Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Reformation Day Eve- Martin Luther

Martin Luther was born to Hans and Margaret Luther on November 10, 1483 in Eiselben, Germany. He was baptized the next day (St. Martin of Tours Day). The Luther family moved to Mansfield in 1484, where Hans Luther operated a copper mine. Hans Luther was determined to have Martin become a lawyer and so provided him an excellent education attending schools in Mansfield in his pre-teen years and eventually in Eisenach at age 15. In 1501, at the age of 17, Luther entered the University of Erfurt. He was nicknamed by his fellow students, “The Philosopher” He received his B.A.. in just one year and had earned his M.A. by 1505. In 1505, at the age of 22, he enrolled at the law school at the University of Erfurt, as his father wished.

During the summer of 1505 a thunderstorm came upon him. A tree very close to him was struck by lightning and he was terrified (I used to think he was a wimp until I experienced something similar turkey hunting, very scary!). He cried out to St. Anna for help, basically pledging to become a monk if his life would be spared. He left law school immediately, sold his books, and entered the Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt on July 17, 1505 at the age of 22.

Luther dedicated himself to the monastic life with full zeal and vigor. Luther constantly fasted, spent long hours in prayer, and made endless confessions of sin before his superiors, especially Johann Von Staupitz. Luther later described this period of his life as one of deep spiritual despair-

“I lost hold of Christ the Savior and Comforter and made him a stock-master and hangman over my poor soul.”

While a monk at Erfurt, Luther lived with terrible guilt and fear concerning his sin and God’s need to punish him for it. Johann Von Staupitz bid Martin to trust in the merit of Christ for his salvation on multiple occasions and interactions while he was at Erfurt. Von Staupitz sent Luther to Wittenberg to distract him from his excessive introspection and to study the text of the bible itself, something not done in the monastery.

When Luther was at the University of Wittenberg he began to study the bible in earnest and eventually came to embrace the biblical concept that sinners were justified by faith in Christ alone and not by good works. If a particular moment for Luther’s conversion could be identified, it might come from the time in 1515 when he lectured on the book of Romans at Wittenberg.
He pondered day and night over Romans 1:17. Luther hated the phrase “the justice of God” or the “righteousness of God” because it seemed to refer to the punishment of sinners. Instead, Luther came to see this verse actually referred to the salvation of sinners by the gift of faith. Hence, the formal teaching of the doctrine of Justification by faith alone took center stage in Luther’s heart and teaching. Luther’s embracing of the biblical doctrine of Justification by Faith alone became his driving motivation for Reformation in the Roman Catholic Church.

The caring words of Luther's pastor-mentor Von Staupitz were no doubt used by the Holy Spirit to endear him to Christ:

“Why do you torment yourself with all these speculations and these high thoughts? Look at the wounds of Jesus Christ, to the blood that he has shed for you: it is there that the grace of God will appear to you. Instead of torturing yourself on account of your sins, throw yourself into the Redeemer’s arms!”


Kampfgruppe Hoppa said...

My Reformation Day celebration activities will include a tour of historic Reformation sites here in Germany.

Open invitation: Let me know when you'll be in Germany; You all have free room and board at the Hopper GuestHaus.

AJF said...

I would love that dude. Maybe if I win the lottery?

Rick Calohan said...

“The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther addressed many of what he thought to be Catholic abuses in the church. He wrote ninety-five statements and or questions and attached it to the door at the Church of Wittenberg in Germany. Luther did not want to leave the Catholic Church in fact he only wanted to debate the issues he felt the church was in error and reform it. However, his Ninety-Five Thesis would eventually anger Papal authorities and a bounty was placed on his head. As his works spread throughout Germany and Europe, Lutheranism was born and the modern Reformation had begun.
Luther’s main point was that the Catholic Church had convinced it followers that the non-Biblical traditions and sacraments were channels of grace and paths to salvation.

Luther’s efforts to reform the Catholic Church went unabated; however, it did cause the Catholic Church to counter Protestantism with the Council of Trent and the launching of a counter reformation. Luther was able to use the technology of the day in the form of the printing press to spread reformed theology and even published the first Bible in German. Luther’s Bible was published in 1534; it was based on the Hebrew version of the Old Testament and Desiderius Erasmus’s Greek addition of the New Testament, and was translated into German. Luther’s Bible transformed and unified the German people.

Religious rivalries would soon begin between Catholics and Lutherans during the 1540s when Charles V tried to reestablish Catholicism as the official faith of German people. It would not be until the 1555 that a compromise was reached in the Religious Peace of Augsburg nine years after the death of Luther in 1546. The agreement in short was “as the ruler, so the religion” thus the faith of the leaders of villages reign supreme. Although it gave the Reformation legitimacy, it did not protect reformers. Soon Lutheranism would dominate in northern and central Europe, dividing families, villages, and nations.

The reformation would spread to France and Switzerland, and give birth to Calvinism under John Calvin, and later Theodore Beza soon Lutheranism and Calvinism would spread to the shores of Scotland with Patrick Hamilton,George Wishart, and John Knox, and Presbyterians, the Puritans, and Congregationalist, would later arrive on the shores of America. Sadly many Americans will be celebrating Halloween instead of reflecting the significance of Martin Luther, who was a mighty force like the hymn he wrote based on Psalm 46, showed the world that a “Mighty Fortress is our God.”

As Dr. David Calhoun pointed out in his sermon on Reformation Sunday, about the pre-Reformer, Peter Waldo, the motto of the Waldensians and of the Reformation is, “After Darkness, Light.” Perhaps after the darkness of ignoring Reformation Day in America, light will shine as more Christians learn more about Martin Luther, and the Reformation. As Dr. Calhoun ended many a lecture saying, "And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about...”(Hebrews 12:1) "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked for us. (Hebrews 12:1) "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God shall stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

GUNNY said...

Luther is my second favorite in all of church history (behind only Whitefield), but this year I went back a little and highlighted John Huss.

Guten Tag, mein Herr!

Frontier Forest said...

Could there be any more profoundly powerful and life transforming thought about God’s endless grace and limitless mercy than Romans 1:17? “The righteous shall live by faith.” Just as Martin Luther did, may all of us make time to ponder this radical reflection.