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Reformation Vignettes


“From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” — 2 Timothy 3:15.

Martin Luther was many things during his lifetime. He was a German peasant, a university student, an Augustinian monk, and a parish pastor. Above all, he was a prolific author and an effective teacher.

Luther served throughout his adult life as a professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg. Throughout his life he wrote books and pamphlets to explain and defend the truths of Scripture. Luther’s works in the English edition comprise fifty-five volumes, and it by no means contains all of his writings. Luther singled out two works toward the end of his life which he hoped would survive the passage of time. One of those was his Small Catechism, which was intended to educate Christian youth. (The other was his Bondage Of The Will — Ed.)

When Luther wrote the Small Catechism in 1529 he hoped it would be used primarily as a tool by parents in the home. He wanted to provide parents in general, but fathers in particular, with a simple way to share the important truths they themselves learned from God with the most important gifts they received from God–their children!

Who can argue that Luther was able in a very simple and winsome way to capture and summarize the important truths of God’s Word and will in his explanations to the six chief parts of Christian doctrine. Think of the simplicity of his explanation to the First Commandment: “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” Consider that comforting invitation of his explanation to the Address of the Lord’s Prayer: “With these words God tenderly encourages us to believe that He is our true Father and we are His true children, so that we may ask Him boldly and with complete confidence as dear children ask their dear father.”

Can we find any better summary of the work of our Savior than Luther’s explanation to the Second Article of the Apostolic Creed? “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. He did this that I should be His very own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and joy, just as He is risen from death, lives and reigns in eternity. This is most certainly true.”

Such clear and simple explanations enable parents to teach their children God’s Word from little on. It was Luther’s desire that what was said concerning Timothy in our text could be said of any and all young people instructed with his catechism. It was imperative in Luther’s mind to instruct the young, both for the sake of their personal salvation and for the sake of the church and society.

Today the Lutheran church enjoys a strong heritage of Christian education on the grade school, high school, and college levels. Because of this, over the past 450 years generations of Lutherans have been able to say: “From childhood (we and our children) have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make (us) wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus“!

We remember and thank God for His gift to the church in the person and work of Luther as Educator.

— Pastor Paul D. Nolting