10 Things You Should Know about Martin Luther

1. Luther’s motivation was his search for God.

Luther is often presented as the man who stood up against all kinds of abuses in the Roman Catholic Church. And so he did. But this was not his main concern—this was not his primary drive.

Luther became a monk because he was searching for God, and, after he found God as the God of grace, he protested against everything that kept people away from that God. Luther did not stand up to reform the church, but to reform the message of the church.

Luther was not against the power of the pope (at least at first), but against the fact that the pope did not use his power for the eternal well-being of believers.

After he found God as the God of grace, Luther protested against everything that kept people away from that God.


2. Luther caused a U-turn in theology.

The best way to illustrate the radical change in theology Martin Luther brought about is the U-turn. Luther radically reshaped the gospel that was being proclaimed from a message in which man goes to God into a message in which God comes to man.

This U-turn is clearly visible in Luther’s liturgy. At the time, the Roman Catholic Church taught that, in the mass, the priest presents the crucified Christ to God. In contrast, Luther’s message is the opposite: through the preacher, God presents the message of the crucified Christ to believers.

3. Luther designed his own logo.

Luther was skilled at public relations, a fact perhaps most clearly illustrated in the so-called “Luther rose” which became his personal logo. He developed the logo and used it on all of his letters starting in 1530.

He explained the rose thusly:

First should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. “For one who believes from the heart will be justified” (Rom. 10:10). Even though it is a black cross, which mortifies and which also should hurt us, yet it leaves the heart in its natural color and does not ruin nature. . . . That is, the cross does not kill but keeps man alive. For the just shall live by faith, by faith in the Savior. Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (Matt. 28:3). Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is the beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already but is grasped in hope though not yet revealed. And around this field is a golden ring, to signify that such bliss in heaven is endless and more precious than all joys and goods, just as gold is the most valuable and precious of metals.

4. Luther was part of a team.

You can say that Luther started the Reformation but you can’t say he did it all by himself. Rather, we should echo John Calvin, who said: “The Gospel started in Wittenberg.”

Calvin not only indicates that the Protestant Reformation was all about the gospel, but also that Luther was part of a team in Wittenberg. His path to rediscovering the message of grace can’t be understood without the influence of his older colleague and boss, Johann von Staupitz.

Once Luther posted the theses and heavy discussions began, he was assisted by his colleague Karlstadt (who eventually became an opponent).

Essential for the spread of Luther’s theology were Philipp Melanchthon and Johann Bugenhagen. And then there were Lucas Cranch, Georg Spalatin, Veit Dietrich, and so many more.

In short, the Reformation had one leader but many teammates.


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