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Martin Luther & The Protestant Reformation

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

CHHI Paper 1 _ Elizabeth C Gutierrez
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This paper will be discussing the life of Martin Luther and the protestant reformation that he led. This paper will discuss the key theological points of his reformation and how those changes were made to last. Along with the above it is important to not the important writings that occurred during this reformation, Luther was an educated man who had much to share. Luther and his life and this reformation can resonate with us all, let us begin to learn more about his impact.

To preface his biography, Martin Luther was a German monk who started the protestant reformation in 1516 and is said to be one of the most influential yet controversial people in Christian history.[1] Luther had the boldness to address what he saw as flaws in the Catholic religion and his followers departed from the Roman Catholic church. Luther was a devout theologian who craved to know God by His faith personally. Due to him craving a personal relationship with God he began to translate the Bible so that other people can have that same relationship.[2] Luther was born to German parents on November 10th, 1483 to a father who wanted him to be a lawyer.[3] Due to his father’s wishes Luther began schooling at the age of 7 and continued on but in 1498 compared his schooling to “purgatory or hell”.[4] Despite this comparison Luther earned his degree in grammar, logic, rhetoric and metaphysics indicating that he was well on his way to becoming a lawyer.[5] While we thought he was going to being a successful lawyer, Luther became a monk after a life changing experience. Luther was caught in a terrible storm and prayed to St. Anne for his safety while promising if she did so he would become a monk. Well, he was saved. This transition disappointed his father, but Luther felt this transition would help him find salvation.[6] Luther sought enlightenment during his life as a monk, but did not find exactly what he was looking for while at the monastery thus it led him on his next journey. [7]

A mentor encouraged Luther to focus his life solely on Jesus Christ to find the enlightenment he was looking for. Luther found enlightenment in his theological studies at the University of Wittenberg where he earned his doctorate degree and later became a theology professor.[8] While preparing for a lecture on Romans he pondered greatly on “the just shall live by faith” which changed his perspective on his faith propelling the protestant reformation.[9] He realized salvation is established by faith alone, not through actions which the Roman Catholic church had taught. This life journey thus far led him to write his “Ninety-Five Theses” which he nailed to the door of the University of Wittenberg’s chapel on October 31, 1517.[10] His Ninety Five Theses earned him a debate with the Roman Catholic church where he presented his thoughts on salvation by faith alone.[11] After this Luther was freed from his monk duties and was free to travel where he pleased with the protection of his prince which was necessary because he was a wanted man for being bold and those who sided with him were reluctant to participate in any more indulgences to the Catholic Church.[12]

Life got “exciting” for Luther in 1520. This year he wrote three books - Address to the Christian Nobility, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church and Treatise on Christian Liberty.[13] These works of his created quite the stir that prompted the Catholic church to send him an official Catholic church document, a bull, that condemned forty-one of his ideas.[14] His works were burned in Rome and he burned the bull. Luther was then excommunicated from the Roman church on January 3, 1521.[15] In March of 1521 Luther was summoned before a council of secular authorities called the Diet of Worms where Luther refused to renounce any of his statements and challenged them to show him scripture that would dispute his writings, none were presented.[16] On May 8th, 1521 the Edict of Worms banned his writings and labeled him a heretic making him a condemned and wanted man. During this time friends helped him hide at the Wartburg Council. While in hiding he translated the New Testament into the German language giving the opportunity to ordinary people to read the Scriptures.[17] In May of 1522 he returned to Wittenberg Castle Church even though he was a wanted man to establish the Lutheran church.

After encouraging other leaders to marry, he did the same at the age of forty-three. He married a nun which whom he had helped rescue from her covenant. Luther found husbands for all the nuns he had helped but the one because she wanted to marry him, not the others he tried to set her up with. He finally married Katherina von Bora in 1525 and together they had six children.[18] As a wedding gift he was gifted the monastery in Wittenberg where he had begun his studies and wrote the “Ninety-Five Theses which still stands today as a museum.

While this reformation continued to grow and have its own sets of problems for which he was searching for solutions, Luther translated the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek. This German Bible was successful – within a forty-year timespan a Wittenberg publisher printed 100,000 copies.[19] With this full life of eager reformation Luther passed at the age of sixty-two from a stroke on February 18th, 1546.

The Protestant Reformation was based upon Luther’s thought of faith alone for salvation. This faith alone idea encouraged him to tell others of a personal relationship they can with God instead of going through all the steps with the popes and the ladder of leaders. This reformation was founded upon Luther’s salvation crisis of not feeling close enough to Christ and needed to go on a journey to find him for himself personally. The most prominent outcomes of this reformation have been the five Solas – Sola scriptura (“By Scripture Alone”), Sola fide (By Faith Alone”), Sola gratia (By grace alone), Solus Christus (“Christ Alone”), and Soli Deo Gloria (“Glory to God alone”).[20] We gain understanding in the beginning of Solas fide when Luther was going through his spiritual crisis when he felt that no matter what deed he did he was never going to be “good enough”. The catholic church believed in doing good deeds to get into heaven, but Luther’s thought process changed on this when he read Romans 1:17 – “The just Shall live by faith”.[21] Luther along with other reformers realize that the Bible was the only accurate source of instruction which is why we see it was important for him to translate both the new and old testaments into the German language so that all can receive this accurate instruction.[22] It was important (and still is) that others could read the Bible for themselves without entirely relying on church leaders. After all, it was through Luther’s personal reading that he discovered salvation is by faith alone, not the indulgences of the pope. These two theological points described are important to all believers because Luther knew the psychological and physiological toll it took on himself and others in the monastery to follow the law word for word without grace.[23] Through this reformation Luther realized that trying to achieve one’s own righteous deeds on their own is not as fruitful as allowing God’s divinity to work through the believer’s life.[24] The Protestant Reformation emphasized the need for a Christian’s faith to accept God’s grace to enable them in all parts of their life.

The main important writing during this reformation are of course writings from Luther himself. I want to utilize this section by elaborating on his “Ninety – Five Theses”. Of the ninety-five, I would say that number thirty-seven which reads, “Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.”[25] The point of Luther’s work is to “cure” self-justification.[26] Self-justification is inert to humankind. We crave to made good in the eyes of ourselves and others which is why the search for justification was so dire in the Roman Catholic church.[27] The Catholic church fled to the Pope to pardon them of their sins, and they paid indulgences to the church on behalf of themselves and their loved ones who have passed. After much thought and evaluation of scripture Luther realized that the cure to self-justification is one’s faith and that person has equal inheritance of the blessings of Christ.

Faith in Christ for justification is the end goal of this reformation and Luther’s work of the Ninety-Five Theses. Working out one’s individual salvation for themselves was important to Luther which is proven by his translation of the Scriptures. Each person is encouraged to read the Bible for themselves and develop a personal relationship with Christ who is the only one who can pardon their sins.


[1] “Martin Luther,” (A&E Networks Television, September 20, 2019), [2] IBID [3] IBID [4] IBID [5] IBID [6] IBID [7] IBID [8] IBID [9] Mark Nickens, A Survey of the History of Global Christianity (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020). [10] “Martin Luther,” (A&E Networks Television, September 20, 2019), [11] Mark Nickens, A Survey of the History of Global Christianity (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020). [12] IBID [13] IBID [14] IBID [15] IBID [16] Martin Luther,” (A&E Networks Television, September 20, 2019), [17] IBID [18] Mark Nickens, A Survey of the History of Global Christianity (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020). [19] IBID [20] IBID [21]Zucker, Steven, and Beth Harris. “An Introduction to the Protestant Reformation (Article).” Khan Academy. Khan Academy. Accessed April 12, 2021. [22] IBID [23] Judd, Daniel K.. "Clinical and Pastoral Implications of the Ministry of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation" Open Theology 2, no. 1 (2016). [24] IBID [25] “Martin Luther's 95 Theses,”, December 22, 2017, [26] Peters, Ted F. “Justice, Justification, and Self-Justification.” Theology Today 72, no. 4 (January 2016): 359–78. [27] IBID



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