Luther was the father of the Reformation in the same sense in which George Stephenson was the father of the railways – that is, he pioneered the whole subsequent development.  Without Luther, the gospel would not have been recovered nor would Christian faith and life have been renewed nor would there have been any evangelical leaven to work in the upsurging life of the new European national states.  There would have been no Bucer, Tyndale, Cranmer, or Calvin, for all these were disciples of Luther.  Apart from Luther, the historical Reformation is as unintelligible as Hamlet without the Prince.

Luther put forward the idea that, whenever God means to move decisively in His church, He raises up a “wonder-man” (Wundermann), a hero (vir heroicus), a great individual leader, to be His instrument.  Certainly, this principle was exemplified in Luther himself.

The phrase, “the Word of God,” or simply, “the Word,” is a key phrase in Luther’s thought.  It meant, to him, not just the Scriptures formally, but something wider – namely, the message and content of the Scriptures, that is, the gospel concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the sum and substance of what God has to say to man.

Luther’s constant aim was to inculcate the biblical knowledge of God and, to this end, he constantly rang the changes on the following five staple themes: the authority of the biblical Word of God, the greatness of sin, the graciousness of Christ, the vitality of faith, and the spiritual nature of the church.  These five themes made up the central content of “the Word,” as Luther understood it.  It was in this field that all Luther’s main concerns lay.  It was here that he made his abiding contribution to theology, holding that “the Word,” under God, must reform the church. – J. I. Packer (born in 1926)


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