Martin Luther (November 10, 1483-February 18, 1546) led the Protestant Reformation in Germany, translating the Bible into the German language. An Augustinian friar, Luther received his doctorate of divinity and was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Wittenberg in 1512. Objecting to indulgences and other excesses of the contemporary Church, Luther posted his 95 Theses for debate, nailing them to the door of the Wittenberg chapel on October 31, 1517. His bold words caused a scandal that rocked the religious world.
Emperor Charles V summoned him to the Diet of Worms to renounce his views, but Luther refused to do so: ““Unless… I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture… I can and will not retract… Here I stand . . . I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.”* Among his many writings, Martin Luther declared:
“We are to be subject to the governmental power to do what it bids, as long as it does not bind our conscience but legislates only concerning outward matters…But if it invades the spiritual domain and constrains the conscience, over which God only must preside and rule, we should not obey it at all…”*
Martin Luther’s piecing words and bold actions on “Reformation Day” inspired many to start a movement. Some of the descendants of these reformed Christians eventually made the journey to America in search of religious freedom. Luther’s inspiration to defy government tyranny, which marked the Revolution, is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Romans 1:16-18 and reflect on the verses that God used to change Luther’s perspective.
Prayer: Father, we thank you for raising up men and women to redirect the course of the church back to Biblical truth when we become wayward. God raise up others in our day, we pray, in Jesus Name, Amen.
*Source Citations: Martin Luther, April 18, 1521, in his famous speech at the Diet of Worms as cited in John Bartlett, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1855, 1980), 155; Luther in his Epistel A. Petri Gepredigt und Ausgelegt, as cited in Ewald M. Plass, ed. What Luther Says: An Anthology, 3 vols., (St. Louis: Concordia, 1959), 2:601.