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Highlights and Quotes from Martin Luther's Life

Aug 21, 2023
Highlights and Quotes from Martin Luther's Life

It is claimed that there have been more books written about Martin Luther than anyone else other than Jesus Christ. The name Martin Luther inevitably shows in the top ten on those lists pundits compile about who was the most influential in shaping our modern world. He is one of those few who can be indisputably proclaimed a "hinge of history."

Yet Luther never wanted to be a renowned world shaper. He was more concerned with saving his own soul and entered a monastery to get away from the world and seek his own salvation. But in finding his salvation, he rediscovered the foundations of Biblical Christianity that shook the late Medieval world and challenged its assumptions about religious authority, what God was like, how we are to approach him, and how God saves us. Hear from the man who rocked the world in the 16th century and did much to pave the way for the modern world.

Peasant Parents, Strict Parents

"I am the son of a peasant; my father, my grandfather, and all my ancestors were genuine peasants. . . . My father was a poor miner and my mother carried the wood from the forest on her back; they both worked their flesh off their bones in order to bring up their children."

"My mother once beat me up with a cane for stealing a nut until the blood came. Such strict discipline drove me to the monastery, although she meant well. . . . My father once flogged me so cruelly that I fled away from him, and came to bear a grudge against him. It was a long time until he again won my confidence."

As a Child, the Name of Christ Made Him Cringe 

"From early childhood I was accustomed to turn pale and tremble whenever I heard the name of Christ mentioned, for I was taught to look upon Him as a stern and wrathful Judge." "We were taught that we ourselves had to atone for our sins, and since we could not make sufficient amends or do acceptable works, our teachers directed us to the saints in heaven, and made us call upon Mary the Mother of Christ and implore her to avert from us Christ's wrath, and make Him inclined to be merciful to us."

As a Monk, He Tried So Hard, but to No Avail

"I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery, it was I. All my brothers in the monastery who knew me will bear me out. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, readings and other works."

The Gates of Paradise Opened with His Great Discovery: Justification by Faith

"As I meditated day and night on the words 'as it is written, the righteous person shall live by faith,' I began to understand that the righteous person lives by the gift of a passive righteousness, by which the merciful God justifies us by faith. This immediately made me feel as though I had been born again, and as though I had entered through open gates into paradise itself. God accepts Christ's righteousness, which is alien to our nature, as our own. Though God does not actually remove our sins -- we are at the same time righteous and sinful -- he no longer counts our sins against us. And now, where I had once hated the phrase, 'the righteousness of God,' I began to love and extol it as the sweetest of phrases, so that this passage in Paul became the very gate of paradise to me."

Luther's Self Understanding Grows Through Friendship with his Fellow Theologian and Colleague - Philip Melanchthon

"I prefer the books of Magister Philippus to my own. I am rough, boisterous, stormy, and altogether warlike. I am born to fight against innumerable monsters and devils. I must remove stumps and stones, cut away thistles and thorns, and clear the wild forests. But Magister Philippus comes along softly and gently, sowing and watering with joy according to the gifts which God has abundantly bestowed upon him."

Dare One Man Stand Against the Power of Christendom and Rome?

"Just Show Me from Scripture," He Pleads Before the Diet of Worms in 1521 "If convicted, I am willing and ready to revoke any error and shall be the first one to throw my books into the fire."

"Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or by clear and distinct grounds of reasoning. . . then I cannot and will not recant because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience."

Martin Luther on the Bible

"No clearer Book has been written in this wide world than the Bible. Compared with all other books it is like the sun over all other lights. Don't let them lead you out of and away from it, much as they may try to do so. For if you step out, you are lost; they take you wherever they wish. If you remain within, you will be victorious."

When Peasants Rose Up in Revolt, Luther Came Down Hard for "Law And Order"

"Wrongs perpetrated by those in authority are no excuse for rebellion. If the rulers refuse to do right, God will find a way to punish them, but Christians must always defend law and order against mob-rule, self-help, and anarchy. The revolutionists cannot call upon God, since they rely exclusively on their own fists."

"Smite, strangle, and stab the peasants, secretly or openly, for nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel. It is just as when one must kill a mad dog; if you do not strike him, he will strike you and a whole land with you. Do not hesitate to cut, knock down, and kill. This is a service of love, to save your neighbor from the bonds of the devil and of hell."

The Tender Heart of a Combative Theologian Over the Deaths of His Daughters, Magdalena and Elizabeth

"Magdalena, my little daughter, would you like to stay with your father here, or would you willingly go to your Father in heaven?"

"I love her very much, but, dear God, if it be thy will to take her, I submit to thee."

"Beloved Lena, you will rise and shine like a star, yea, like the sun."

"My little daughter Elizabeth is dead. It is marvelous that how sick at heart it has left me, so much do I grieve for her. I would never have believed that a father's heart could be so tender for his child. Pray the Lord for me."

"So strong is natural affection that we must sob and groan in heart, under the oppression of killing grief. . . . Even the death of Christ is unable to take all this away as it should."

Luther on Music and the Arts

"I am not of the opinion that all arts are to be cast down and destroyed on account of the Gospel, as some fanatics protest. On the other hand, I would gladly see all arts, especially music, in the service of Him who has given and created them. Why should the devil have all the good music?"

Facing the End

"When I return from Eisleben, I shall lay me down in a coffin and give the worms a plump doctor to feast on. I am tired of this world. So we shall depart all the more gladly, like a weary guest from a humble inn."

"O Lord Jesus Christ, I commend my poor soul to Thee. O Heavenly Father, I know that, although I shall be taken away from this life, I shall live forever with Thee. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Into Thy hands I commend my spirit, for Thou has redeemed me, Thou God of truth."

His Hope in Death and Succinct Summary of His Theology

"Without works, and only through Faith, we are made wholly safe and secure, so that we shall not be condemned, not because of our own holiness or purity, but because of Christ, because through faith alone do we cleave to Him as our mercy seat--sure that in Him no wrath remains, but only love, pardon, and forgiveness."

With the Advance of Reformation, the Requirement that Pastors Be Single Was Challenged. . . . Luther Allowed and Encouraged Pastors to Marry. For Himself, Though, He Hesitated for a While. Here is a Sampling of His Comments on Married Life.

"Good heavens! Will our Wittenbergers give wives to monks? They won't force a wife on me!"

"If one could serve one's neighbor in holy orders, then one should remain. On the other hand, if one could serve the neighbor better outside the monastery or cloister, then one should live in the world, and monastic vows were not binding."

"Like Abraham, I am the father of a great people for I am responsible for all the children of the monks and nuns who have renounced their monastic vows."

"I am not now inclined to take a wife. Not that I lack the feelings of a man, for I am neither wood nor stone, but my mind is averse to marriage because I daily expect the death decreed to the heretic."

"I hope to live a short time. Yet to gratify my father, who asked me to marry and leave him descendants; and moreover so that I would confirm by my example what I have taught, God has willed and caused my act. For I neither love my wife nor burn for her, but esteem her."

"If I had not married her quickly and quietly, only a few friends knowing it, they all would have prevented it; for even my best friends cried, 'Not this one but someone else.'"

"Kate, you have a man who loves you."

"I would not surrender my Katie for France and Venice together."

" If, in a marriage, the husband shows no forbearance toward his wife and the wife none toward her husband, then the married state will soon become a tyranny, and everything will be ruined."

"It was a right and proper part of the Christian faith for a man to join his wife at the wash-tub and wash the swaddling clothes."

"I am an inferior lord, she the superior; I am Aaron, she is my Moses."

"If I can survive the wrath of the Devil in my sinful conscience, I can withstand the anger of (my wife) Katherine von Bora."

"This life has nothing more lovely and delightful than a woman who loves her husband."

("Highlights and Quotes from Martin Luther's Life" published on Christianity.com on April 28, 2010)

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Photos.com

This article is part of our larger Inspiring Quotes resource meant to encourage and strengthen your faith. Visit our most popular quotes by well known Christians and theologians to find more inspiration. Remember, the Holy Spirit can work through us when we have faith and share it with others! Please pass along any quotes that touch your heart because you never know light you’ll shine on someone else’s dark day! 

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