He was a bright scholar and entered the University of Erfurt when he was eighteen. While there, for the first time he saw a Bible and was greatly challenged by the passage in which Samuel was called to be a prophet to Israel.
It wasn’t, however, until he was 22 and had left his studies that he began seeking God. A combination of traumatic events (including nearly being struck by lightning) culminated in his promising to become a monk which, after a rollicking farewell party to the world, he did.
As a monk he was diligent, following the strictest rules and trying to make peace with God. He appealed earnestly to every saint he could think of for help including Mary, but no help came.
Once for a whole fortnight he didn’t eat or sleep. He was desperate to find peace and yet held under a terrifying expectation of God’s righteous anger against him.
In 1510 he had the rare privilege of visiting Rome. He had high expectations but was utterly shocked at the lawlessness he saw there. Nevertheless he said many masses and visited many churches.
Of this trip he says:
‘At Rome I wished to liberate my grandfather from purgatory, and went up the staircase of Pilate, praying a pater noster on each step; for I was convinced that he who prayed thus could redeem his soul. But when I came to the top step, the thought kept coming to me, ‘Who knows whether this is true?’’[i]
Next time we’ll see what happened when Luther began reading and preaching from Erasmus’ recently published Greek New Testament.
For the next part of Luther’s story click here
[i] S.M. Houghton – Sketches from Church History, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, p.84
© 2008 Lex Loizides