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Born At A Dramatic Moment – A Lesser Known Reformer

Born on this day – 14 April, 1521 – John Marbach entered the world at a most dramatic moment when Martin Luther was taking his robust stand against the corruption of the established church.

• The year before his birth, Pope Leo X issued the bull, Exsurge Domine, condemning 41 of Luther's propositions.

• Four days after Marbach's birth, Luther stood before an assembly in Worms, Germany and famously declared, "Here I stand. I can do no other."

Marbach's studies eventually took him to the University of Wittenberg. At eighteen years of age, he joined other students who sat at the dinner table of Dr. Martin Luther. Perhaps some of Luther's controversiality and intensity rubbed off on the pupil.

After holding temporary positions at Jena and Isny, in 1545 he accepted a pulpit in Strasburg. Here, from 1545 to 1558, he was pastor of the Church of St. Nicholas, canon at St. Thomas' from 1546, professor from 1549, and from 1551 president of the Church Convocation.

Until Martin Bucer's departure for England (1549) Marbach was on good terms with him as the recognised head of the Strasburg Church, and remained a regular correspondent. Gradually, however, Marbach developed a more exclusive Lutheranism than that represented by other Strasburg Reformers.

A wide range of Reformation groupings worked in Strasburg, including Lutherans, Zwinglians, Calvinists, Anabaptists and others. In fact, John Calvin had founded a school in Strasburg when expelled from Geneva.

Initially, John Marbach worked well with the others, but as time went on, he began to insist on a strictly Lutheran theology. Through his zeal, he managed to force some of the other religious leaders out of town.

He did not always get his own way. When John Sturm established a school at Strasburg that upheld a more Calvinist view of the Lord's Supper than John Marbach liked, he led those who decried Sturm. An arbiter decided in favour of Sturm.

Marbach was a staunch advocate of a uniform, consistent Lutheranism and trained many pastors.

• He pushed for a standard hymn book, a common liturgy (order of worship), Luther's Catechism and a Statement of Theology that would apply to all Lutherans. Because of this, he was a strong supporter of the Formula of Concord which set forth a theology that different factions of Lutherans could accept.

• He also helped restore the Lutheran Reformation to the Palatinate (a region along the Rhine) when its Calvinist ruler, Frederick III died.

Marbach was the kind of zealous and loyal Lutheran on whom the Lutheran Reformation was built in Germany.

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