Martin Luther was born in 1483 into a strict German Catholic family. His parents intended him for a law career, but he became a monk and a theology professor after a dramatic conversion to Christ. A sensitive man, he struggled mightily with a guilty conscience and an intense fear of God and hell until he realized the doctrine of justification by faith while studying the book of Romans.
This doctrine, with his conviction that the Bible should be the basis of all life and available to all, became the theological foundation of Protestantism. Luther was a man of single purpose. Luther’s supreme interest in life was to glorify the God of grace, whom he had finally found in Christ, and to lead men to his word. When preaching against a papal antagonist he would exclaim, “Give me scripture, scripture, scripture! Do you hear me, scripture!”
To most people of Luther’s day, he was known as a preacher of the gospel. Although Luther was the ranking scholar of his time, he delighted in plain, expository sermons. Luther was most impressive as a preacher; he preached thousands of sermons. How wonderful if we were to have recordings of Luther to be moved by the spoken word; we are left with his writings which are best appreciated when read aloud. Whatever Luther spoke or wrote about impacted the recipient with vigor and force. The following are excerpts from sermons of Luther. Thou he be dead, yet he still speaks:
On Bible Doctrines:
“True doctrine is always to be preached publically and constantly; it is never to be surrendered or kept secret, for it is the rod of rectitude.”
On lazy preachers:
“It makes my heart ache that we let these lazy preachers boldly, brashly, and brazenly tear asunder and blaspheme the Holy Scriptures. It pains me that they presume to deal with Scripture whereas they are not fit to care for a herd of swine. I have hitherto held that when something is to be proved by Scripture, the Scripture text quoted must really be pertinent. But now I learn that it is enough hurriedly to throw a great number of passages together whether they bear on the subject or not. Lazy preachers think that by delivering to the people a scripture list on a subject is exposition while it is no more than ants on a watermelon rind. If this method is valid, I shall prove from Scripture that poor grade Leipzig beer is better than imported malvoise wine.”
On the appreciation of God’s love:
“What now, is the treasure wherewith we are ransomed? Not corruptible gold or silver but the precious blood of Christ, the Son of God. This treasure is so costly and noble that no human sense or reason can grasp it, insomuch that only one drop of this innocent blood would have been more than enough for the sin of all the world. Nevertheless the Father wanted to lavish His grace upon us so richly and has let our redemption cost Him so much that He permitted Christ, His Son, to shed all his blood for us and has thus bestowed on us the entire treasure. Therefore He would not have us contemptuously disregard such grace and count it a small matter but would have us persuaded to live in holy fear, so that this treasure be not taken from us.”
I am sure that if Luther came back from the dead and saw the state of the modern pulpit, he would start another Reformation; and I would join him.
Dr. Steven J. Ottolini is President of Covenant Leadership Training Institute. MA Theology, Covenant Seminary, St Louis, MO. Ph.D. Theology, Trinity Seminary, Newburgh IN. Celebrating 32 years of Christian ministry. Married to Molly 35 years, father of 3 and grandfather to Eleanora Jayne Ottolini, 12 months.