not by our good works. Still, he did all the vain rituals to save himself. He later commented, “If anyone could have earned heaven by the life of a monk, it was I.”

     As he began to study more of Romans, he had a spiritual breakthrough. He said, “At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.” With his newfound faith, he began to spread his convictions. As he searched the Scriptures, he discovered that what the Roman Catholic leaders taught was contrary to what God’s Word teaches. Luther commented that if the Pope could reduce time in purgatory (a place where Catholics say you go after you die), why wouldn’t the Pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there? Questions like these stumped many people. Luther decided to oppose in writing all such false teachings of the Roman Catholic Church in what is now called, The Ninety-Five Theses. He nailed his writing on the outside of All Saint’s Cathedral in Wittenberg, which was the bulletin board of the city. It was a strategic move on Luther’s part to place it there because the next day was All Saints Day. People would be going in and out of the church to get ready for this event and many people would see his posting. Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses spread like wild fire. Within two weeks, it was all over Germany thanks to the help of Gutenberg’s printing press. However, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church despised his writing. It exposed all of their secrets! The Catholic leaders kept confidential the teachings of the Bible that condemned their actions. But at last, Martin Luther, a monk, exposed to the common people the corruptness of their doctrine. A series of debates then transpired between Luther and various Catholic leaders who challenged him to defend his new beliefs. Because Luther would not stop spreading the truth, the Pope excommunicated him. Excommunicated or not, Luther persevered in igniting the Reformation in Germany.

     In his lifetime, Martin’s accomplishments were many and notable. He was the first to translate the Bible into German so that the commoners could read it. Even William Tyndale used it to help write the precursor to the King James Bible. Among the many books he wrote, three of his most famous are, To the Christian Nobility, On The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and The Freedom of a Christian. In addition, he penned many hymns for the church. Luther inspired (and still inspires) many with the hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God. Luther’s bold stance against the Roman Catholic Church encouraged others like John Calvin, Myles Coverdale, and Thomas Cranmer to do the same. With his empowering life, others were emboldened to continue the Reformation throughout Europe. Martin Luther has a legacy that will never be forgotten because he was God’s man in God’s time. 


This post is the second in a three-part series on the Reformation. To read the previous post about the impact of the Reformation, click here

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