Luther's Life and World-View
In recognition of the upcoming 500th year of the reformation, we are including weekly excerpts from A Place to Stand – The Word of God in the Life of Martin Luther by Gene Edward Veith Jr.
What did Luther reform?
Historians today like to focus on Luther's significance as a transitional figure from the medieval to the modern era. They treat Luther and his faith in sociological terms, not as a rediscovery of the truth about our relationship with God and the destiny of our immortal souls. But Luther was a gift of God, renewing the expression of His grace to lost and fallen mankind, and his reforms focused on this truth.
Luther's reforms centered on the good news that we are justified (declared innocent) by God's grace, by faith, because of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection as our substitute. Here is what people at the time would have seen:
Changes in the church service
- Removing prayers to the saints and prayers for the dead.
- Treating Holy Communion as the real presence of Jesus to give us forgiveness, and not a re-sacrifice of Christ.
- The sermon took a more central role, teaching people the gospel so they would grow in faith.
- Symbols that pointed to Christ remained; those that pointed away, such as to the saints, fell into disuse.
Changes in education.
- Now that there were Bibles, it became important for everyone to read.
- Education became, if not universal, at least available to nearly all.
- The peasants, including girls, were included in the schools
These reforms took the shape they did because every soul is known by God, redeemed by Christ, and called to faith by the Holy Spirit.
Veith, Gene Edward, A Place to Stand: the Word of God in the Life of Martin Luther, Cumberland House, Nashville, 2005. Pp. 86-88.