Martin Luther v. Saul of Tarsusby Rit Nosotro
Compare the lives of Martin Luther and Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul).
Have you ever been convinced of a truth only to have a dramatic experience that turned your mind completely around? Have you ever boldly spread the truth about your convictions despite threats of bodily harm? If so, you’re not alone. This was the same case for two important men of God: Martin Luther and Saul of Tarsus (a k a the Apostle Paul).
As Jesus predicted in John 16:2-3, "that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me." Paul thought he was doing God a favor through his violent pursuit of the Christian sect of Judaism. Martin Luther thought he was returning God a favor from the time Martin survived a frightful lightening storm. Perversely, Martin abused his own body to the point of death, thinking he was doing a service to God. Neither men knew the Father nor the Son.
Yet both men ended up being two greatly persuasive and effective leaders for Christ. Although they lived centuries apart from each other, they each had the same goal in mind; change their religion from the inside out so that it truly glorifies God. God used Paul to help spread Christianity, and God used Martin Luther to purify Christian practice through the Protestant Reformation. Since neither men started with a true understanding of God's love, how did they end up being such influential Christians?
The book of Acts, chapters 8 and 9 of the Bible, tells us that Paul was originally known as Saul of Tarsus. He was the man responsible for the stoning of the Stephen, the first Christian martyr, as well as arrests and murders of Christians. He had ordered that all men and women who called on the Lord Jesus Christ should be bound and brought to him to receive their punishment. On the road to Damascus one day, a bright light shone all around him, and Jesus said to him “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4, KJV) Saul fell to his knees and had a brief yet powerful conversation with Jesus, and when he arose, he was blind, and had to be lead by the hand to Damascus. He couldn’t eat, drink or see for three days. Finally, Jesus sent his disciple, Ananias, to lay hands on Saul, so as to return his sight. After his sight was returned, Saul, went into the wilderness for several months (Gal. ch.1 & 2) for study and meditation before he started preaching the gospel. Later, his named was changed to Paul, and he preached extensively throughout Asia Minor all the way to Rome. Most of the latter half of the New Testament contains letters he wrote to the churches he had established, such as Romans, I and II Corinthians, Philippines, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, and also letters to young pastors such as Timothy and Titus. Paul was persecuted by the Jews he had once dedicated his life to. They handed him over to the Romans where after several years of house arrest, tradition tells that he was sentenced to death by Emperor Nero. Paul remained faithful to God's truth till the very end, preaching the gospel he had once so vehemently opposed.
Martin Luther’s transformed life was also marked by persecution due to his proclamation of salvation by faith alone. Something that he had once vehemently opposed by believing the clergy and sacraments were necessary for salvation. Martin was born to Hans and Margaretha Luder in November of 1483. His father hoped to see him become a successful lawyer and honor the family, so he sent Martin to schools where he received advanced degrees. He had intended to become a lawyer, but bargained with God when a bolt of lightning very narrowly missed hitting him in a thunderstorm as he was returning to his school. He cried out that he’d join a monastery if God would spare his life. Believing God had obliged his wish, Brother Martin became a monk, attempting to pay back God by doing numerous good works. But no matter how much he did, he still felt wretched. He advanced to the office of a priest through deep study of theology. While studying, he came to the realization that salvation is a gift of God’s grace, and receiving it meant faith and trust in God. As if scales falling off the eyes of Paul, Martin finally saw the truth. He finally felt the joy in God that he had been searching for.
His next move was to write and post his 95 Theses, which boldly challenged many supposed truths of Catholic dogma. This eventually led to his excommunication by the Pope. The Diet of Worms asked that he stand before them and confirm or renounce his beliefs. In the end, Luther affirmed that what he believed was the truth. He was then branded an outlaw, and would have been in mortal danger if the powerful German princes hadn’t hidden him. He wrote extensively while in hiding, and thanks to God's timing of the invention of the printing press, he became widely read in Northern Europe. Among his works are included the German translations of both the Old and New Testaments, and the Augsburg Confession. His musical talent motivated him to also write the first book of Protestant Hymns. In June of 1525, he married a former nun named Katherine von Bora. They had six children -three boys and three girls. Luther loved his home and family, and spent plenty of time with each. Sadly, when he died, it was not in the home that he had cherished so much. Surrounded by two of his sons and some friends, Martin died in Mansfield in the year 1546, far from his dearly beloved home.
Upon discovering the truth about faith, Martin Luther wrote in a personal account, “…. and I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the words ‘righteousness of God.’ Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise.” He was speaking of the apostle Paul. Both men had much in common: at one point, they both resented God; their conversions to Christianity were dramatic; they were persecuted for the truth they taught; they devoted their lives to Christ and served him to the end. Both Paul and Martin pointed only to Christ and sought no followers of their own. Although Paul had said, "follow me as I follow Christ" he also gave glory to God however the truth was being preached. Martin too, did not want to make a name for himself, despite this, "Lutheranism" developed as did other groups such as "Calvinism" who also protested against Roman Catholic heresy. All Christians can now examine the scriptures for themselves and tell of the same truths proclaimed by Paul and Martin which continue to give life to a dying world. Perhaps the lives of these bold men will inspire the next "Great Awakening" with in nominal Christianity.
1. Which religion did Martin Luther's followers start?
2. Which religion did Paul promote?
3. What did Jesus say to Paul?
a. “Thou shalt not kill”
b. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”
c. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers”
d. “Get thee to a nunnery”
4. What was the name of the inquisition held against Martin Luther?
a. The British Parliament
b. The United States Congress
c. The Diet of Worms
d. The halls of Valhalla
1. King James Version. The Bible.
2. Martin Luther biography. http://website.lineone.net/~gospeldefenders/gdefenders/lutherbiog.html> (Jan 10, 2004), World History.
3. Timothy Keesee, Mark Sidwell. United States History for Christian Schools, Third Edition. Greenville, South Carolina. BJU Press, 1991
4. Martin Luther- Biography and Works. http://www.knowledgerush.com/kr/jsp/db/author.jsp?authorId=129&authorName=Martin+Luther (Jan 10, 2004), World History.
5. Daily Bible Study-Saul of Tarsus. http://www.keyway.ca/htm2002/saultars.htm (Jan 10, 2004), World History.
6. Saul of Tarsus and Christ’s Blood. http://www.dimensional.com/~randl/tarsus.htm (Jan 10, 2004), World History.
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