There are a lot of biographies of Martin Luther out there: Scholarly, thorough, filled with the latest research, and lots of historical detail. I recommend one that does not have those things. Life of Luther by Gustav Just, is a great book for congregational study of the Reformation.
It’s brief – perfect for a book club or bible study at church.
It’s not so much historical as it is theological.
It does not have the latest research because it was written over 100 years ago.
Put that all together, and you have the best reason of all: It’s a classic.
“The Life of Luther” was originally intended as a brief introduction to Luther and the Reformation – I suspect for use in schools.
It isn’t fair and balanced. It doesn’t try to play devil’s advocate about Luther. It is not a sophisticated attempt to explain Luther’s influence in terms of political and economic theories, and show how Luther’s influence on government institutions even today is significant.
Because none of that really matters.
Luther is the angel prophesied in the book of Revelation “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.”
That is the premise of the book: Luther was given to the church by God to restore the pure Gospel. And that is what he did.
Because it was written at a time when people stood up for what they believed without flinching, Life of Luther treats all of Christian history as the story of Christ and His Gospel. The Reformation was the moment that God restored that Gospel, the moment when Luther stood with Saint Paul, and refused to accept any other Gospel than the one proclaimed in the Word of God.
Life of Luther places Luther in the context of the church – the teaching, and people, the history of salvation being proclaimed to the world. It gives Luther’s life the proper Gospel context, instead of the historical, sociological, economic, or political context.
There are certainly more complete biographies of Luther. There are better ones for pastors and scholars to read. But Life of Luther does everything a pastor wants to do when teaching the Reformation in the parish. If you are looking for a good study for Reformation 500, you might consider Life of Luther, by Gustav Just.
You can view it online through Google books. But the Lulu version is a new book (with minor updates), and it’s only $5. At that price, you can order enough for everyone in the class to have a copy. (The updates mostly relate to the recent history of the LCMS at the end of the book.) It also includes crisp scans of all the woodcuts. They really do add a note of beauty to the story. The print of Luther’s Wedding is framed and hanging in my home. The 95 Theses is hanging in my study at church.
Here’s a short sample from a couple of chapters. You can see one of the engravings as well.
If you are planning a study of Luther or the Reformation, consider Life of Luther by Gustav Just.