What is a Lutheran?
Our name traces back to a German monk named Martin Luther (1483-1546) who was at the center of the Reformation. Boring, right? Well, not so much. The effect of the Lutheran Reformation of the Church on the history of the world can hardly be overstated. Quite simply, it caused one of the most profound changes in history. In fact, when US News and World Report ranked the most important events of the last 1000 years, the Lutheran Reformation placed second, right behind Gutenberg’s moveable type printing press.
Now consider that for a minute… That means that they considered the Lutheran Reformation to be of greater significance than the discovery of the New World (number 3 on the list). But why? And who was this Luther guy? He was a monk, a priest, a professor at a little university in Wittenberg, Germany. Why would a guy like that be listed as the third most influential person of the last 1000 years? (1000 Years and 1000 People, Gottlieb and Bowers) More important than Einstein, Edison, George Washington, etc.? Really? Why?
All for the reason that we call ourselves “Lutherans.” During the dark days of the Middle Ages, the truth of God’s Word was hidden away in monasteries. The church of that day was not teaching that we are saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Instead, people were told that they needed to try and earn their way to heaven—or worse, that they had to buy their way to heaven. The truth of God’s word was rejected, and the traditions of men put in its place. Dr. Luther changed all that on October 31, 1517, when he nailed 95 Statements for Debate on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. He said that the Bible should be our only source of teaching, not manmade traditions. He showed that God saved us by grace alone, by faith alone. He returned the Bible into the hands of the people, and quite literally changed the world.
We don’t call ourselves Lutherans to a celebrate a man, but to celebrate the grace of God who reformed his Church, and brought back the pure and simple teaching that had been lost: Jesus Christ died and rose for me, so I will be in heaven forever. Period.