Martin Luther And The Protestant Reformation

Martin Luther, father of the protestant reformation, faced many hardships in life. Despite opposition, however, he held firm and helped to change the religious world.

The man who was to become known as The Father of the Protestant Reformation was born on November 10, 1483. Martin Luther was born Martin Luder in Eisleben, Germany, to Hans (Johannes) and Margarethe Luder. Shortly after Martin's birth, Hans moved his family to Mansfeld to try making a living with copper mining.

Many superstitions and fears filled the hearts and minds of people in the time period when Martin was growing up and his family was no exception. The boy was undoubtedly afraid of many things. In addition to the fears, his parents were very strict and believed that love and discipline walked hand in hand, so they were rather harsh in disciplining the children.

Martin entered the prestigious University of Erfurt in 1501 and received his Baccalaureate degree in 1502, followed by his Masters degree in 1505. Hans had always wanted his son to go into law practice, but Martin was enthralled with scripture studies. In May of 1505, however, Martin entered law school at the University of Erfurt. He taught philosophy.

Much to his father's dismay, by mid July of 1505, Martin entered a monastery and no longer pursued the career choice Hans wished for him.

Martin's life as a monk was not an easy one. People who answered this calling were faced with extremely difficult lifestyles. The days in the monastery began at what is now thought of as the middle of the night. There was much fasting, praying, and hard work to be done. Martin enjoyed his studies of the Bible and was ordained a priest in April of 1507.

By 1512, Martin Luther had received his Doctorate degree in Theology and was teaching the subject at the University of Wittenberg.

Martin found himself disturbed by many of the things he had seen going on in the Catholic church. He studied his scriptures and began to see differences in what the Bible actually said as opposed to what was being taught. One such discrepancy involved the Letter to the Romans. Martin realized that the Bible states people receive salvation and are blessed through the grace of God, not solely by the works they do, as was being taught.

In October of 1517, Martin Luther wrote the now famous 95 Theses on Indulgences and concluded that the Pope had no power to forgive the sins of others. In 1518, Pope Leo X summoned Martin to Rome. He became more verbal with his disagreement of the Catholic church.

Many things happened over the next few years. One of these things was that a papal bull of excommunication was issued against Martin in 1520. He publicly burned it. Martin Luther was excommunicated by the Pope in January of 1521.

Three months later, Martin was asked to retract his ideas and teachings before a meeting called the Diet of Worms. He did not back down and an order to burn his books resulted. His reasoning was simple enough and he explained it in this quote: "Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other -- my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."

Directly after this, he spent a year in a Wartburg castle as an attempt to protect him and while there, he translated the New Testament into German. A "kidnapping" was staged by Elector Frederick the Wise to protect Martin's life and he lived in disguise as Knight George during the time spent at the castle. He returned to Wittenberg in 1522 and continued playing a huge role in the reformation movement that was occurring during the following years.

In June of 1525, Martin Luther wed Katharina von Bora. She had been a nun who fled from the convent along with a few other nuns. Martin was 15 years older than the wife he called Kate, for she was born on January 29, 1499. Kate brought a sense of order and peace to Martin's life. They became parents to six children in the years that followed.

He preached, he wrote books, and he composed songs during this time. Probably his most famous hymn is A Mighty Fortress is Our God, which was written in 1527. With the writing of this hymn, Martin surely was thinking about the things that were happening, and would continue to happen in his own life. He wrote, "Der alte boese Feind, Mit Ernst er's jetzt meint" which is translated to "The old evil foe now means deadly woe."

By 1538, Martin's health was deteriorating. There were many problems to face with health during the last years of his life. In addition, Martin went into a depression after losing a daughter, Magdelena, to death in 1542. The year prior to the child's death, there were infections, uric acid stones, the chronic digestive problems he had suffered for many years, continuing heart problems, and severe arthritis.

Poor health did not stop him from preaching, however. His final lecture at the university at Wittenberg ended with the words, "I am weak, I cannot go on." Martin wrote a spiritual last will and testament, in which he assured his words would not be misstated or twisted after his death. He knew the risk of this happening and wanted to leave no room for error. He wrote:

"So that no one will say after my death, 'if Luther was alive, he would teach and believe this article differently, because he did not think it through sufficiently,' I state the following, once and for all: I, by God's grace, I have diligently examined these articles in the light of passages throughout the Scriptures. I have worked on them repeatedly and you can be sure that I want to defend them, in the same way that I have just defended the Sacrament of the Altar. No, I'm not drunk or impulsive. I know what I am saying and understand fully what this will mean for me as I stand before the Lord Jesus Christ on the Last Day. No one should think that I am joking or rambling. I am serious! By God's grace, I know Satan very well. If Satan can turn God's Word upside down and pervert the Scriptures, what will he do with my words -- or the words of others?"

Martin Luther died on February 18, 1546 at the age of 63. He was buried in the Castle Church in Wittenberg. The reformation he helped to form began what is today the Protestant church and its various branches.

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