Love Under Fire


Chapter 7—Luther, a Man for His Time

Among those called to lead the church from Rome's darkness into the light of a purer faith, Martin Luther is chief. Having no fear but the fear of God, and acknowledging no foundation for faith but the Holy Scriptures, Luther was the man for his time. LF 54.1

Luther spent his early years in the humble home of a German peasant. His father wanted him to become a lawyer, but God intended to make him a builder in the great temple that was rising slowly through the centuries. Hardship, poverty, and severe discipline were the school in which Infinite Wisdom prepared Luther for his life mission. LF 54.2

Luther's father was a man of active mind. His unfailingly good sense led him to distrust the monastic system. He was unhappy when Luther entered a monastery without his permission. It took two years before the father reconciled with his son, and even then his opinions remained the same. LF 54.3

Luther's parents tried to instruct their children in the knowledge of God. Earnestly and constantly they worked to prepare their children to live useful lives. Sometimes they were too strict, but the Reformer himself found more to approve than to condemn in their discipline. LF 54.4

At school Luther was treated harshly and even with violence. He often suffered from hunger. That era's gloomy, superstitious ideas of religion filled him with fear. He would lie down at night with a heavy heart, constantly terrified at the thought of God as a cruel tyrant rather than a kind heavenly Father. LF 54.5

When he entered the University of Erfurt, the future looked brighter than in his earlier years. By thrift and hard work his parents had become well-to-do, and they were able to give him all the help he needed. And wise, caring friends to some extent reduced the gloomy effects of his earlier training. With good influences, his mind developed rapidly. Consistent attention to his studies soon placed him in the top rank among his associates. LF 54.6

Luther did not fail to begin each day with prayer; his heart continually breathed a request for guidance. “To pray well,” he often said, “is the better half of study.”1 LF 54.7

One day in the library of the university he discovered a book he had never seen—a Latin Bible. He had heard portions of the Gospels and Epistles, and he had thought that these were the entire Bible. Now, for the first time, he was looking at the whole of God's Word. With awe and wonder he turned the sacred pages and read for himself the words of life, pausing to exclaim, “O that God would give me such a book for myself!”2 Angels were by his side. Rays of light from God revealed treasures of truth to his understanding. Like never before, the deep conviction that he was a sinner took hold of him. LF 54.8