Martin Luther

February 16

Martin Luther (1483-1546), monk, professor, reformer, musician, biblical translator, theologian. His biblical rediscovery of God's grace in Jesus Christ inspired and ignited the sixteenth-century Reformation in the Western Church. His writings, translated into English, fill over fifty volumes. Luther was born in Eisleben, Germany. His father was a copper miner. ...

 

In 1505 he was in the process of earning his law degree when he was caught in a thunderstorm. He promised Saint Anne, the patroness of miners, that if she would spare him, he would become a monk. In July 1505, Luther entered the Black Cloister of the Observant Augustinians at Erfurt. Luther, an impeccable monk, prayed, fasted, flagellated himself, went without sleep. He pursued the rule earnestly, exceeding its requirements. He once said, "If anyone could have earned heaven by the life of a monk, it was I." With a doctorate in theology he became a professor. Yet the nagging question remained: "How can I find a gracious God?" ...

 

The phrase that bothered Luther the most was "the righteousness of God." Luther and the people of his time believed that God's righteousness was satisfied by a system of cooperation between God's grace, dispensed sacramentally, and human efforts and good works. But the system did not work for Luther. He could find no peace. As Luther dug deeper into holy scripture, he discovered Romans 1:17: "The one who is righteous will live by faith." Luther discovered that faith is a gift given by the Holy Spirit. We are made right with God by grace through faith in Christ alone, apart from the works of the law. The whole Bible took on a new meaning in light of the gracious God known in Christ. Luther said he felt born again. ...

 

After this spiritual awakening to God's unconditional and unmerited grace in Jesus Christ, Luther publicly questioned the system of indulgences in ninety-five theses, followed by a variety of treatises promoting reform in the church. With the political support of the emperor, he was able to stand against the power of the papacy; and the Protestant Reformation began. ...

 

Luther wrote the Small Catechism  to nurture Christians in the basics of faith, and he composed many hymns, including "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." He translated the Latin mass into German. ... On February 16, 1546, just before he died, Luther wrote down his last words, "We are all beggars. That is true." Luther's life taught him that we are beggars and sinners; yet God loves us, accepts us, and saves us as we are, with no conditions.

 

If Martin Luther had taken the Spiritual Types Test, he probably would have been a Prophet. Luther is remembered on February 16.

 

Excerpted with permission from the entry on Martin Luther by Frederick P. Schenker, The Upper Room Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation, edited by Keith Beasley-Topliffe. Copyright © 2003 by Upper Room Books®. All rights reserved.]

 

Ilustration is from The Love Affair of Great Musicians by Rupert Hughes, Vol. II, 1903. This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net

Today's Reflection

Martin Luther