We have an annual tradition at Woody Road. Once a year we devote an evening service to a significant figure from church history. This year it was the turn of Martin Luther.

You can listen to the talk here. However, I like to tell people’s stories in their own words so those present were given a comprehensive handout containing many of Luther’s words. That is below. It may be a useful accompaniment to the talk or simply an interesting anthology of sayings from Luther. The material in italics was not said by him.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Early Life

“St.Anne, I will become a monk!”

“I was utterly stupefied and terror stricken. I thought to myself, “With what tongue shall I address such Majesty…For I am dust and ashes and full of sin and I am speaking to the living, eternal and true God.”

“Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that He was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners.”

Look here, Brother Martin. If you are going to confess sin so much, why don’t you do something worth confessing?”

“As soon as the coin in the coffer rings/The soul from purgatory springs”

Luther’s response- 95 Theses. 31st October 1517

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘repent’ he willed the whole life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance.

6. The Pope himself cannot remit guilt.

27. There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of purgatory immediately the money chinks in the bottom of the chest.

62. The true treasure of the church is the Holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God.

The experience in the Tower- see Rom 1:17

“I hated the words righteousness of God. Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently wanting to know what St.Paul wanted. At last by the mercy of God meditating day and night I gave heed to the context of the words…there I began to understand the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith…Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”

Heidelberg 1518

“The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he can become doubly guilty.”

“It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.”

“He deserves to be called a theologian…who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.”

The law says, “Do this”, and it is never done. Grace says, “Believe in this”, and everything is already done.”

“The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it.”

An Address to the Christian Nobility- 1520

“All Christians are truly of the spiritual estate.” “There is really no difference between laymen and priests, princes and bishops, “spirituals” and “temporals,” as they call them, except that of office and work.”

“It is a wickedly invented fable, and they cannot produce a letter in defence of it, that the interpretation of Scripture or the confirmation of its interpretation belongs to the pope alone.”

“When the pope acts contrary to the Scriptures, it is our duty to stand by the Scriptures, to reprove him, and to constrain him, according to the word of Christ.”

The Babylonian Captivity of the Church- 1520

“Since the Bishop of Rome has ceased to be a bishop and has become a tyrant, I fear absolutely none of his decrees.”

“The whole power of the Mass consists in the words of Christ, in which he testifies that forgiveness of sins is bestowed on all those who believe that his body is given and his blood poured out for them.”

“There is yet a second stumbling block that must be removed…it is the common belief that the mass is a sacrifice which is offered to God.”

“We see for whom the mass was intended, and who are worthy partakers of it; namely, those alone who have sad, afflicted, disturbed, confused, and erring consciences.”

The Freedom of the Christian (1520)

“A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none;

A Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all and subject to everyone.”

“One thing and one thing alone is necessary for life, justification and Christian liberty; and that is the holy Word of God, the Gospel of Christ.”

“The highest worship of God is to ascribe to God the truth”

“The incomparable benefit of faith is that it unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom… Christ is full of grace, life and salvation; the soul is full of sin, death and condemnation. Let faith step in and then sin, death and hell will belong to Christ and grace, life and salvation to the soul”

“The believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life and salvation of its husband Christ”

“She can set up with confidence against all her sins, against death and hell, saying, “If I have sinned, my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned; all mine is His, and all His is mine,” as it is written, “My beloved is mine, and I am His” (Cant. ii. 16)

“A Christian, being consecrated by his faith, does good works; but he is not by those works made a more sacred person, or more a Christian.”

“From faith flow forth love and joy in the Lord and from love a cheerful, willing, free spirit, disposed to serve our neighbour voluntarily.”

“Who then can comprehend the riches and glory of the Christian life? It can do all things, has all things, and is in want of nothing; is lord over sin, death, and hell, and at the same time is the obedient and useful servant of all.”

Against the Execrable Bull of Anti-Christ (1521)

“The bull condemns me from its own word and without any proof from Scripture, whereas I back up all my assertions from the Bible.”

“I excommunicate them in the name of the sacred truth of God. Christ will judge whose excommunication will stand.”

Diet of Worms in 1521

“I must take care that the Gospel is not brought into contempt by our fear to confess and seal our teaching with our blood.”

“This touches God and his Word…I beg you, give me time to think it over.”

“I am bound to the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”

“I can tell you in this idle solitude that there are a thousand battles with Satan. It is much easier to fight against the incarnate Devil- that is against men- than against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places.”

The Bondage of the Will (1525)

“No man can be thoroughly humbled until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavours, will and works, and depends entirely on the choice, will and work of another namely of God alone”

Against the Murderous and Thieving Hordes of Peasants. (1525)

Marriage (1525)

It is certain that all convents and monasteries…are worse than common brothels.”

“Before I was married the bed was not made for a whole year and became foul with sweat.”

“Man has strange thoughts in the first year of marriage…In bed, when he wakes up, he sees a pair of pigtails lying beside him which he hadn’t seen there before. On the other hand, wives bring to their husbands, no matter how busy they may be, a multitude of trivial matters.”

“God and the angels smile in heaven.”

All my life is patience. I have to have patience with the pope, heretics, my family and Katie.”

“How strange it is to know that she is at peace and all is well, and yet to be sorrowful.”

The Latter Years

Death (1546)- “We are beggars: this is true.”

The Problems with Luther

An Appreciation of the Whole of Life for the Glory of God

“As for school teaching, it is so strenuous that no one ought to be bound to it for more than ten years.”

“I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil…Next to theology, I give music the highest place and greatest honour.”

“He who does not find music an inexpressible miracle of the Lord is truly a clod and is not worthy to be considered a man.”

Luther’s own battle

“You ask me how I am getting on. I do not know. Satan was never so furious against me. I can say this, that I have never sought goods, honour and glory, and I am not cast down by the hostility of the masses…But I am scarcely able to resist the smallest wave of inner despair.”

“For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation.”

“When I go to bed, the Devil is always waiting for me.”

“My struggle is that I do not believe I have a gracious God.”

To Melanchthon:

“You extol me so much…your high opinion of me shames and tortures me since unfortunately I sit here like a fool and hardened in leisure, pray little, do not sigh for the church of God…In short I should be ardent in spirit, but I am ardent in the flesh, in lust, laziness, leisure and sleepiness…Already eight days have passed in which I have written nothing, in which I have not prayed and studied; this is partly because of the temptations of the flesh, partly because I am tortured by other burdens.”

“I will allow no man to take private confession from me…If anyone is wrestling with his sins and wants to be rid of them and desires a sure word on the matter, let him go and confess to another in secret, and accept what he says to him as if God Himself had spoken it through the mouth of that person.”

The Word

“A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it.”

“I will constrain no man by force, for faith must be come freely without compulsion. Take myself as an example. I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached and wrote God’s Word; otherwise, I did nothing. And while I slept or drink Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did it all.”

“People generally think: If I had an opportunity to hear God speak in person, I would run my feet bloody…But now you have the Word of God in church…and this is God’s Word as surely as it God Himself were speaking to you.”


“When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where He is, there I shall be also.”

“That is why I am so earnest in my plea to you to learn the true and correct definition of Christ on the basis of these words of Paul- “who gave himself for our sins.” If He gave Himself unto death for our sins, then undoubtedly He is no tormentor.”

“By faith you are so cemented to Christ that He and you are as one person, which cannot be separated.”

“They try to do good of themselves in order that they might stand before God clothed in their own virtues and merits. But this is impossible. Among us you were one who held to this opinion, or rather, error. So was I, and I am still fighting against the error without having conquered it yet. Therefore, my dear brother, learn Christ and his crucified. Learn to pray to him and, despairing of yourself, say: “Thou Lord Jesus art my righteousness.”