One of the pictures I have as a desktop background on my laptop computer is the International Monument to the Reformation located in Geneva, Switzerland. It is usually referred to as the Reformation Wall. The motto of the 16th century Protestant Reformation is Post tenbras lux which means “After darkness, light!”
A reformer, or a reformation, is defined as an improvement, a renovation or a reorganization of something which currently exits. A reformer does not seek to destroy the object of his reform. Rather he seeks to either overhaul or restore order where disorder or error has occurred. The reformers themselves considered their work to be a reformation and not a revolution to the church.
Martin Luther, and those who preceded him as well as those who followed him, were seeking to reform and not destroy the church. They saw abuses by the church which needed to be corrected. Not the least of these issues was the question of the ultimate source of authority within the church: the pope or the Scriptures. God would choose Martin Luther to be the preeminent individual to bring these issues to a head.
Martin was born on November 10, 1483 in the German town of Eisleben to Hans and Margarette Luther. He was named Martin because he was born on St. Martin’s Day. Luther lived in an exciting time. He was 9 years old in 1492 when Columbus discovered America. His parents were German peasants. Luther’s father eventually became a minor in Mansfield and ultimately owned six foundries.
Luther’s childhood was marked by prayer, strict morality, and loyalty to the church and its traditions. It became quickly evident during his childhood that Luther possessed a melancholy personality. He was consumed and driven not only with fits of depression and insecurity, but also with an overwhelming sense of guilt before God because of his sins.
From 1492-1498 he attended school at Mansfield, Magdeburg and Eisenach, where Martin learned Latin. From 1501-1505 he attended the University of Erfurt where he earned his BA in 1502 and his MA in 1505. He was preparing for his doctorate in law. One biographer writes that “young Martin earned both his baccalaureate and master’s degrees in the shortest time allowed by university statutes. He proved so adept at public debates that he earned the nickname The Philosopher.”
Luther was set to be become a lawyer. His father Hans wanted his son to not only be a lawyer, but also to become a successful lawyer. This would mean that Martin would be able to take care of his parents when they were old.
Dr. R.C. Sproul explains that Luther seemed to encounter a crisis every five years. The first of these “crises” occurred in 1505. It was an event in which Luther’s life would be irrevocably changed.