95 Quotes From Martin Luther


Martin-Luther_620In honor of the 95 Theses that Martin Luther nailed on the doors of the Wittenberg Church on October 31, 1517, which lit the flame of the Protestant Reformation,  I have compiled 95 quotes from the writings of Martin Luther with the help of many beneficial resources. Though I disagree with Luther on a number of important doctrinal issues, I am eternally grateful for his boldness, love for God, gospel-fervor, and submission to the supremacy of Scripture. Luther’s fiery character is evident in many of these quotes. Though it is said that he was passionate to a fault at times, we would all do well to learn from his passion for biblical accuracy and God’s glory. If you are unfamiliar with Martin Luther and his writings, this is a great way to begin, with a look at Luther through brief quotes. I pray that these quotes would bless you. At the end I have included a bibliography to serve you in your further study of Martin Luther and the Reformation.

1. “This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness; not health, but healing; not being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way; the process is not yet finished, but it has begun; this is not the goal, but it is road; at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being purified.”

2. [Commenting on Psalm 119] “In this psalm David always says that he will speak, think, talk, hear, read, day and night constantly—but about nothing else than God’s Word and Commandments. For God wants to give you His Spirit only through the external Word.

3. “Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scripture.”

4. “The Holy Spirit himself and God, the Creator of all things, is the Author of this book.”

5. “Be assured that no one will make a doctor of the Holy Scripture save only the Holy Ghost from heaven.”

6. “The Word of God is the greatest, most necessary, and most important thing in Christendom.”

7. “Christians should be taught that he who sees someone needy but looks past him, and buys an indulgence instead, receives not the pope’s remission but God’s wrath.”

8. “The apostles themselves considered it necessary to put the New Testament into Greek and to bind it fast to that language, doubtless in order to preserve it for us safe and sound as in a sacred ark. For they foresaw all that was to come and now has come to pass, and knew that if it were contained only in one’s heads, wild and fearful disorder and confusion, and many various interpretations, fancies and doctrines would arise in the Church, which could be prevented and from which the plain man could be protected only by committing the New Testament to writing the language.”

9. “If I could today become king or emperor, I would not give up my office as preacher.”

10. “Dear Lord God, I want to preach so that you are glorified. I want to speak of you, praise you, praise your name. Although I probably cannot make it turn out well, won’t you make it turn out well?”

11. “Take me, for example. I opposed indulgences and all papists, but never by force. I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my friend Philip of Amsdorf the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing: the Word did it all. Had I wanted to start trouble…. I could have started such a little game at Worms that even the emperor wouldn’t have been safe. But what would it have been? A mug’s game. I did nothing: I left it to the Word.” 

 12. “I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans.”

 13. “For a number of years I have now annually read through the Bible twice. If the Bible were a large, mighty tree and all its words were little branches I have tapped at all the branches, eager to know what was there and what it had to offer.”

14. “He who is well acquainted with the text of Scripture, is a distinguished theologian. For a Bible passage or text is of more value than the comments of four authors”

15. “The dear [church] fathers wished by their writing, to lead us to the Scriptures, but we so use them as to be led away from the Scriptures, though the Scriptures alone are our vineyard in which we ought all to work and toil.”

16. “The Bible is being buried by the wealth of commentaries, and the text is being neglected, although in every branch of learning they are the best who are well acquainted with the text.”

17. “When I was young, I read the Bible over and over and over again, and was so perfectly acquainted with it, that I could, in an instant, have pointed to any verse that might have been mentioned.”

18. “’Tis always better to see with one’s own eyes than with those of other people.”

19. “A student who does not want his labor wasted must so read and reread some good writer that the author is changed, as it were, into his flesh and blood.”

20. “For a great variety of reading confuses and does not teach. It makes the student like a man who dwells everywhere and, therefore, nowhere in particular.”

21. “Just as we do not daily enjoy the society of every one of our friends but only that of a chosen few, so it should also be in our studying.”

22. “I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.”

23. “The Bible is a remarkable fountain: the more one draws and drinks of it, the more it stimulates thirst.”

24. “Solomon the preacher is giving me a hard time, as though he begrudged anyone lecturing on him. But he must yield.”

25. “It is certain that unless the [biblical] languages remain, the Gospel must finally perish.”

26. “Without the [biblical] languages we could not have received the gospel.”

27. “Languages are the scabbard that contains the sword of the Spirit; they are the casket which contains the priceless jewels of antique thought; they are the vessel that holds the wine; and as the gospel says, they are the baskets in which the loaves and fishes are kept to feed the multitude.”

28. “No sooner did men cease to cultivate the languages than Christendom declined, even until it fell under the undisputed dominion of the pope.”

29. “In former times the fathers were frequently mistaken, because they were ignorant of the languages.”

30. “If the languages had not made me positive as to the true meaning of the word, I might have still remained a chained monk, engaged in quietly preaching Romish errors in the obscurity of a cloister; the pope, the sophists, and their anti-Christian empire would have remained unshaken.”

31. “Though the faith and the Gospel may be proclaimed by simple preachers without the languages, such preaching is flat and tame, men grow at last wearied and disgusted and it falls to the ground.”

32. “When the preacher is versed in the languages, his discourse has freshness and force, the whole of Scripture is treated, and faith finds itself constantly renewed by a continual variety of words and words.”

33. “It is a sin and shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God; it is a still greater sin and loss that we do not study languages, especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study, and desires his Bible to be an open book.”

34. “O how happy the dear fathers would have been if they had our opportunity to study the languages and come thus prepared to the Holy Scriptures! What great toil and effort it cost them to gather up a few crumbs, while we with half the labor— yes, almost without any labor at all—can acquire the whole loaf! O how their effort puts our indolence to shame.”

35. “In truth you cannot read too much in Scripture; and what you read you cannot read too carefully, and what you read carefully you cannot understand too well, and what you understand well you cannot teach too well, and what you teach well you cannot live too well.”

36. “The devil … the world … and our flesh are raging and raving against us. Therefore, dear sirs and brothers, pastors and preachers, pray, read, study, be diligent.”

37. “The household sweat is great; the political sweat is greater; the church sweat is the greatest.”

38. “Sure, it would be hard for me to sit “in the saddle.” But then again I would like to see the horseman who could sit still for a whole day and gaze at a book without worrying or dreaming or think about anything else.”

39. “[On preaching] Three fingers do it all … but the whole body and soul have to work at it.”

40. “Let ministers daily pursue their studies with diligence and constantly busy themselves with them.”

41. “Let ministers steadily keep on reading, teaching, studying, pondering, and meditating.”

42. “Nor let ministers cease studying until they have discovered and are sure that they have taught the devil to death and have become more learned than God himself and all His saints.”

43. “A person should work in such a way that he remains well and does no injury to his body.”

44. “We should not break our heads at work and injure our bodies … I myself used to do such things, and I have racked my brains because I still have not overcome the bad habit of overworking. Nor shall I overcome it as long as I live.”

45. “I want you to know how to study theology in the right way. I have practiced this method myself.”

46. “For as soon as God’s Word becomes known through you,” he says, “the devil will afflict you will make a real doctor of you, nd will teach you by his temptations to seek and to love God’s Word.”

47. “I myself … owe my papists many thanks for so beating, pressing, and frightening me through the devil’s raging that they have turned me into a fairly good theologian, driving me to a goal I should never have reached.”

48. “If the Devil can do nothing against the teachings, he attacks the person, lying, slandering, cursing, and ranting at him.”

49. “Just as the papists’ Beelzebub did to me when he could not subdue my Gospel, he wrote that I was possessed by the Devil, was a changeling, my beloved mother a whore and bath attendant.”

50. “For more than a week I have been thrown back and forth in death and Hell; my whole body feels beaten, my limbs are still trembling. I almost lost Christ completely, driven about on the waves and storms of despair and blasphemy against God. But because of the intercession of the faithful, God began to take mercy on me and tore my soul from the depths of Hell.”

51. “That the Holy Scriptures cannot be penetrated by study and talent is most certain. Therefore your first duty is to begin to pray, and to pray to this effect that if it please God to accomplish something for His glory—not for yours or any other person’s—He very graciously grant you a true understanding of His words.”

52. “For no master of the divine words exists except the Author of these words, as He says: ‘They shall be all taught of God’ (John 6:45). You must, therefore, completely despair of your own industry and ability and rely solely on the inspiration of the Spirit.”

53. “Since the Holy Writ wants to be dealt with in fear and humility and penetrated more by studying [!] with pious prayer than with keenness of intellect, therefore it is impossible for those who rely only on their intellect and rush into Scripture with dirty feet, like pigs, as though Scripture were merely a sort of human knowledge not to harm themselves and others whom they instruct.”

54. “You should completely despair of your own sense and reason, for by these you will not attain the goal … Rather kneel down in your private little room and with sincere humility and earnestness pray God through His dear Son, graciously to grant you His Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide you and give you understanding.”

55. “I condemn and reject as nothing but error all doctrines which exalt our “free will” as being directly opposed to this mediation and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

56. “Since, apart from Christ, sin and death are our masters and the devil is our god and prince, there can be no strength or power, no wit or wisdom, by which we can fit or fashion ourselves for righteousness and life.”

57. “Blinded and captivated, we are bound to be the subjects of Satan and sin, doing and thinking what pleases him and is opposed to God and His commandments.”

58. “And it is true that the doctrine of the Gospel takes all glory, wisdom, righteousness, etc., from men and ascribes them to the Creator alone, who makes everything out of nothing.”

59. “We are beggars. This is true.”

60. “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him for he cannot bear scorn.”

61. “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”

62. “Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.””

63. “I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith.”

64. “I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.”

65. “The whole of Scripture took on new meaning, and whereas before the “justice of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love.”

66. “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God.”

67. “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”

68. “I tortured myself with prayer, fasting, vigils and freezing; the frost alone might have killed me… . What else did I seek by doing this but God, who was supposed to note my strict observance of the monastic order and my austere life? I constantly walked in a dream and lived in real idolatry, for I did not believe in Christ: I regarded Him only as a severe and terrible Judge portrayed as seated on a rainbow.”

69. “When I was a monk, I wearied myself greatly for almost fifteen years with the daily sacrifice, tortured myself with fastings, vigils, prayers, and other very rigorous works. I earnestly thought to acquire righteousness by my works.”

70. “‘Who am I that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my hands to the divine majesty?”

71. “I am dust and ashes and full of sin, and I am speaking to the living, eternal and true God.’”

72. “Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience.”

73. “I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God.”

74. “As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the Decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!”

75. “I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith.”

76. “Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”

77. “I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is, what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us strong, the wisdom of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God.”

78. “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept … the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”

79. “Never doubt that God in his mercy will surely hear you and say “yes” to your prayers.”

80. “Never think that you are kneeling or standing alone, rather think that the whole of Christendom, all devout Christians, are standing there beside you and you are standing among them in a common, united petition which God cannot disdain.”

81. “Do not leave your prayer without having said or thought, “Very well. God has heard my prayer; this I know as a certainty and a truth.” That is what Amen means.”

82. “If our cause is great, its author and champion is great also, for it is not ours.”

83. “If our cause is false, let us recant; if it is true, why should we make him a liar who commands us to be of untroubled heart?”

84. “I beg you, so pugnacious in all else, fight against yourself, your own worst enemy, who furnish Satan with arms against yourself. . . .”

85. “God who is able to raise the dead is also able to uphold a falling cause, or to raise a fallen one and make it strong.”

86. “If we are not worthy instruments to accomplish his purpose, he will find others.”

87. “If we are not strengthened by his promises, to whom else in all the world can they pertain?”

88. “We are in truth and totally sinners, with regard to ourselves and our first birth. Contrariwise, in so far as Christ has been given for us, we are holy and just totally. Hence from different aspects we are said to be just and sinners at one and the same time.”

89. “The will is like a beast standing between two riders. If God rides, it wills and goes where God wills… If Satan rides, it wills and goes where Satan wills; nor can it choose to run to either of the two riders or to seek him out, but the riders themselves contend for the possession and control of it.”

90. “You cast your sins from yourself and onto Christ when you firmly believe that his wounds and sufferings are you sins, to be borne and paid for by him.”

91. “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to no one. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”

92. “Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace? Here this rich and divine bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all her evil, and adorns her with all his goodness. Her sins cannot now destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by him. And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, of which she may boast as of her own and which she can confidently display alongside her sins in the face of death and hell and say, ‘If I have sinned, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all his is mine and all mine is his.’”

93. “God put fingers on our hand for the money to slide through them so He can give us more. Whatever a person gives away, God will reimburse.”

94. “Riches are among the most trivial things on earth and the smallest gift God gives to a person.”

95. “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.”

 

Sources:

Luther’s Works, Vols. 12, 24, 32, 34, 51,   eds. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann [St. Louis: Concordia, 2002]

Martin Luther: Lessons From His Life and Labor by John Piper

Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995]

Barbara A. Somervill, Martin Luther: Father of the Reformation [Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2006]

Thomas Lindsay, Martin Luther: The Man Who Started the Reformation [Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2004]

Martin Luther, “A Practical Way to Pray” (1535), in Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 2d ed., ed. Timothy Lull (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012)

The Life and Letters of Martin Luther

Recommended Articles:

Fortress for Truth: Martin Luther

Hospitality and Generosity in the Luther Home

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