He is one of the most influential men our world has known. His words would thrust Europe into a movement that would reshape the West, redirect Christian history, and ripple a renewed light into the uttermost parts of the world. His greatest contribution has nothing to do with him and has everything to do with Christ. He was a mere instrument in the hands of the Almighty to recover an almost forgotten light—the Gospel. His name was Martin Luther.
Luther was born of hard-working peasant stock. He was destined for the study of law, with high expectations from his demanding father. Providence redirected his course, turning him to the monastery. From childhood, he proved to be a troubled soul with an exceedingly tender conscience. Peace with God became his consuming quest of life. Striving for solace, he turned to the source known to be available in his mediaeval world. Rather than finding relief for his soul, his spiritual burden increased. After many struggles, Providence graciously led him to the Sacred Scripture. There, as opposed to all the religion in the world, he found satisfaction for his soul. God opened the eyes of his heart to behold the love and grace of Christ towards sinners in the Gospel. He came to an understanding of God, faith, the Gospel, and the church that had largely been lost for nearly a millennium. His newfound convictions in the old and unimproved truth soon collided with the church that he loved. Power, control, pride, and politics all conspired to oppose Luther's efforts to correct the corruptions of the church. His convictions that came from the Scripture cast him into conflict with the Pope and through dreadful circumstances eventuated in his being excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church, of which he was an ordained friar and professor of theology. He was accused of heresy, subjected to magisterial trials, church-wide censorship, and even threatened with execution, yet through it all God sustained him and Luther stood firm.
His world was divided about him. One Catholic writer said that Luther was a "demon in the appearance of a man." Others saw in his efforts a true work of God. One, first questioning Luther's theology, later insisted, "He alone is right!" October 31, 2017, marks 500 years to the day that Martin Luther would be used of God to officially redirect history.
Though Luther was no more than a man saved solely by God in His grace through Christ in the Gospel, we are deeply grateful to God for His gift to the world in this audacious man who loved truth and strove to make it known.
Luther’s major contributions include:
- Justification by faith alone (sola fide)
- A high view of Holy Scripture (sola scriptura)
- Salvation by grace alone (sola gratia)
- A high view of God as specifically sovereign
- Christ as head of the church (solus Christus)
- The theology of the Cross
- Emphasis on the Gospel in all ministry (sola gratia)