Over years of teaching World History and as the Reformation is a chapter in the book; mention is always made of Luther and his break with the church. Indulgences were mentioned as well as Tetsel who sold them which angered Luther leading to his 95 Thesis. How the Pope and Church reacted which started the Reformation. That's about all a high school text will say.
Being born and raised Baptist, Luther wasn't mentioned much in church or Sunday School. When I went to a Catholic church for my sister's husbands' Christening; I noticed that a number of Luther's hymns were in their hymnal. I still wonder if Leo X is rolling over in his grave.
I began reading this book out of curiosity and put it down a number of times. It was written in French of the year 1846. It's not easy to follow and the guy does ramble on and on about how God was guiding him and making miracles happen for Luther to live past childhood. He recovered from a sword wound where he nearly bled to death and different diseases. At first this was irritating. Once Luther begins his spiritual growth and his writing stirs up lethal opposition, his mentioning God's intervention makes more sense.
Here is a condensation of what enlightenment I've obtained from reading the book. Or what I learned.
1. Luther's road to reformation: while on his sick bed and an aged monk reassured him with the Apostle's Creed where it states "I believe in the forgiveness of sins." It was this simple, yet profound belief that flew in the face of The Churches teaching on penance to work sins out of your life. That got him questioning all he believed.
2. The scripture that was to define his whole theology: Romans 1:17 NASV For in it the righteousness of God revealed from a faith to faith it is written, But the righteous man shall live by faith. [Habakkuk 2:4] Luther's thoughts centered around this truth the rest of his life: The just shall live by faith.
3. Luther's first break with the Church occurred when he visited Rome. As many in his day who visited the city for the first time he was appalled at the wealth and the depravity the priests, bishops and cardinals. While there the Pope offered an indulgence to any who would on their knees go up Pilate's Staircase. While doing this penance to receive absolution from sin, the words: The just shall live by faith, kept repeating in his head. The just shall live by faith. He rose up and walked away leaving the superstition of the Church behind him.
4. Luther's doctrine. This is the condensed version of what he repeated many times: "I...confess this article, that faith alone without works justifies before God; and I declare that it shall stand and remain forever...This is the true and holy gospel, and the declaration of me, Doctor Luther, according to the Holy Ghost. There is no one who has died for our sins, if not Jesus Christ, the Son of God...it is He alone who taketh away our sins, it cannot be ourselves or our works. But good works follow redemption as the fruit grows on the tree. This is our doctrine."
My next post will deal with Luther's battle over indulgences.