Martin Luther & the Man Bleeding


The primary sixteenth-century Reformer recalled, after having devoted much of his life to recalibrating corporate theology to celebrate saving grace, a troubling season in his youth when he became burdened by truths he sought to reconcile. “Behold, God is great, and we do not know Him.”[1] Indeed, Martin Luther himself grappled with the nature and character of a God who is both “just and justifier”[2] of those who call upon His Name.[3]

He sought counsel from Johann von Staupitz, then overseeing Augustinian friars in Germany.[4] Luther later wrote of this conversation that the pain he experienced was “so great and so much like hell that no tongue could adequately express [it], no pen describe [it], and one who had not himself experienced [it] could believe” Luther’s confession.[5] Whether Staupitz could relate to Luther experience or not, he instructed the young, troubled monk to remember the crucified King of glory, and there confront his worries.[6]

It wasn’t that Luther’s wrestles were petty, irreverent or trivial. In fact, much of modern ecclesiology can thank him for not running from difficult questions. Staupitz’s counsel was responsible pastorship confident in the sufficiency of Jesus and the power of the God-Man bleeding out on Golgotha. As we spend our lives pursuing the knowledge of the Holy, we do well to anchor every question, concern, doubt or “dark night of the soul”[7] in those two splintered Roman planks—and the Man hanging upon them.

The Man Christ Jesus—“Jesus the Righteous,” as John called Him[8]—is the means, end and sum of the Gospel. He is Truth.[9] Every inch on the theological spectrum is inherently Christological by necessity, and heresy results only when the ship wanders from this uncompromising anchor. Jesus is both preeminent and supremely sufficient, and thus the content of all preaching must ultimately pass the litmus test of “Christ, and Him crucified.”[10] 

As we navigate our days in this “present evil age,”[11] wrought with wars, tragedies and complexities, we must keep our eyes on the Captain of our souls[12] lest we be caught adrift, thrown by the raging wind and sea.[13]


Stephanie Quick is a writer and producer serving with Frontier Alliance International in the Middle East. She is the author of To Trace a Rising Sun and can be found on on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Sign up for her ministry updates here and receive a free copy of her book Confronting Unbelief. She can be reached at


[1]   Job 36:26
[2]   Romans 3:21-26
[3]   See Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13
[4]   Posset, F. The Front-Runner of the Catholic Reformation: The Life and Works of Johann von Staupitz (Surrey, Great Britain: Ashgate, 2003), 4, 127.
[5]   WA, 1443; cf. Brecht, Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation, 80.
[6]   ibid.
[7]   See the poem of this title by St. John of the Cross
[8]    I John 2:1
[9]   See John 14:6
[10]  I Corinthians 2:2
[11]  Galatians 1:4
[12]  See Joshua 5:13-15; Hebrews 2:10
[13]  See James 1:5-8