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Johannes von Staupitz, Luther’s Father Confessor

Today, we read about Staupitz’s influence on Martin Luther as discussed in The Real Luther: A Friar at Erfurt and Wittenberg.

Introduction

When Luther was burdened by the Law and his inability to meet God’s standards, his father confessor, Johannes von Staupitz, reminded him of God’s forgiveness through Christ. Over time, this helped steer Luther toward a greater focus on the Gospel, which Luther then shared with many others during the Reformation.

Devotional Reading

Luther followed Staupitz not only in the professorial chair but also in the practice of good preaching. Staupitz was a popular preacher and knew how to use good imagery. We come close to the historical Luther when we believe Luther’s own words that he owed just about everything to Dr. Staupitz, his fatherly friend. This may have meant not only that Luther had been ordered by Staupitz to take up the study of theology in order to become a good preacher, but also that he owed everything to Staupitz’s Christo-centric spirituality and biblical theology, which was geared always toward pastoral care. It may also have meant that Luther came to know in Staupitz a man who raised some serious doubts about the indulgences and that in this superior Luther experienced a viable alternative to late-medieval scholasticism.

The late-medieval preaching about the passion of Christ is heavily influenced by Bernard, even though preachers may not always make explicit reference to him when they preach on this subject. This was the case with Staupitz’s Lenten Sermons of 1512 at Salzburg. His sermons of the eve of the Reformation prove Luther’s comments about him (although preserved in Table Talk) that he (Luther) received everything from the Christ-centered teaching of Staupitz: “My good Staupitz said, ‘One must keep one’s eyes fixed on that man who is called Christ.’ Staupitz is the one who started the teaching [of the gospel in our time]” (no. 526). These statements from Table Talk concur with authentic sayings in Luther’s correspondence about his superior in the Augustinian order: Staupitz was a “preacher of grace and cross.” In a letter of 27 March 1545 Luther wrote to Elector John Frederick (1503–1554): “He [Staupitz] has been, first of all, my father in this doctrine and he has given birth to me in Christ.” These recollections show how Luther thought of himself as a Staupitzian. It is thus difficult to accept the denial of any essential impact of Staupitz on Luther.

Devotional reading is from The Real Luther: A Friar at Erfurt and Wittenberg, pages 77–78 © 2011 Franz Posset. Published by Concordia Publishing House.

Prayer

Almighty God, Lawgiver and Redeemer of the human race, . . . we humbly thank You for permitting us to bask in the light of Your truth. Lead us one day into the presence of Him who is this world’s Light. In His most holy name we pray. Amen.

Prayer is from Prayers Responsively, page 90 © 1984 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

 

Written by

Anna Johnson

Deaconess Anna Johnson is a marketing manager at Concordia Publishing House. After graduating from the deaconess program at Concordia University Chicago, she continued her studies at the University of Colorado—Denver in education and human development. She has worked as a church youth director and served a variety of other nonprofit organizations, such as the Lutheran Mission Society of Maryland. Anna loves playing video games and drinking a hot cup of tea almost as much as she loves her cat and her husband.

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