“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess.”
“I did nothing; the Word did everything.”
“I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my Guide.”
“You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.”
“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”
His Life and Work
He was the most influential man of his day. The movement that began with his posting of the Ninety-Five Theses reshaped Europe, redirected Christian history, and recovered the truth of God’s Word.
Born in Eisleben, November 10
Born in Eisleben, November 10. First born child of Hans and Margarethe Luder. He was baptized on November 11, the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, the fourth-century Roman soldier turned monk and bishop. Thus his parents named him, “Martin.”
House of Martin Luther, 1483-1546 German Roman Catholic priest who was excommunicated and led Reformation in Germany, Eisleben, Germany. Gianni Dagli Orti / The Art Archive at Art Resource, NY
Luther as a student at University of Erfurt
Martin had distinguished himself as a bright scholar, enabling him to attend the University of Erfurt, where he earned both a bachelor’s degree (1502) and a master’s degree (1505) with plans to study law. During this time he took a Latinized form of his last name, becoming Martin Luther. In the summer of 1505, he was caught in a violent thunderstorm presumed to be God’s judgement on his soul. Calling out in desperation to St. Anne, he made a vow to become a monk.
Luther discovers the Latin Bible in the University library of Erfurt in 1501. (Rudolf Besser), 1857. Etching, 1847, by Gustav König (1808–69) Fourth image of the series: Dr. “Martin Luther”, the German reformer. Stuttgart (Rudolf Besser), 1857. Berlin, Sammlung Archiv für Kunst und Geschichte. Photo: akg-images
Luther ordained as an Augustinian friar
Keeping his vow to become a monk, Martin was ordained as an Augustinian friar in 1507. During this time, Luther began to devour the Scriptures. Whenever he read of “the righteousness of God,” he could only think of the righteousness that moves God to condemn the unrighteous. Tormented by fear, Luther spent every hour hoping to become acceptable to God, yet unable to find solace in penances and confession. So, he was sent to study the Bible at the University of Wittenberg.
Portrait of Martin Luther (1483-1546) as an Augustinian Monk, c.1523-24 (oil on vellum on panel), Cranach, Lucas, the Elder (1472-1553) / Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Germany / Bridgeman Images
On October 31, All Hallow’s Eve, or the eve before All Saints’ Day, Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg. Luther prefaced the Ninety-Five Theses with these words, “Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light.” Confronting Rome’s selling of indulgences and mistranslation of “penance” as an outward act rather than whole-souled heart change, Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses would serve to ignite the Reformation and a rediscovery of the gospel.
“Martin Luther’s 95 Theses.”(Luther nails the 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral 31 Oct. 1517). Painting, 1872, by Ferdinand Pauwels (1830–1904). Oil on canvas, 85 × 72cm. Eisenach, Wartburg. Photo: akg-images
Luther is excommunicated, stands before the Diet of Worms
Pope Leo X issued the papal bull Exsurge Domine, which called on the Lord to expel Luther from the church. Luther responded to the papal bull by burning it. In April 1521, Luther appeared before the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire in Worms to answer charges of heresy. He refused to recant his writings and gave his now famous “Here I stand” confession. In exile at Wartburg Castle, he translated the New Testament into German.
Luther Before the Reichstag in Worms. (Replica of the mural in the great hall of the grammar school in Kiel, Germany of 1870 [war loss]) Oil on canvas. 1877. 66 x 125 cm. Inv. no. 876. bpk, Berlin / Art Resource, NY
Luther marries Katharina von Bora, completes German Bible translation
On June 13, at the age of forty-one, Luther married Katharina von Bora, who was twenty-six years old and a former nun. Together they would have six children, three boys and three girls. In December of 1525, he wrote what would be his magnum opus, On the Bondage of the Will, which addressed the moral inability of an unregenerate person to believe the gospel of Christ and also defended the clarity of Scripture. He completed the translation of the German Bible in 1534.
Portrait of Katharina von Bora (oil on panel), Cranach, Lucas, the Elder (1472-1553) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images
Martin Luther Translating the Bible. 1870. Oil on canvas. Inv. A I 61. bpk, Berlin / Art Resource, NY
Luther preaches his last sermon
On January 17, he preached his last sermon from the pulpit of the Castle Church in Wittenberg and headed toward Eiselben, which would be his final trip. Upon arrival, he was welcomed with cheering crowds and escorted by a cavalcade. He preached again on Sunday, January 31 and then became severely ill. On February 7, he wrote to his wife, Katie, to tell her he missed her. Eleven days later, he died. On his deathbed, he cited Psalm 68:19 and finally John 3:16.
Martin Luther (colour litho), English School, (20th century) / Private Collection / Ken Welsh / Bridgeman Images
His Legacy Endures
“I love Martin Luther because he embodied the struggle of every Christian to have peace with God.” R.C. Sproul
Excerpt from the foreword
Luther’s indelible legacy will always be the example of his faith. His heroic courage, deep passion, steadfast integrity, infectious zeal, and all his other virtues are the fruit of his faith. This one man made an impact on the church and on the world that still influences all Bible-believing Christians today.
Luther would not have sought any honor for himself. By his own testimony, he owed everything to Christ. The story of his life confirms that testimony. Conversion utterly transformed Luther from an anxious, fainthearted monk into a paragon of confident, contagious faith. The more he faced opposition from Rome, the more his biblical convictions deepened. Everything positive in Luther’s life points back to his life-changing encounter with the righteousness of God and the glory of Christ in the gospel.
CO-EDITORS AND CONTRIBUTORS
Under the editorial leadership of Drs. Stephen J. Nichols and R.C. Sproul, a team of thirteen notable authors, theologians, and pastors insightfully craft an intimate portrait of Martin Luther through essays covering his life, thought, and legacy.
Dr. R.C. Sproul is founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. He can be heard on the radio program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and around the world. Dr. Sproul is author of more than one hundred books, including The Holiness of God, Faith Alone, and Everyone’s a Theologian. He also serves as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.
Dr. Stephen J. Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Fla., and chief academic officer and a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries. He previously served as research professor of Christianity and culture at Lancaster Bible College. He is author of several books, including For Us and for Our Salvation, Jesus Made in America, and Heaven on Earth: Capturing Jonathan Edwards’s Vision of Living in Between, and he is co-editor of the Theologians on the Christian Life series.
What others are saying
“The Legacy of Luther offers a clear, bold, and much-needed call to a new Reformation. May God use it to bring renewal to both the church and the world.”
“The former monk-turned-gospel preacher would be the last to seek recognition for himself, but if these challenging studies succeed in reminding us of what God can do through one human life dedicated to his glory, they will well repay the time we spend reading them.”
“If you are interested in Luther (and if you are not, you should be), and if you are looking to learn more about him, his life and ministry, the larger Reformation context, and his influence, then add The Legacy of Luther to your required reading list for the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation.”
“This book challenges us not just to be admirers of Luther but to follow in his footsteps. Surely, this is the great need of Luther’s Germany today as it is a need of the church in all places at all times until Christ returns.”
“Luther was a passionate follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, a happy husband and an eager father, a man whose pastor’s heart should humble us all, and a man who was ready to stand, at risk of his life, on the word of God and not be moved. This new book by R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols is a wonderful introduction to Luther and to his theology.”