A Brief Introduction to the Life and Ministry of Martin Luther

Luther Larger than Life

Luther lived very large. He lived a life that was probably about as much as ten lifetimes squeezed into one. He was born in 1483, into a world that was medieval. It was the height of the Middle Ages. He died in 1546 as the modern world was emerging, and much of those changes had to do with Luther himself.

Of course, the singular event in his life was October 31, 1517: he posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door. That was the beginning of his conflict with his church. It culminated in the spring of 1521, when Luther appeared before the Diet at Worms, before the emperor and the princes, the bishops and the papal legates. Here was Luther, an obscure Augustinian monk, and he took his stand there. And that was where he uttered his famous words: “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. To go against our conscience is neither safe for us nor open to us. Here I stand.”

“My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” —Martin Luther

And so from 1517 to 1521, there was this formation of Luther as he was hammering out these doctrines of sola scriptura (by Scripture alone) and sola fide (by faith alone). Not only did Luther start the Reformation, as it were, he was also involved in organizing it. From 1521 to 1546, he was pastoring, preaching five to seven times a week there in Wittenberg, and lecturing at the University. And his students were going all over Europe and proclaiming the gospel.

Luther's Ministry to Children

Martin Luther also taught kids. This was one Luther’s great legacies. He wrote the shorter catechism, or the kinder catechismus as it was called. Every morning, Luther opened up the doors to his house there in Wittenberg, and the kids of the town came in and sat at the feet of Dr. Martin Luther as he opened the catechism before them.

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He married a former nun and they went on to have six children of their own. They adopted another four kids or so from relatives. He endureed a plague that came through Wittenberg, he endured the peasant war, and he endured church conflicts. He lived not just through this Reformation, but he lived into old age. In 1546, he died, ironically enough, in the town of his birth, Eisleben.

But what we see in Luther is a faithfulness to the end—that he clung, not just as he did in life but also in death, to the doctrine of Christ alone, and salvation by faith alone in what Christ has done for us. Martin Luther lived a remarkable life.

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