Church History Made Easy

Articles on Church History and historical figures.

Created: August 9th, 2016

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 17

Pr. Riley examines the explosion that occurred when Luther publicly opposed the sale of indulgences.

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 16

Not a single work we call "holy" impresses God in the least. Only Christ makes Christians holy. Likewise, then, only Christ can make a person "whole in hope," as Luther noted.

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 15

Where others had tried to smooth over and systematize such (seeming) contradictions, Luther plunged into the tension.

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 14

The underlying motive for striving after humility wasn't a desire to enter into God's grace, but the urgency of a sinner to put himself first, last, and always. Luther said it was "plainly insane" what he'd been taught, that a man had the ability to love God above all things and with the help of grace, obey the commands. He referred to his teachers and those who believed such things as "fools" and "pig theologians."

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 13

Martin Luther received his license to enter doctoral studies in 1512. He swore on oath on the Bible to teach true doctrine and stand strong against false teaching. Then a wool cap was set on his head and a silver ring was slid onto his finger. Luther began lectures on Genesis three days later.

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 12

During his lectures on the Psalms and Romans, the Righteousness of God had finally gotten hold of Luther—and it wouldn't let him loose. Like two sheepdogs, God's righteousness in Christ, freely given in the preaching of the Gospel, pursued and herded Martin Luther day and night. It was all he could focus on. The old wineskins of Medieval theology, which taught righteousness is what we achieve in ourselves in pursuit of godly obedience burst at the seams from the new wine of Christ's righteousness, for that righteousness is completely outside sinners, bestowed only by God's declaration of the sinner as righteous for Christ's sake.

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 11

Throughout the course of his early lectures, Martin Luther found that even though he had been taught as a young monk that there was a vast, uncrossable chasm between sinners and a righteous God, that is not what he discovered in Scripture. Instead, especially in the pages of the Old Testament, Luther discovered sinful men and women pursued and saved by a God of faithful, lovingkindness; a God slow to judge and quick to forgive sinners; and a Savior God who led sinners down into darkest hell so He could carry them up into heavenly glory.

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 10

For Luther, while he lectured on the books of the Bible at the University of Wittenberg, one question captivated his imagination: "Where can I find a merciful God?" And the one text that drove Martin forward was St. Paul's Letter to the Romans [1:17] "For therein [in the Gospel] is the righteousness of God revealed."

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 9

Martin Luther's move to Wittenberg did not lighten his workload at all. In fact, if anything, after he received his special license that made him a candidate for the doctorate in 1512, Luther's life became so busy he barely had time to sleep.

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 8

When the young monk got back to Erfurt, and it was determined that what Rome had decided about their infighting was unacceptable, monks took sides. That is why, in the end, Luther and his friend Johannes Lang, were more or less pushed out of the monastery and sent into exile, to live at the monastery in Wittenberg, the "Black Cloister," with their superior and friend in the Augustinian order, Johann von Staupitz.

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 7

At Wittenberg, Staupitz set Luther to lecturing on Aristotle's "Ethics" for the winter semester. Luther also prepared to receive his doctorate in theology at that time. In the autumn of 1509, he was called back to Erfurt to lecture, too. But that lasted only three-quarters of a year. Soon enough, Luther was called back to Wittenberg as a member of the theological faculty.

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 6

Reflecting on his time in the monastery, Martin said, "I did not think about women, money, or possessions; instead my heart trembled and fidgeted about whether God would bestow his grace on me... for I had strayed from faith and could not but imagine that I had angered God, whom I in turn had to appease by doing good works."

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 5

Martin Luther wasn't even 22 years old when he approached the monastery door in Erfurt. But he'd made up his mind. He knocked on the door of the Augustinian hermits. Martin asked the prior—the man responsible for running the monastery—to admit him.

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 4

After Luther's success with the Master of Arts exam, his father, Hans, gifted his son with a sum of money so Martin could buy the necessary books to continue his law studies. However, several weeks later, young Martin returned the books unused to the bookseller in Gotha. He didn't need them anymore, he said. He'd made a decision not to pursue a law degree. Martin had decided to enter the monastery instead, stunning both family and friends.

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 3

Young Martin Luther came of age in a religious culture that mirrored the world. If he worked hard enough, maybe he received his just desserts. In the same way, if he was devout and earnest about his eternal salvation, he might receive grace and be allowed to walk through heaven's gates at the time of death.

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 2

It was Trebonius and Geldennupf who recognized Luther's gifts, and it was they who paved the way for him to attend a university. Martin's father, Hans, was very encouraged by this turn of events and did whatever he could to secure his son's future learning, which he hoped would result in a career in church, law or medicine. Even though Hans barely earned enough to feed and support the family back home, when the time came, he made sure Martin had enough money to attend classes at the University of Erfurt.

Who Was Martin Luther? Part 1

Rev. Donavon Riley begins a series on "Who was Martin Luther?" This will be a weekly column leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.