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Martin Luther and Faith alone (1483—1546)

In our summer sermon series we are going to look at 5 truths that matter. When people take their eyes off God’s word and begin to establish ‘manmade religion’ the truths of God’s word are quickly lost.  Today we begin by looking at the truth, “Grace alone”.  As we do this we are also going to have the opportunity to find out about some of the people in our past who were prepared to risk everything to make sure God’s word was taught clearly. This week we will be looking at Martin Luther .

Martin Luther was born in Saxony, Germany, in 1483. He went to university in Erfurt, where he graduated with two degrees in 1505. Luther was set to study law, but a narrow brush with death by lightning is said to be the reason behind his decision to become an Augustine monk in 1506.

Luther was horrified at the corruption within the church of his day, and despaired at his own sinfulness. Still, he continued his theological study, taking on a third degree in 1512. But he was profoundly changed by reading Paul’s letter to the Romans: For in [the gospel] God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith. (Romans 1:17)

Luther realized that the righteousness of God was not primarily a characteristic of God to be feared, but an activity of God. God is righteous when he declares that the unrighteous who have faith shall be righteous.

Seeing that we are justified by faith and not by what we do meant that Luther could not sit by while poor peasants were offered salvation for their dead parents in exchange for money at a Roman Catholic fundraiser.

Luther drew up ninety-five theses for debate, which he posted upon the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church in 1517. He rejected the Catholic teaching that sin could be absolved through papal indulgences, since grace was given by God alone. When Luther’s theses were printed and distributed through Europe there was a huge backlash against the church. Papal indulgences dropped across the continent as people understood that they could be made right with God through faith in Christ’s sacrifice rather than through human effort or giving money to the church.

In 1521 Luther was pressured to formally retract his teachings. Instead, in front of the Emperor, the princes and the papal hierarchy, Luther famously declared: “If, then, I am not convinced by proof from Holy Scripture… and if my judgment is not in this way brought into subjection to God’s word, I neither can nor will retract anything… I stand here and can say no more.”

(Taken from Ideas that changed the world, Matthias Media)