“You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone,” said Solomon in Ecclesiastes 4:9. Martin Luther had Philipp Melanchthon. Melanchthon was younger, calmer, and smarter than Luther. Born in Germany in 1494, Philipp entered the University of Heidelberg at age 13, excelling in Greek. He became professor of Greek at the University of Wittenberg where, in a stammering inaugural lecture, he appeared nervous. But Luther, professor of theology, listened with interest as the young man called students “back to the sources, back to the Holy Scriptures.”

Soon the two were allies, as perfectly matched as David and Jonathan. Melanchthon, cautious and moderate, provided balance to Luther’s impulsiveness. He was a peacemaker, as contrasted to Luther’s contentiousness. Melanchthon tempered his friend’s ideas and calmly drafted the theology and organization of Luther’s movement. He became the formulating genius of the Reformation, casting Luther’s teachings in proper, systematic form. Luther loved his younger associate, admitting that without Philipp’s organizational skills his own work would have been lost.

Philipp also directed the publishing and educational side of the Reformation, and his work in developing German schools earned him the title, “the teacher of Germany.” He became involved in training clergy and wrote commentaries, theologies, and ministerial manuals for that purpose.

In 1529 Emperor Charles V, in a final effort to unify the church, called a meeting in Augsburg. Luther wasn’t invited. The emperor hoped Philipp’s gentler spirit might calm the storm and pacify the debate. But Melanchthon’s beliefs were as deep as Luther’s. On this night, June 23, 1530, being told a position paper was required quickly, Philipp worked into the wee hours, writing and rewriting and formulating Protestant doctrines. His paper was read on June 25 while delegates stood listening for two hours.

Its rejection by the largely Catholic assembly marked the final break between Protestants and Catholics. But the Augsburg Confession with its definitive expression of Lutheran beliefs has become the basis of Lutheran theology to this day.

You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone, because then you will get more enjoyment out of what you earn. If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble. (Ecclesiastes 4:9,10)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). June 23.

*Picture in header by Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=296567.

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