Martin Luther redefined the history of Christianity and churches by writing the 95 Theses and standing by them in the 15th Century. He brought many controversial matters involving the church to light and led to the introduction of the protestant churches in the world. Although he meant no harm, Luther interfered with the religious dogmas that had dominated Europe and the world and caused a split in the church. His main goal was a deeper discussion of the matters he considered important. Still, his interest led to an undetermined effect that placed him on the map and made him an important historical figure (Marius, n.p. His work and actions inspired others, such as John Wesley and the church ministry in modern times.
History of Martin Luther
Martin Luther is known as a reformer for his work in the Reformation of the Christian churches and the catholic beliefs. He was both in Germany in 1483 to Hans and Margaret. In his early life, Martin attended a boarding school and was an excellent student who achieved a bachelor’s and master’s degree and was on his way to becoming a law student. However, one evening while walking home, he was caught in a violent storm, and thunder almost struck him. He prayed to survive and promised to become a monk. As such, he disappointed his father but joined the monastery and became an Augustinian monk. During his time in the monastery, he was distraught about grace and could not resonate with the idea that God was a loving God. He spent time fasting, praying, confessing, attending vigils, and other religious activities to earn grace and save his soul. However, he still could not achieve grace and sought other means (Marshall, n.p).
In 1510, Luther decided to go to Rome for indulgence and to visit the pilgrimages. He was convinced these actions would protect his soul and bring him closer to grace. He did venerate the relics and donated with them a promise to receive more grace. However, he was not as pleased with the practices of visiting the monuments and praying and kissing the places labeled as sacred. Martin started having questions about the nature of grace, and once he joined the University of Wittenberg as a professor, he spent his time learning the Scripture and exploring its depths. His focus was the letters such as Galatians and Romans. Luther desired a more understanding of grace and how it was linked to the practices being carried out in the church. Therefore, he wrote the 95 Theses and nailed them to the Castle Church door. The Theses addressed the issues of indulgence, the reverence of the pilgrimages, and the concept of grace being earned from actions. However, the church was not open-minded about his ideas and wanted him to recant. Instead, he stood his ground, left the church, and hid while translating the Scripture for Germans to read, eventually leading to the Reformation and the formation of protestant churches (Marshall, n.p).
Contributions to Christian Theory
Martin Luther contributed to the Christian theory by translating the Bible, writing the 95 Theses, and standing up to the Diet of Worms. He is labeled a reformer and a heretic for overhauling the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church and giving people options through the protestant churches (Marshall, n.p). As such, Christians adopted new practices more aligned with the scriptures.
One major contribution Martin Luther made to Christian theory was translating the Bible. The Bible was written in Latin during the 1400s and the beginning of the 1500s. It meant that only the scholars. Monks and priests could read it to the congregation. The congregation’s role was to listen to the teachings and interpretations of the priest and trust that they were being taught the right thing. Luther translated the Bible from Latin to German while hiding, allowing more people to read, interpret and understand the word (Gordon et al., n.p). As such, more people felt that the grace of God was accessible to them and that they, too, could read and pray in their capacity. Furthermore, the translation set straight some practices in the church since people started comparing the scriptures with the actions being done. Luther’s intention while translating was to allow people to follow the word of God and not the church. In other words, he broke the religious dogmas of the church leaders using the Bible to manipulate people into carrying out practices like an indulgence and paying pilgrimages to sacred places (Gordon et al., n.p). His actions allowed John Wesley to read the word of God, use it to preach, and discover his understanding of grace and God’s power.
Another major contribution of Luther was outlining the issue of indulgence among the priests and paying pilgrimages to sacred places. Indulgence was the practice of donating to the church or doing some service as some payment to reduce the days a person is supposed to spend in purgatory (Bishop, p.6). The priests encouraged people to engage in indulgence and promised that Pope would grant them less time in purgatory and a quick entry to heaven. Luther was not against the practice but wanted to understand how it operated and the Pope’s power. He intended to engage the church leaders and understand why the Pope could not allow everyone to leave purgatory if he had the power to promise a short-term occupation of purgatory (Gordon et al., n.p). Moreover, he was displeased with the action of people using their wealth to donate and secure a promise of heaven while the poor struggled to make enough for a considerable donation. Luther’s observations and arguments led to people understanding the power of the catholic Pope and how the priests used his name to encourage unjust practices. There were places and monuments considered sacred so that when a person prayed to them, they could get a favor. Paying for pilgrimages was common among Catholics, and many believed it was necessary (Marius, n.p). However, Luther believed it was unnecessary and not mentioned in the Bible. According to him, the only practices that mattered were those in the Scripture, a doctrine called Sola Scripture (Bishop, p.6). Therefore, he allowed Christians to feel free to worship and seek God at any point without worrying whether the place was sacred ground or had a relic as long as a person relied on the Scripture.
Luther caused a split in the Catholic Church, pioneered the formation of protestant churches, and brought to light the idea that salvation was through grace by faith. The 95 Theses and the translation of the word caused the church to have different opinions about some practices (Woodbridge et al., n.p). For one, Luther supported the idea that priests should be allowed to marry if needed and the freedom of people to partake in the body of Christ. The catholic church wanted to continue the practices of sacraments that were given to the deserving and that actions could buy a person merit. Luther did not believe in the actions and insisted that grace came to all people through them having faith. When the protestant churches were formed, their church leaders were allowed to marry, and the congregation could read the words of God and partake in the Body of Christ (Woodbridge et al., n.p). After Luther, more churches outside of Catholicism continued to be formed and believe in grace through faith and not work. Once the protestant churches were formed, John Wesley learned from Luther and later insisted on people developing personal relationships with God. He believed that salvation was for all and that people could achieve holiness and personal sanctification if they prayed and followed the word.
Influence on Later Developments of Catholic and Protestant Churches
The influence of Luther on the churches affected them in later developments. In the protestant churches, there was more expounding of the word and accommodation of all people and their practices. In the catholic churches, the Reformation allowed for the elimination of some practices that were considered evil and outlined the practices that were considered acceptable.
Luther’s translation of the Bible from Latin to German granted people more accessibility. His actions led to the formation of the protestant churches called the Lutheran Churches, which used the translated Bible and believed in his perception (Marius, n.p). The more people learned about the Lutheran churches and teachings, the more they formed other protestant churches and accommodated the idea that they, too, could receive grace by having faith. Luther influenced the church to entertain the idea that a woman could become part of the church leadership, leading to the formation of churches with women leaders (Bishop, p.4). On the other hand, John Wesley improved the atmosphere for Methodist churches by preaching the words of Luther in the 1700s, causing more spread of the protestant denominations and movements.
John Wesley was keen on the mistakes of Luther as a man. Therefore, he added to what Luther taught by encouraging people to have a personal relationship with God and still have social engagements. According to John, Luther had no social life and friends to correct him or argue about his perception of the word of God and Christianity (Marius, n.p). John encouraged people to form social bonds to ensure they do not get misdirected and lost in their personal interpretation of the word of God, grace, and faith (Gonzalez, p.2). As such, he allowed people to do fellowships, liturgy, church meetings, and sing together to grow their Christian relationship.
Luther contributed to the elimination of some practices in the Catholic Church. Catholicism was the only form of Christianity for a long time in history. Before Luther interfered with their practices by critiquing some engagements, it would have remained the strongest Christian church (Woodbridge et al., n.p). Luther questioned the reverence and respect of the holy saints and sacred places and the power of the Pope. As such, the Catholic Church had to be clear on the authority given to the Pope and whether he could reduce time in purgatory. In addition, his questioning of the indulgence practices led to the elimination of it since it outlined the socioeconomic difference of people in the church. The actions of visiting holy places became less emphasized by the church, and the congregation was allowed to read the word despite the priest doing all the teaching (Woodbridge et al., n.p). Luther’s main point was that the Bible was the only religious doctrine and source of authority, meaning that all religious practices must reflect the teachings in the Bible. John contributed to the development of the Catholic Church by encouraging them to develop more social engagement and seek a personal relationship with God (Gonzalez, p.1-2). He argued that people should seek to know God beyond the church and the teaching offered during the sermon.
Ways that Luther Resonates with Life and the Ministry
Luther is a demonstration of the importance of critical thinking and personal responsibility. When Luther realized he had a shallow understanding of the word of God and grace, he sought to understand through reading the word himself. As Christians, we learn from Luther the importance of reading and understanding the Bible personally. Therefore, despite the teaching offered in the church, one should seek to know the word and how it relates to them. Moreover, Luther became thoughtful about the church practices and wanted to learn their logic, prompting him to write the theses. In the ministry, Christians learn to become more critical of church practices and not follow things unthinkingly. In other words, Christians should carry out practices once they understand the meaning behind them and how they relate to the Bible. In addition, Luther grants Christians the responsibility of ensuring all people get the word of God and banishing practices that are oppressive to the weak and vulnerable.
Glory is unto God, who is in heaven and the ruler of all creation. May the Lord grant us wisdom to understand the words written in his holy book; we believe and trust in God that He is full of love and compassion. We ask for forgiveness for our sins and the grace to do God’s will. May you, our Lord, help us to become more mindful and diligent in our practices; may we walk in the way of the light, and may our actions reflect the teachings of your word. Please help us become more aware of our actions in your presence and what we deem acceptable. Strengthen our faith in you. God, give us the strength to continue preaching the truth about your love and message to all humanity. Continue being the Lord of our lives and the Savior of our lives. We trust in you, dear Father, and pray that you may engulf us in your love, surround us with your grace, and may your will prevail. Thank you for who you are. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Bishop, Paul A. “Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.” Hillsborough Community College (2014). 1-12.
Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: Volume 2: The Reformation to the Present Day. Vol. 2. Zondervan, 2010.
Gordon, Bruce, and Martin E. Marty. Encyclopedia of Martin Luther and the Reformation. Vol. 2. Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.
Marius, Richard. “Martin Luther.” Martin Luther. Harvard University Press, 2009. https://doi.org/10.4159/9780674040618
Marshall, Peter. 1517: Martin Luther and the Invention of the Reformation. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Woodbridge, John D., and Frank A. James III. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context. Zondervan Academic, 2013.