So what was Martin Luther really like? Well, we do have a relatively good idea from the notes taken down by students and friends of his and compiled into a book that was called ‘Table Talk’.
We’ve already seen Luther in humourous mood. Here we get a closer look at the serious side of the man: his likes, dislikes, and passions. These various statement were written by those who heard him in various social contexts in his own home and provide us with a front row opportunity to hear from him.
Luther was spurred on to reform by a charismatic prophetic word
So let’s jump in immediately at the controversial end of the pool and note that Luther was encouraged to initiate reform and to persevere by news of a prophetic word conveyed to him by his spiritual advisor and overseer Johan Staupitz (Staupitz was vicar-general of the Augustinian monks in Germany). Recalling the time when he was struggling with the implications of Scripture against the papacy he said,
‘Staupitz encouraged me much. When he was in Rome in 1511 he heard the prophecy publicly proclaimed: “An Eremite (the Augustinians were called Eremties) shall arise and spoil the papacy!” A certain Franciscan at Rome had seen this in a vision.’ (TT p.9)
On the power of the Scriptures
‘The word of God is free, and will not be confined by human decrees.’ (p.86)
On the inability of good works
‘Works never bring peace to the conscience.’ (p.126)
‘Prior to that time I dreaded and hated the Psalms and other parts of Scripture whenever they mentioned the ‘righteousness of God’, by which I understood that He Himself is righteous and judged us according to our sins, not that He accepted us and made us righteous. All Scripture stood as a wall, until I was enlivened by the words: ‘the just shall live by faith.’ From this I learned that the righteousness of God is faith in the mercy of God, by which He Himself justifies us through grace.’ (p.131)
(All references are from Table Talk, Smith and Gallinger edition 1915. Modern paperback edition published 1979 by Keats, USA)
For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here
For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here
© 2009 Lex Loizides