All Saint’s Day: Martin Luther

NOTE: These notes are to help those listening to the sermon live or for those listening to the recorded sermon to help follow along and are not intended for publication. All quotes and facts have been taken from the sources listed at the beginning. I have not cited them parenthetically. The format for a book review has not been used for the sake of space and time and the notes are for verbal communication not a publication.

Martin Luther

Trueman, Carl R. Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015.

Echoes of the Reformation Leader Kit Five Truths That Shape the Christian Life. Lifeway Christian Resources, 2017.’

Lawson, Steven J. The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Pub., 2013.

Key Passage

Romans 1:17 (ESV) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith (literally from faith to faith so that God’s righteousness is had only by faith)[1], as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 3:21-26 (ESV) 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Where do we get faith?

It is God’s gift.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

These passages rocked Martin Luther’s theology of works, and they saved him and launched a revolution that is still felt today.


Born: November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, Germany

Died: February 18, 1546

He was 63 years old.


Father was Hans Luder (later Latinized to the more familiar “Luther”), who was a copper miner.

Mother was a pious yet superstitious Roman Catholic.

Luther’s father had groomed him from his early years to be a lawyer. As a result, being a good child of his parents, Luther pursued an education first at Eisenach (1498-1501), then at the University of Erfurt (1502-1505) for Bachelors and Masters degrees.

In July 1505 after one month of legal studies, the 21-year-old Luther was caught in a thunderstorm, a lightning bolt knocked him to the ground. In fear for his life, he cried out to the Catholic patroness of miners: “Help me saint Anne, and I will become a monk.”

In spite of his father’s opposition, Luther kept his commitment and two weeks later his entered the Augustinian order of friars.

Luther’s Burden

In 1507, Luther was ordained as a priest. When he presided over his first mass, the doctrine of transubstantiation nearly crushed him (the belief that when a priest blesses the elements of the Lords Supper they actually become the body and blood of Christ). He wondered how a sinful man could be part of such things.

“Who am I that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my hands to the divine majesty? For I am dust and ashes and full of sin, and I am speaking to the living, eternal and true God.”

Luther tortured himself with prayer, fasting, vigils and freezing in an effort to assuage his conscience and earn favor with God.

“If anyone could have earned heaven by the life of a monk, it was I.”

Luther began to teach theology as a junior lecturer the next year under Johannes von Staupitz (1460-1524). Luther knew God demanded perfection, but he could not attain that standard.

The church’s teaching that one should simply do their best to be holy, and God would count that work to their righteousness haunted Luther.

Luther’s study led him to understand that man in sin is “dead”, so how can a dead man do his best when there is no best to do.

Staupitz sent Luther to Rome (1510), hoping that this trip would help Luther’s seriously tortured soul.

Luther climbed the stairs, supposedly transferred from Jerusalem, that Jesus descended at Pilot’s headquarters, kissing each step because of the belief that sins would be erased if he did this. When he reached the top, he had the thought, “what if this is not true?”

Luther saw the many abuses and the unholy lives of priests and he became quite disheartened.

Luther realized he could not do enough to earn God’s approval, and there were many who were not even trying (rampant sin) according to what they had been taught.

When Luther returned from this trip he transferred to the University of Wittenberg. He earned his doctorate of theology degree (1512) and became a lecturer in bible.

Luther taught Psalms – 1513-1515

Luther taught Romans – 1515-1516

Luther taught Galatians – 1516-1517

Luther taught Hebrews – 1517-1519

Luther and Indulgences

In 1517, Pope Leo X gave authority to sell indulgences in Germany for the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

An indulgence is a reduction of punishment for sin that is granted by the RC Church after a sinner has made confession and done various works and performed prayers.

Persons already in “purgatory” could have their time reduced or even be freed with the purchase of indulgences by their relatives.

Johann Tetzel, a Dominican Friar, was a salesman not to be equaled. He was “the man” at selling indulgences. His most famous line was, “As soon as a coin the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”

Of course, this “deception” was not likely to make Luther happy.

Luther’s study of Romans and Galatians had “ruined” him for such folly.

If Scripture alone was the final say, then these abuses had to go.

On October 31, 1517 Luther nailed a list of 95 statements on the front door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg offering a public debate about the sale of indulgences and other issues he was raising.

What Luther did not know, was that his students took the document, had it printed and published and before long all of Germany was “woke”. What had been hidden in a language they didn’t speak, was now revealed in their native tongue.

Of course, when the Pope heard news of Luther’s actions, he denounced Luther’s work for preaching dangerous doctrines and called him to Rome.

Luther refused to appear, and he was ordered to Augsburg to appear before Cardinal Thomas Cajetan.

This Imperial Diet (general assembly of the Holy Roman Empire), was to get Luther to recant.

Luther refused, and made clear that he believed the Pope could err in his pronouncements.

Luther insisted that the Pope’s claims be proven with Scripture.

The last person to do such a bold thing was John Huss, and he was executed.

Luther left Augsburg fearful for his life. However, Luther enjoyed the protection of a vital figure in the Empire, who was his home leader (you may say), Elector Frederick III of Saxony. So, Luther was given harbor and the Pope could do nothing to harm him.

Through all of the hardship that was coming on Luther, he continued to study and Romans 1:17 was what caused the light of the gospel to break through the darkness of his heart and the darkness of errant theology.

Romans 1:17 (ESV) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

“I did not love, yes, I hated the righteousness of God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, ‘As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the Decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!’ Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience…At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, ‘In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’’ There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”

Diet of Worms

Luther was summoned by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, to appear before the Imperial Diet to officially recant.

In spite of being warned by his friends, Luther went.

Luther was shown all that he had begun to write and preach and publish (stacked on the table in front of him), and Johann Eck the Archbishop of Treves asked, “Will you retract them?”.

Luther, humbly and fearfully, asked for time to think and pray.

The next day, April 18, 521 he came with his now famous reply:

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either the Pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen.”

Kidnapping and Translation

Charles V condemned Luther as a heretic, and placed a price on his head. He was given 21 days for safe passage and to get his things in order.

On the way, he was kidnapped by his supporters and hidden in the castle of Wartburg near Eisenach.

While hidden in this castle, Luther gave himself to the translation of the New Testament. From April until Easter, Luther worked on the translation. Luther completed the work in that short time, polished things up and the German New Testament was published September 21, 1522.

The Scriptures, now in the heart language of the people. spread the fire of the Reformation far and wide. Now, there was nothing the Church or the Empire could do.

When asked to explain the success of the “reforming” work that has happening, Luther replied, “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept…the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”

Marriage and More

Luther helped nuns escape from their cloisters and helped to get them married off. What a great ministry!

One in particular, had some failed attempts, through no fault of her own. So, Luther married her.

Katherine Von Bora married Luther April 1525. He was 45 and she was 26.

Luther said that he married to “upset the Pope, make angels laugh and devils weep.”

They had 6 children, and Luther loved to laugh, and they had an exceptionally happy home.

Luther would preside over a growing movement that went way beyond his intended results.

Example: From 1524-1526 A “Peasant War” erupted. This was, in all likelihood, a result of Luther’s work that “liberated” people from the trappings of the RC Church, but Luther sided with the Prince and the nobility, and that had some not so great results.

Luther would wrestle with church unity and disunity because the organization of the RC Church was now gone and the people of the faith had to be organized into an actual functional local church.

Luther wrote hymns, preached and wrote papers almost constantly.

Luther and Katherine hosted many students in their “parsonage”, which was a former monastery. They would have “table talks” in which they would discuss theology and Katherine played a major role in this work (craft brewing beer, theology discussion, hosting, creating economy).


Martin Luther traveled on January 23, 1546 to his hometown of Eisleben to oversee a family dispute. At 63 years old, he succumbed to all that his work had done to his health.

Knowing his life was coming to an end, who wrote his will out, and he started by saying, “I am well known in heaven, on earth, and in hell.”

Luther’s last words were, “We are beggars. This is true.”

Luther died on February 18, 1546.

Luther was carried to Wittenberg and mourned by thousands.

He was buried in the Castle Church at Wittenberg immediately below the pulpit where he had often stood to preach.

Luther’s Warts

There is only one hero of the faith and that is Jesus.

Great women and men in Christian history are to be learned from, and put in their proper place as servants of God. And every one of them are fatally flawed.

Every leader of any movement has fatal flaws because they are sinners who have been rescued from the fall.

Therefore, we don’t do hero worship. I’m convinced that when the Christian masses begin to “follow” a great leader, unless that leader seeks to hide behind Jesus, there will be a great fall.

Jesus will not share his glory.

No man or woman has died for sins.

All of us are flawed, and if our flaws were to be put out for the world to see, we’d be hated by all. Hopefully, graciously, others will learn from our failures and be better.

Luther’s fatal flaws are many, but his most fatal is an anti-Semitism that was simply rancid.

Like it or not, Luther’s ranting on Jewish people was used by the Nazi party to annex the Lutheran Church in the rise of the “Third Reich”. This capitulation of the Lutheran Church resulted in the birth of the “Confessing Church” and the likes of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth.

This is why we study God’s word, follow Jesus, submit to one-anther in the church and NOT FOLLOW MERE MEN.

Let’s highlight two aspects of Luther’s life.

Luther possessed a clear and deep conviction about Scripture

“It was because pope could and did err and because councils could and did err that Luther came to realize the supremacy of Scripture.” – R.C. Sproul

When asked to explain the success of his work, he replied, “I simply taught, preached and wrote God’s word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept…the word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the word did everything.”

Luther highlighted and brought to light the clear doctrines of the bible we may often take for granted as well as some practices associated with study and preaching.

  • Verbal Inspiration of Scripture – “The Holy Spirit is the Author of this book.” When the bible speaks, God speaks. “The Scriptures, although they are written by men, are neither of men nor from men but from God.”
  • Inerrancy of Scripture – The Scriptures are pure and trustworthy. The Scriptures do not contain anything contrary to fact.
  • Supreme Authority of Scripture – The Scriptures are the final say and full authority for the believer and the church.
  • Clarity of Scripture – The RC Church withheld the bible from the “common” people believing they could not understand it. Luther would assert, “No clearer book has been written on earth than the Holy Scripture.” When there is confusion, it’s not the bible’s fault, but it is our faulty understanding.

“The Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it.” – Wayne Grudem

  • Sufficiency of Scripture – “The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.” Wayne Grudem
  • Our Submission to the Text
  • The Need to Interpret Literally – always interpret literally unless it’s clear the text is not literal.
  • The Need for Spirit Illumination
  • The Need for Biblical Exposition and biblical preaching
  • The Role of the Law – The Law shows us our sin and the depth of sin, our need for Jesus and how to grow in godliness. Basically, Galatians.
  • Christ Exaltation – We are to lift Jesus up as the centerpiece and interpretive key to the whole bible…Just finished a series on that.
  • Cross Centered – The bible demands we not ignore the cross, but that we highlight the work of God at the cross that justifies sinners.
  • Gospel Invitation – The necessity to invite people to Jesus when the gospel is proclaimed.

Luther was passionate, happy and a wee bit salty

  • Luther was full of life and had an edge to him.

Luther Insult Generator:

  • Luther’s passion for righteousness, being right, and honoring God led him to prophetically speak to his culture, his time in history and the people around him.
  • Luther sharpened those around him with his knowledge of the word and his passion for it.
  • Luther was happy. His home was happy and full of laughter.
  • Luther and Katherine made lots of beer. True story. They were craft brewers before craft brewing was cool.

What can we imitate from Luther’s life?

  1. Love God’s word and sow it abundantly.
  2. Be passionate about God’s glory, serving God’s people and giving your life away for the kingdom.
  3. Know your culture, time in history and speak to it from God’s perspective.
  4. Laugh, and be happy in Christ, hear him and obey him and enjoy his goodness.



[1] Parenthesis mine.

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