Martin Luther was a German coal miner's son, educated at Erfurt University. While there, in the midst of a violent
thunderstorm, he decided to become a monk, against his father's wishes.
In his studies of Scripture, he came across the words of the Apostle Paul, where he had written to the church at Rome that, "The righteous shall live by faith." By faith? By a simple trust in Christ. How could this be?
In October of 1517, Luther spoke out against the practice of selling indulgences which, it was said, would keep a customer's soul out of purgatory.
He posted his famous "95 Theses" for debate upon the
university notice-board, not actually on the church door, focusing on the abusive practice of selling indulgences.
While the words of the Apostle Paul seemed so clear to Luther, his rediscovery of the message of repentance called into question the entire system of the medieval church; indulgences, penances, and the rest. He was called to defend his views.
Luther was fortunate in that he had gained allies in priests, scholars, and among the German people. He began to speak of the pope as Anti-Christ, charging that the pope was interfering with the free course of the Gospel. The monasteries, the mass, and penance; Luther said they all perverted God's grace. From his reading of the New Testament, Luther concluded that if salvation depended on man, it was worthless. Faith was the only hope for salvation.
At the Diet of Worms in 1521, Luther refused to recant, choosing to stand by the authority of the Bible. He escaped the fate of heretics only because he was hidden at the Wartburg Castle, where he translated the Bible into German.