Ephesians 2:8-10 - For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
For years Germany has been gearing up for the 500th-anniversary celebration of the Reformation.
They are getting ready to celebrate the fellow who nailed his 95 debating points to the church door in Wittenberg, the fellow who had to have a Diet of Worms. And, no, kids, Luther didn't really have a diet of worms; he just had to go and defend himself to some important people in the German city of Worms. For a lot of folk, I think this anniversary is a big deal.
Still, if you do a search for "Martin Luther" on Google, before you get to anything on the reformer, you will have to wade through a whole bunch of articles on "Martin Luther King." Just for the record, last century's MLK was named that because his father was so impressed by the theologian of 500 years ago.
So, the question is was Martin Luther really that big a deal?
A few years ago, the TV series Biography had a countdown of the 100 most influential people of the past 1,000 years. Do you know who was first? No, it wasn't Luther. It was the movable-type German printer, Gutenberg. But do you know who was second? No, it wasn't Luther. It was Sir Isaac Newton who contributed to physics, math, and the far reaches of the universe.
Do you know who was third? Yes! Luther. The guy who wasn't a scientist, who never led an army, ruled a country, or painted a masterpiece. But there's more. You should know the folks on Biography weren't alone in their feelings about Luther. TIME Magazine put Luther in the second position of 100 most influential individuals of the last millennium.
Now that may seem like a pretty lofty position for a fellow who wrote some debating points and went to a debate or two. And if that is all Luther did, it would be a lot. But Luther did more, much more. He gave people the Bible in their own language, promoted education, wrote music, and did things to touch almost every aspect of religious and secular life.
Still, there is one thing Luther did not do. He did not want people to call themselves "Lutheran."
In 1522, Luther, in his own colorful way, wrote, "I ask that men make no reference to my name and call themselves not Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? St. Paul would not allow Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine. How then should I, a poor evil-smelling maggot sack have men give to the children of Christ my worthless name?" (Luther had a way with words, didn't he?)
Luther took that position because, above and beyond everything else, Luther used the Bible to point people to the grace of God which is found only in Jesus Christ, God's Son, the world's Savior. Luther pointed out that the Bible wanted lost and sinful souls to realize that when the Holy Spirit gives them faith in the Savior, there is forgiveness and life eternal.
And, if Luther had done nothing else, that would have been enough.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, in Your time, and according to Your will, You raise up individuals who are heroes of the faith. It is not that they are not sinners, they are. But they are also people to whom You give the gifts to accomplish Your purposes. We give thanks for Martin Luther, and others who have pointed us clearly to Scripture and the salvation story of the Savior. Use us to share that gracious plan with the lost of our own age. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written for RARE on October 3, 2017. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written: click here.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries