Martin Luther: The Later Years and Legacy
Christians today should care about Martin Luther and his legacy to us for at least two reasons. First, he was a prolific Christian communicator. He authored nine of the Christian creeds and doctrines that Christians still subscribe to today, such as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, and he wrote many hymns, including the familiar “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” (“Luther’s Will and Testaments,” “Changing the Tempo of Worship”). In his missives, essays, books, and other writings, Luther challenged the Church’s doctrines and held discourse with other great religious thinkers of his time, championing the Scripture as the source of truth. In On the Councils and the Church, for example, he argued that:
…the church could not depend upon the fathers and the councils to establish its faith, but only upon Holy Scripture. Councils had no authority to introduce matters of faith or new works, but only to defend the faith and good works found in Scripture (“After the Revolution”).
In a time steeped in manmade religious doctrines, Luther’s insistence upon the authority of Scripture must have seemed somewhat lunatic and perverse, yet his courage, passion, and insistent argument with respect to the centrality of Scripture kept Christianity on course through years when churches were canonizing the opinions of men over the Word of God. Some of Luther’s works, such as his explication of the Ten Commandments, simplified and clarified them to be understood accurately by the masses, a benefit that allowed people to appropriate and live out the commandments of Scripture for themselves.
This unswerving commitment to uphold the true Word of God in the face of all opposition is the second reason that we should care about Martin Luther. Wherever the Church has degenerated into human thought and reasoning in opposition to the Scripture, error and abuses have abounded throughout Church history. Thanks to Luther, the Church found its compass during his era, and he battled fiercely to keep the Church and its followers cognizant of the passion for Christ and the veracity of the Word upon which real faith and true Christianity must be predicated.
Of the truths revealed from Luther’s life, his defense of marriage is one of the most powerful. Himself a former monk and his wife a former nun, Luther’s marriage to Katherine Von Bora was a working out of one of his deeply held beliefs that the church should not forbid to marry. Luther “elevated marriage and family life” and “placed the home at the center of the universe” (“Reinventing Family Life”). In fact, “His teaching and practice were so radical, so long-lasting, some scholars have argued that other than the church “the home was the only sphere of life which the Reformation profoundly affected” (“Reinventing Family Life”). Luther embraced and expounded on marriage at every level, not just the theological, and his comments and insights on marriage are revealing and inspiring due to his transparency and outspoken nature. Because his family became large, Luther “sometimes had to wash diapers, but he declared defiantly that even if neighbors should snicker at such ‘unmanly’ labor, ‘Let them laugh. God and the angels are smiling in heaven’” (“Reinventing Family Life”). In the end, the picture of Luther as a family man is real, and it demonstrates the kind of felicitous family life that was rare in his day, when most men were authoritarian tyrants at home and knew little of anchoring a family with love and fatherly involvement.
Christians today have a rich selection of truths from Luther’s life that can be applied to their own. Of these, the most eloquent is the knowledge that Christianity is not a dry religious rulebook full of shoulds and shall nots but a vital connection to the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Luther exemplified the incorporation of Christ into every aspect of one’s life and demonstrated that this is not only desirable but practical. Unlike most Christians¾particularly Church leaders¾of his day and ours, Luther made no attempt to posture or pose as a Christian. His religion was authentic and permeated everything in his life. One of the banes of Christianity has always been that most people practice it at church or in public but live differently at home and in their own thought life. This duplicitous type of existence merely mocks Christianity, as it has no substance and no meaning at all. Luther was an authentic Christian, with no pretense and no prevarication. If he saw a concept illustrated in the Word of God, he threw himself wholly into living it. There was no dichotomy between his private and public lives or between his inner and outer selves. This is a rare and precious quality in a Christian, and it teaches today’s Christians that the authentic Christian life is possible, not just an improbable, lofty goal that they can never hope to attain. It was just precisely Luther’s genuine, heartfelt immersion in the Scriptures that enabled him to live the Christian life to its fullest, and the lack of such immersion that hobbles most Christians’ efforts to do the same.
What is more, thanks to Luther’s generosity in explaining exactly how he lived his own life, even to the way he approached the Father in prayer, Christians today can take up the torch that Luther held up as he pressed forward through the maze of unscriptural church doctrine and superficial family and church life. Luther opened himself to the world and showed them how to be authentic Christians, how to have worthwhile family lives, and how to engage with the Father. These lessons are invaluable treasures in a sea of pompous, impractical, and theologically flawed perspectives that were ubiquitous in his day and still are today. In the last analysis, Luther showed us all how Christianity is done well, and we can all emulate him by his example.
Christians today learn from Martin
Luther’s life to apply to their own lives?
“how to” pray, keeping the heart ready, women’s rights¾luther 2
#3¾worship in music