Born in Germany, in 1483, Martin Luther went on to become one of the most influential figures in Western history. His writings were responsible for changing the face of the Catholic Church and sparking the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther’s central teachings cented around that fact that the Bible is the central source of spiritual authority. Also, he stressed that salvation is reached through faith and not deeds. These core beliefs lead to shaping of the core of Protestantism in the coming years and even to the church in present day.
In some of key writings such as, “The Freedom of the Christian” and “That These Words of Christ, ‘This is my body, etc.’ Still Stand Firm Against the Fanatics” we can see some of Martin Luther’s key themes of his teachings and why it was so important that he was talking about these important ideas in the church.
In Luther’s first writing “The Freedom of the Christian” he does not shy away from addressing important topics about works and salvation.
Luther goes in great detail how man has a “two fold” nature. He described how in the inner man there is no external thing that has any influence in producing a Christian’s righteousness or freedom (Placher 13). He continues this idea when he states that there is only “one thing” necessary for Christian life, righteousness, and freedom. He concludes this is the most important thing is the “Holy Word of God, which is the gospel of Christ that one can see spelled out in John 11:25 (Placher 13).
He makes it clear throughout his writing that “faith cannot exist in connection with works” (Placher 14). He finished his writing to comment how works can be used to please and give God the glory, but must not be mixed up with our faith. The reason why Luther says faith is more important than works could be because of the culture of the Roman Catholic Church emphasis of the importance of works in a Christian’s life.
It could also be because of the Catholic Church’s mistreatment of the selling of indulgences and using these documents as tickets in to parading them from sin or even an avenue for a believer to obtain eternal life. This hierarchy of the church was only paying for the churches building projects and the clergy men who were selling them. He desired for the church to return to the scriptures and seeing the freedom the Gospel brings to a believers life. In Luther next reading, “That These Words of Christ, ‘This is my body, etc.’ Still Stand Firm Against the Fanatics” one can observe how Martin Luther rejected the Catholic theory of transubstantiation. He described in the beginning of this letter that it doesn’t make sense that even though Jesus is everywhere and his body is not in one location, this does not mean that one can immediately eat, drink, or touch him.
Catholic theory argued that because no one could not be certain that the body through the power of God could be anywhere at any time, since the power of God cannot be determined and measured since He is uncircumcised and immeasurable (Placher 24-25). Luther was so angered by these fanatics that he called them an ass and pig. Luther argued that, “although he is everywhere, he does not permit himself to be so caught and grasped…” (Placher 25). In another argument made by Luther he states that unless the Lord summoned us through his Word a particular table and says “this is my body”, you are better off reading his Word. Luther displays a very satirical style of writing throughout this letter to clearly show how ridiculous he thought it was that Catholic theory taught transubstantiation. All in all, it is very clear form both of these important writings that Luther believed in the Word of God and what it teaches about a believer’s freedom and assurance of salvation that only can be found in Christ. This lead to later discover that lead him to challenge the Catholic Church’s teachings on transubstantiation. These key movements that Luther contributed to during his lifetime has shaped and transformed Protestantism for years to come.