What was the life and work of Martin Luther?
In a nutshell:
Martin Luther was born in Eisleben, Germany on 10 November 1483,
the son of a copper-mine owner. When he was 17, he entered the
University of Erfurt and gained a Bachelor's degree in 1502 and a
Master's degree in 1505. Because his father wished him to enter the
law profession, Luther then enrolled in the law school of the
University of Erfurt.
His life changed direction when he was almost hit by a lightning
bolt one day in 1505. This event caused led Luther to abandon his
law studies and enter a monastery, dedicated to serving God.
Luther tried to adapt to monastic life but he struggled with the
Roman Catholic church's demands that favour with God could only be
earned through good works. Studying the Scriptures deeply, he came
to the realisation that salvation is a gift of God's grace: it is
received by faith alone. He realised that trust in Christ's death
on the cross is the only means to that salvation.
It was this realisation that led him to challenge the teachings
of the Roman Catholic church, in particular, the nature of penance,
the authority of the pope and the usefulness of indulgences. When
Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle
Church in Wittenberg, Germany on 31 October 1517, thus began the
Reformation of the church. The theses contained numerous challenges
and attacks on papal abuses and the sale of indulgences by church
The posting of the 95 Theses caused considerable controversy.
Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic church several
years later for his attacks on the wealth and corruption of the
papacy. In particular, his belief that salvation would be granted
on the basis of faith alone rather than by works was regarded as
heresy. In 1521, the same year in which he was excommunicated,
Luther was summoned to appear before the Diet of Worms. The Diet
was a general assembly of the estates of the Holy Roman Empire that
occurred in Worms, Germany, from January to May in 1521. When an
edict of the Diet called for Luther to be seized, his friends took
him for safekeeping to Wartburg, the castle of Elector Frederick
III of Saxony.
Here, Luther continued to write numerous theological works,
which considerably influenced the direction of the Protestant
Reformation movement. He also used this time to translate the Bible
from the Latin of the time into German so that the common, everyday
people could read it. It concerned Luther that, for centuries, the
Bible had been out of reach of the common man.