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What Luther Says

A Brief History of Lutheranism

I found this brief summary by Dr. Richard B. Bucher from Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Lexington, KY to be a good primer for anyone who's curious about the brief history of Lutheranism.

A Brief History of Lutheranism

"Lutheranism," in one sense, was founded by Martin Luther (1483-1546). Luther began as a very faithful son of the Roman Church. Precisely because of this, like so many others of his age, he was deeply concerned about his soul's salvation. Also like many, Luther was terribly frightened that because of his sin the righteous and angry God would cast him into purgatory or hell. Unlike many, however, Martin Luther had an intensely sensitive nature that made him remarkably and painfully aware of his sinfulness. That, coupled with his incredible knowledge of Scripture, especially the thunderings of God's law, led Luther to a growing awareness that he was condemned by God's law and in desperate need of help.

Because of this crisis in his relationship with God, Martin Luther, soon after beginning graduate studies as a law student, made the fateful decision to give up his legal career and become a monk in the Observant order of the Augustinian hermits. He took this dramatic step because the Church taught at that time, and Luther believed, that becoming a monk was the surest road to forgiveness and entrance into heaven.

However, he discovered that this way was sadly lacking. In fact, the more he searched the Scriptures and compared those Scriptures with the teachings of the Church of his day, the more he found important differences between the two.

The biggest difference concerned the doctrine of justification or salvation, that is, how to find forgiveness with God and enter heaven. The Roman Church directed people to trust in their own love, holiness, and good works. In addition, they also directed the struggling sinner to trust in Mary and the saints. Luther discovered that this flatly contradicted the Gospel, the most important teaching of the Bible. The Gospel (means "good news") directed struggling sinners to Jesus Christ alone. It joyfully declared that Jesus Christ has already paid for all our sins by His death on the cross. To all who put their trust in Him alone as Savior, God gives full forgiveness and heaven as a free gift.

In the years that followed, Martin Luther became increasingly aware that many teachings of the Roman Church clashed with this Biblical Gospel. With great alarm Luther saw that the authorities of the Roman Church were leading people away from God and into even greater darkness. So through his preaching, teaching, and writing, he began to protest the false teachings of Rome and to call for a Reformation of the Church. Luther's desire was never to start a new Church, but simply to restore the catholic Church to its original purity through his rediscovered Gospel. Luther contended that it was not he who had broken away from the Church. Rather, it was the Roman Church, who, by its false teaching and practice, had broken away from the ancient Christian Church of the first centuries.

As time passed, thousands supported Luther's movement, not because they were supporting Luther the man, but because they agreed that what he taught was what the Bible taught. They were drawn to the truth by the Holy Spirit, just as Luther himself had been. Already during Luther's lifetime, those who had received the Biblical Gospel that Luther had rediscovered began calling themselves "Lutheran." At first Luther had vigorously protested using his name for the movement. Later he consented to this since it was merely one way to identify those who believed the Gospel.

Simply put, Lutheranism can be summed up by what are called the "Three Alones" and they are...

(1) Grace Alone; (2) Faith Alone; (3) Scripture Alone.

In conclusion, the Lutheran Church, when faithful to its historical roots and Confessions (see the LCMS as opposed to the ELCA), is a Biblically conservative Church made up of joyful and committed Christians serving their crucified and risen Lord and Savior.

So, needless to say, that anyone searching for a church that truly teaches the Bible should look no further.


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

1 comment



Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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