To Preach Like Luther, You Must Listen Like Luther

Robert Kolb | March 24, 2017

Martin Luther’s commandeering of the print medium to spread his call for reform has won much attention from scholars. Printers took a gamble on the publication of his Ninety-five Theses (calling for a university disputation on indulgences) since disputations, apart from this one incident, never attained bestseller status.

Once the theses had disseminated his concerns like wildfire in late 1517, Luther recognized what the printers could do to broadcast his message. He began a literary campaign—coordinating with colleagues in Wittenberg and supporters elsewhere—that inalterably changed the church and societies across Europe. 

But Luther’s instruction of students in the interpretation of Scripture and preaching directly reached even more people than did his published writings. With a master of rhetorical theory, Philip Melanchthon, at his side, Luther put the sermon to use in ways as radically different from the past as was his use of printed words.

Center of the Christian Life

Luther discarded the prevailing medieval understanding of being a Christian—winning God’s favor through the practice of religious activities under the mediation of local priests. His call to teach the Bible at the University of Wittenberg plunged him ever deeper into Scripture, as he began his career covering the Psalms and then Romans and Galatians. There he discovered that a Christian is one whom God moves, through his Word, to…

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