Martin Luther Sought Reform and Unity
The Church opposed Martin Luther and eventually excommunicated him
Longing for unity, Martin Luther didn’t want to see the church divided. But when reconciliation didn’t happen and he was excommunicated, he had no choice but to form a new church practice aligned with what the Bible taught and apart from the Church he loved. A new faction of Christianity emerged, one separate from the Catholic Church.
In the end, Martin realized the changes he sought, but instead of the Catholic reformation he desired, he ended up with the Protestant Reformation he never intended.
Not only did October 31, 1517 mark a turning point in the history of the Christian church but also in the life of Martin Luther. At that moment, just short of his thirty-fourth birthday, his life would forever change.
At first Pope Leo X dismissed Luther’s ninety-five theses as the work of a drunk monk, who would think better of his words once he became sober. As the Church tried to ignore Luther, the groundswell of interest that followed the publication of his theses made this impossible.
The Church attempted to silence him, using increasingly severe methods. First they made several attempts to force him to recant his views. When that failed, they tried to manipulate him into making a public statement they could label as heretical. Though they came close to succeeding, Martin dodged their carefully-planned scheme before they could snare him.
The Church also ordered Luther to appear in Rome to defend himself. Martin, along with his supporters, knew this ruse would result in his death. For, once in Rome, he could be easily arrested, imprisoned, and left there to die. A change in venue, perhaps through the intervention of an ally, removed the immediate threat of death; however, he still needed to evade a rumored arrest attempt as he traveled to the meeting’s new location.
These were not the only occasions he faced danger. Other times, in fear for his safety, supporters—often students—armed with sticks and clubs went with Martin to protect him. On one occasion they numbered two hundred.Pope Leo X demanded Martin Luther recant his views or be excommunicated. Click To Tweet
Yet another time, Martin’s adversaries maneuvered him into publicly admitting that the pope could be in error. This provided the damning evidence they sought. Pope Leo X demanded Luther recant or be excommunicated. Attempts by his supporters to broker a solution failed. The pope expelled Martin Luther from the Church on January 3, 1521.
After that, Martin hid in a castle in Wartburg, posing for a time as a knight. Safely protected there, he translated the New Testament into German. Though other German translations existed, these all had a regional focus and weren’t accessible to all Germans. Luther’s translation addressed this and connected with all the people in his country.
Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.