50 things Luther taught that you may not know

As we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Living Lutheran is exploring 500 of its unique aspects, continuing the series this month with 50 things Martin Luther taught that you may not know. The first 25 are included here, and the remaining 25 can be found at


We know that Martin Luther considered justification by grace through faith the most

important teaching of Christian faith—the one by which everything else we say and believe is judged (Luther’s Works, Vol. 21). But what we need to remember is that salvation is not something yet to come; justification is already complete (LW, Vol. 34).

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Every baptized Lutheran is a “born-again Christian.” And since that’s who we are, Luther

said we are to start living that way—living our baptisms (Book of Concord).

The righteousness of God is not something God is, but what he does to us—he makes us righteous

(LW, Vol. 34). Luther tells us that this insight is the essence of the spiritual experience that changed his life, the famed “Tower Experience.”

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Luther often said justification involves a pronouncement by God, declaring us sinners

righteous (LW, Vol. 25). But more frequently he compares justification to a marriage. We receive all that Christ has in the marriage, and having his love and righteousness qualifies us for salvation and makes us more loving in faith (LW, Vol. 44).

Luther wanted us to be sure that Christ’s work is “for us” (LW, Vol. 34). But the strength of one’s faith is not his hang-up. Even a weak faith saves,

22 AUGUST 2017

This list is not meant as an all-encompassing compendium of ever ything es sent ial to the Reformat ion and its theology, but rather as a glimpse of the variety of ways the movement that Luther sparked in 1517 would influence the history of the world.

By Mark Ellingsen

Luther said (LW, 12:262). In fact, when it comes to salvation, we’re passive—getters, not givers (LW, Vol. 52).

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The reformer also taught that we can’t even believe on our own—it takes the Spirit, who

gives us faith (The Small Catechism, II.III.6). Lutherans are, in fact, big on the Spirit, believing that the Spirit is active in every aspect of our lives. Every good idea we have is a work of the Spirit, who sets us on fire, Luther said (LW, Vol. 24; Complete Sermons, Vol. 3/1).

But grace isn’t cheap for Luther! Christ’s love starts moving us to do good like a spouse’s love

moves us to faithfulness to our marriage vows (LW, Vol. 44). We’re so filled up with the goodness God pours into us that we can’t help but spill out to others (LW, Vol. 31).

Indeed, Luther said we’re so filled up with God’s goodness that it’s as if we were intoxicated

with him, doing the bidding of God and the Spirit without being in control of ourselves (LW, Vol. 31).

Good works transpire without our willing them, like a good tree can’t help but produce

good fruit (LW, Vol. 34). Faith is such a busy thing, Luther added, that it’s impossible for the faithful not to be doing good works (LW, Vol. 35).

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