Luther was born in Eisleben in 1483 and was baptised a Roman Catholic. He studied at the University of Erfurt, later describing it as ‘a beerhouse and a whorehouse’, even though the discipline was such that he was made to get up every day at 4.00am. He was awarded a BA and MA from Erfurt.
On 2nd July 1505, Luther was riding on horseback to Erfurt, following a visit home. He encountered a thunderstorm and was almost struck by lightning. Terrified of death and final judgment by God for his sin, Luther made a sudden vow to become a monk. He felt he had to keep the vow, despite it being a decision made in haste. So, against his father’s wishes, he left law school, sold his books and entered a closed Augustinian friary with the intention of never emerging again.
In 1507, Luther became a priest and began hearing people’s confessions. He was later transferred by the church to the University of Wittenberg where he became the professor of biblical theology.
However, all through this time Luther was wrestling with the issue of how he could be at peace with God. He was deeply conscious of his sin and longed to find forgiveness. He fasted, prayed, went to confession and mass, paid penance, made a pilgrimage to Rome, but remained in spiritual despair. He needed to know that his sins were forgiven by a gracious God.
Gradually, through reading the Bible and Christian books, Luther saw that salvation, or forgiveness of sin, did not come from what he could do, but through what Jesus had done for him on the cross.
He eventually understood the Bible’s words, ‘The just shall live by faith’, grasping that righteousness is something declared of the sinner through God’s grace, not attained by him through his own works. Luther turned to God, truly repentant for his sin and understanding that Jesus had carried the sin of the world upon Himself.
He said, ‘God sent his Son, Jesus, into this world in order to proclaim to terrified sinners, the mercy of God.’ While meditating in the tower of the monastery in Wittenberg, Luther saw that the ‘righteousness’ which God demands is not earned, but received as a gift from God.
Soon, Luther was preaching and writing about Jesus and the free gift of salvation through faith in Him. As he did, his understanding of what the Bible taught became clearer to him.
- Born: 10 November 1483, Eisleben, Germany
- Died: 18 February 1546, Eisleben
- Family: Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora. They had six children.
- Notable Works: Ninety-five Theses, Luther's Large Catechism, Luther's Small Catechism, On the Freedom of a Christian, On the Bondage of the Will