Bible Study Guides – Luther

November 20, 2010 – November 26, 2010

Key Text

“Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” Habbakuk 2:4.

Study Help: The Great Controversy, 120–170; Early Writings, 222–226.


“Zealous, ardent, and devoted, knowing no fear but the fear of God, and acknowledging no foundation for religious faith but the Holy Scriptures, Luther was the man for his time; through him God accomplished a great work for the reformation of the church and the enlightenment of the world.” The Great Controversy, 120.

1 What parable illustrates the experience of Martin Luther when he found the Bible for the first time? Matthew 13:44–46.

Note: “While one day examining the books in the library of the university, Luther discovered a Latin Bible. Such a book he had never before seen. He was ignorant even of its existence. He had heard portions of the Gospels and Epistles, which were read to the people at public worship, and he supposed that these were the entire Bible. Now, for the first time, he looked upon the whole of God’s word. With mingled awe and wonder he turned the sacred pages; with quickened pulse and throbbing heart he read for himself the words of life, pausing now and then to exclaim: ‘O that God would give me such a book for myself!’ ” The Great Controversy, 122.

2 As Luther drank deeper and deeper at the fountain of truth and light, what did he do to better understand it? How did he share his joy? Psalm 119:97–104.

Note: “Luther was ordained a priest and was called from the cloister to a professorship in the University of Wittenberg. Here he applied himself to the study of the Scriptures in the original tongues. He began to lecture upon the Bible; and the book of Psalms, the Gospels, and the Epistles were opened to the understanding of crowds of delighted listeners.” The Great Controversy, 124.

3 When an official raising money to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica was selling indulgences where Luther was pastor, what Scriptures came to Luther’s mind? Acts 8:20; 4:12. What effect did the publication by Luther of ninety-five theses have against this practice?

Note: “His [Luther’s] propositions attracted universal attention. They were read and reread, and repeated in every direction. Great excitement was created in the university and in the whole city. By these theses it was shown that the power to grant the pardon of sin, and to remit its penalty, had never been committed to the pope or to any other man. The whole scheme was a farce—an artifice to extort money by playing upon the superstitions of the people—a device of Satan to destroy the souls of all who should trust to its lying pretensions. It was also clearly shown that the gospel of Christ is the most valuable treasure of the church, and that the grace of God, therein revealed, is freely bestowed upon all who seek it by repentance and faith.

“Luther’s theses challenged discussion; but no one dared accept the challenge. The questions which he proposed had in a few days spread through all Germany, and in a few weeks they had sounded throughout Christendom. Many devoted Romanists, who had seen and lamented the terrible iniquity prevailing in the church, but had not known how to arrest its progress, read the propositions with great joy, recognizing in them the voice of God. They felt that the Lord had graciously set His hand to arrest the rapidly swelling tide of corruption that was issuing from the see of Rome. Princes and magistrates secretly rejoiced that a check was to be put upon the arrogant power which denied the right of appeal from its decisions.” The Great Controversy, 130.

4 What most powerful weapon was in constant use by the Reformers and has been the foundation of reform in all ages? Nehemiah 2:4; Isaiah 38:2, 3.

Note: “From the secret place of prayer came the power that shook the world in the Great Reformation. There, with holy calmness, the servants of the Lord set their feet upon the rock of His promises. During the struggle at Augsburg, Luther ‘did not pass a day without devoting three hours at least to prayer, and they were hours selected from those the most favorable to study.’ In the privacy of his chamber he was heard to pour out his soul before God in words ‘full of adoration, fear, and hope, as when one speaks to a friend.’ ” The Great Controversy, 210.

5 What were some unfortunate reactions to Luther’s work?

Note: “The sin-loving and superstitious multitudes were terrified as the sophistries that had soothed their fears were swept away. Crafty ecclesiastics, interrupted in their work of sanctioning crime, and seeing their gains endangered, were enraged, and rallied to uphold their pretensions. The Reformer had bitter accusers to meet. Some charged him with acting hastily and from impulse. Others accused him of presumption, declaring that he was not directed of God, but was acting from pride and forwardness.” The Great Controversy, 130.

6 In bringing Luther before the Diet of Worms, to what did the papists resort in an effort to silence him? Matthew 27:1, 2. What characterized his response?

Note: “Those who stubbornly closed their eyes to the light, and determined not to be convinced of the truth, were enraged at the power of Luther’s words. As he ceased speaking, the spokesman of the Diet said angrily: ‘You have not answered the question put to you. … You are required to give a clear and precise answer. … Will you, or will you not, retract?’

“The Reformer answered: ‘Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require from me a clear, simple, and precise answer, I will give you one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the councils, because it is clear as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me. Amen.’ ” The Great Controversy, 160.

7 How was it that Luther, a simple monk alone, was not intimidated by the assembly? John 16:33. Who stood alone in similar circumstances? Acts 6:9, 11, 15.

Note: “Thus stood this righteous man upon the sure foundation of the word of God. The light of heaven illuminated his [the Reformer’s] countenance. His greatness and purity of character, his peace and joy of heart, were manifest to all as he testified against the power of error and witnessed to the superiority of that faith that overcomes the world.” The Great Controversy, 160.

8 Who was favorable to the cause advocated by Luther?

Note: “The elector Frederick had looked forward anxiously to Luther’s appearance before the Diet, and with deep emotion he listened to his speech. With joy and pride he witnessed the doctor’s courage, firmness, and self-possession, and determined to stand more firmly in his defense. He contrasted the parties in contest, and saw that the wisdom of popes, kings, and prelates had been brought to nought by the power of truth. The papacy had sustained a defeat which would be felt among all nations and in all ages.” The Great Controversy, 162.

9 Who was with Luther in this trial? Matthew 28:20. Under the persuasion of the papists, what decision did Charles V make?

Note: “Two conflicting opinions were now urged by the members of the Diet. The emissaries and representatives of the pope again demanded that the Reformer’s safe-conduct should be disregarded. ‘The Rhine,’ they said, ‘should receive his ashes, as it had received those of John Huss a century ago.’ …

“Charles himself, in answer to the base proposal, said: ‘Though honor and faith should be banished from all the world, they ought to find a refuge in the hearts of princes.’ … He was still further urged by the most bitter of Luther’s papal enemies to deal with the Reformer as Sigismund had dealt with Huss—abandon him to the mercies of the church; but recalling the scene when Huss in public assembly had pointed to his chains and reminded the monarch of his plighted faith, Charles V declared: ‘I should not like to blush like Sigismund.’—Lenfant, vol. 1, p. 422.

“Yet Charles had deliberately rejected the truths presented by Luther. ‘I am firmly resolved to imitate the example of my ancestors,’ wrote the monarch.—D’Aubigne, b. 7, ch. 9. He had decided that he would not step out of the path of custom, even to walk in the ways of truth and righteousness. Because his fathers did, he would uphold the papacy, with all its cruelty and corruption. Thus he took his position, refusing to accept any light in advance of what his fathers had received, or to perform any duty that they had not performed.” The Great Controversy, 163, 164.

10 When Luther had triumphed over the papists before the Diet, how was he protected from their wrath and determination to kill him? Psalm 31:19–21. What other benefits came as a result?

Note: “God had provided a way of escape for His servant in this hour of peril. A vigilant eye had followed Luther’s movements, and a true and noble heart had resolved upon his rescue. It was plain that Rome would be satisfied with nothing short of his death; only by concealment could he be preserved from the jaws of the lion. God gave wisdom to Frederick of Saxony to devise a plan for the Reformer’s preservation. With the co-operation of true friends the elector’s purpose was carried out, and Luther was effectually hidden from friends and foes.” The Great Controversy, 168.

“While his [Luther’s] enemies flattered themselves that he was silenced, they were astonished and confused by tangible proof that he was still active. A host of tracts, issuing from his pen, circulated throughout Germany. He also performed a most important service for his countrymen by translating the New Testament into the German tongue. From his rocky Patmos he continued for nearly a whole year to proclaim the gospel and rebuke the sins and errors of the times.” Ibid., 169.

11 What Divine plan was also fulfilled in the concealing of Luther for a while? Psalm 115:1. How is this a lesson for our time?

Note: “He [God] desired that work [of the Reformation] to receive, not the impress of man, but that of God. The eyes of men had been turned to Luther as the expounder of the truth; he was removed that all eyes might be directed to the eternal Author of truth.” The Great Controversy, 170.

Personal Review Questions

1 How and where did Luther find the light of gospel truth?

2 What brought Luther to publicly proclaim the arguments of the truth?

3 How did the papal authorities try to silence Luther?

4 How was Luther’s appearance before the Diet both a triumph and a tragedy?

5 Explain how God’s goodness overruled perilous adversity in the life of Luther.

Additional Reading

“Notwithstanding all the persecution of the saints, living witnesses for God’s truth were raised up on every hand. Angels of the Lord were doing the work committed to their trust. They were searching in the darkest places and selecting out of the darkness men who were honest in heart. These were all buried up in error, yet God called them, as He did Saul, to be chosen vessels to bear His truth and raise their voices against the sins of His professed people. Angels of God moved upon the hearts of Martin Luther, Melanchthon, and others in different places, and caused them to thirst for the living testimony of the Word of God. The enemy had come in like a flood, and the standard must be raised against him. Luther was the one chosen to breast the storm, stand up against the ire of a fallen church, and strengthen the few who were faithful to their holy profession. He was ever fearful of offending God. He tried through works to obtain His favor, but was not satisfied until a gleam of light from heaven drove the darkness from his mind and led him to trust, not in works, but in the merits of the blood of Christ. He could then come to God for himself, not through popes or confessors, but through Jesus Christ alone.” Early Writings, 222, 223.

©2003 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission