PART 13: THE BEGINNINGS OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH 

  Martin Luther never intended to start a new church.  His study of the Bible convinced him that many of the teachings of the church in his day were man-made.  Luther wanted the church to stop teaching these errors and return to the pure doctrine taught by Christ and his apostles.  Many leaders in the church, however, felt that the church could never go wrong.  They concluded that Luther must be a false teacher, and they would not listen to him.  His enemies spread lies about him.  The pope excommunicated him.  Although Luther did not want it this way, he was now out of the Church of Rome.  But many people believed that God spoke powerfully through Martin Luther.  They risked punishment to read his writings and hear his sermons.  Much of northern Germany looked to him for leadership.  Luther’s sense of duty and devotion to the truths of God’s Word would not allow him simply to ignore these people and send them back to their old ways of worship.  A new church had to be built.  Despite Luther’s objections, people called the new church the “Lutheran” church.  The cornerstone of this new church would be the Bible. Luther believed that God can and does speak directly to human hearts through the Scriptures.  Luther reasoned that if the Christian church is to be built by God’s Word working in the hearts and lives of people, they need Bibles in their own language.  The German translation appeared in 1534, and sold over a million copies in the next dozen years.  In 1528 Luth3ejr visited the growing number of Lutheran churches in Saxony.  He found that things were not going well.  Everywhere there were different forms of worship and church practice.  Many people, including many pastors’ knew little about Christian doctrine.  Some could not even recite the Lord’s Prayer or the Ten Commandments.  To guide them, these new churches needed a clear and simple statement of the teaching Luther met this need in 1529 by writing two catechisms.  He wrote the Large Catechism for pastors and adults, and a Small Catechism especially for children.  The Worship Service also had to be changed to reflect the new biblical teaching.  Those parts of the Mass that made worship an effort to acquire merits for the sinner were eliminated.  The doctrine of justification by faith meant that any reference n the mass to sacrificing Christ again had to be removed.  People received both the bread and wine in Lord’s Supper as was done in the early church.  Because the Bible teaches that each believer is a priest, people were given a more active part in the service.  Before this people only watched and listened to the priests and choirs, now they were invited to sing hymns in their own language.  Luther himself wrote some of the hymns (both words and music).  His first German hymnbook appeared in 1524.  “Music is second only to the study of God’s Word,” Luther said. Soon the Lutheran church also became known as “the singing church.”

Luther was also a champion of education.  He saw that if the church was to keep growing, more and better schools were needed.  In letters to leaders throughout Germany and in Norway and Denmark he urged that good schools be established and maintained.  He provided the original rationale for tax-supported public education.  No longer was the monastery the chief training ground for Christian living.  The Christian home took its place.  God surely dwelt in a home where Bible reading and instruction, worship, and prayer were practiced.  To educated adults, Luther advocated that churches and towns sponsor evening lectures.  To ensure that education was available to all, he advocated that towns provide money to educate students from poor families.  As a result of the improvements in education made during the reformation, informed clergy and laity were better able to provide leadership for strong congregations and communities, and the life of the common person was greatly improved.