Commemoration of Martin Luther, Doctor and Confessor


Martin Luther, by Lucas Cranach the Younger, 1551 (Bamberg).  Printed at Wittenberg by Georg Formschneyder

Today marks the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther (1483-1546).  From Murray’s A Year with the Church Fathers:

Martin Luther, born on 10 November 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512.  As a professor at the newly established University of Wittenberg, Luther’s Scriptural studies led him to question many of the Church’s teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wartburg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises.  He is remembered and honored for his lifelong emphasis on the biblical truth that for Christ’s sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone.  He died on February 18 1546, while visiting the town of his birth.*

Luther is perhaps most popularly famous for his “Ninety-Five Theses,” but as far as theological impact goes, his Small and Large Catechisms and German translation of the Bible are probably his most important works impacting the life of the individual Christian.  It’s little wonder, then, that Playmobil gave their “little Luther” commemorative figure a copy of the Lutherbibel when the toy came out last year.

Of course, a little blurb about Luther isn’t enough to educate oneself about the whole of his life and work, and his complex personality (Luther could be very sharp-tongued in his treatises–the Lutheran Insulter has compiled some of his better wit), but if you want to peruse his writings, Project Wittenberg has a large collection of them online, including his hymn texts.

Here’s one of his more martial hymns, “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word”**:


Happy reading and listening!



* Scott R. Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2011): 50.
** Luther’s original first stanza read,
“Lord, keep us in thy Word and work,
Restrain the murderous Pope and Turk,
Who fain would tear from off thy throne
Christ Jesus, thy beloved Son.”

Commemoration of Philipp Melanchthon (birth), Confessor


Melanchthon, by Lucas Cranach the Younger


Today marks the birth of the early Lutheran confessor, Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560).  In his A Year With the Church Fathers, Scott R. Murray describes him thus:

Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a brilliant student of the classics and a humanist scholar.  In 1518, he was appointed to teach along with Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg.  At Luther’s urging, Melancththon began teaching theology and Scripture in addition to his courses in classical studies.

In April 1530, Emperor Charles V called an official meeting between the representatives of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, hopping to effect a meeting of minds between two opposing groups.  Since Luther was at that time under papal excommunication and an imperial ban, Melanchthon was assigned the duty of being the chief Lutheran representative at this meeting.  He is especially remembered and honored as the author of the Augsburg Confession, which was officially presented by the German princes to the emperor on June 25, 1530, as the defining document of Lutheranism within Christendom.  Melanchthon died on April 19, 1560.[1]

Melanchthon also has the unfortunate distinction of having originated the Philippist party in early Lutheranism, which, as opposed to the Gnesio-Lutherans, had seemingly embraced a number of Calvinistic beliefs and tendencies that Melanchthon came to hold in his later life (notably, Melanchthon had come to disagree with Luther’s views on good works and had forwarded a synergistic view, see the Synergistic Controversy).  His embracing of these other ideas led him to revise previous writings, most notably the Augsburg Confession, to be more in-line with them.  These views were eventually rejected in the Formula of Concord (FC I & II), and the Lutheran Church would adopt the “unaltered” Augsburg Confession as a confessional document.

Regardless, despite his theological shifts later in life, Melanchthon still had a valuable and indelible impact on the Lutheran Church and the Reformation.



1 Murray, S. R. 2011. A Year with the Church Fathers. St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, p. 48.

Reformation Sunday–What Is It?


The font and graphic design choices displayed here make this a much more exciting event than it probably was.

Today marks an important day in the church calendar for Lutherans and many Protestants in the United States and around the world, and is especially notable this year as preparations are underway for the Reformation 2017 Celebration (in, you guessed it, 2017).  “Why?” ask the uninitiated.  In Lutheran and Protestant circles, the last Sunday of the month of October is often celebrated as Reformation Day in commemoration of Martin Luther’s posting of his “Ninety-Five Theses” on the door (which at the time was more or less the community bulletin-board) of the Castle Church at Wittenberg in Germany on the Eve of All Saints in 1517.  These theses were, in essence, a set of debate points concerning the theological and ethical implications of the sale of indulgences (reprieves from purgatory granted by the Church for payment) by church officials in Germany.  After he posted his debate points, someone took them and copied them, proliferating the copies all throughout the German states, which were being financially exploited to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  What Luther had intended to be a relatively quiet scholarly debate between university professors turned into a religio-political firestorm seemingly overnight, the seed of what we call the Reformation, and the rest is history.

Thus, we celebrate this seemingly innocuous event–a scholar posting a debate notice on a public bulletin board–each year to commemorate what it began, the act of the reformation of the Catholic Church in the West, and the theological and doctrinal clarity that came with it. It is also a time when many Lutherans take pride in their religious and ethnic (often German) heritage, so many congregations celebrate Reformation Sunday as an Oktoberfest, with food, music, and games for the church and surrounding community.  If you are curious about Reformation Day celebrations and the history and theology behind them, feel free to visit your local Lutheran church.  They’ll be more than happy to talk with you (and save you a beer and a sausage).

The Collect for Reformation Sunday (LSB, via

O Lord, keep Your household the Church in continual godliness that through Your protection she may be free from all adversities and devoutly given to serve You in good works; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.