We are still trekking through the life, thought, and legacy of Martin Luther. Our journey now takes us to the town of Eisenach. Eisenach is known for being the birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach. Luther also spent a great deal of time here as a student. In fact, Luther and Bach went to the same school, St. George’s Parish School. Luther had been to school at Magdeburg before coming here to prepare himself for university studies at Erfurt. Later in his life, Luther would come back to Eisenach, but he wouldn’t spend time in the town. He was a resident of Wartburg Castle, on a hill overlooking the town. Luther was there in the Wartburg from May 1521 through March 1522.
Another thing that’s interesting about Eisenach is that one of Luther’s closest associates at Wittenberg was sent here as a pastor and was later appointed the first bishop in the Lutheran Church. This was Nicolaus von Amsdorf. He was part of what I like to call the Wittenberg Five. We sometimes think of Martin Luther as a lone hero at Wittenberg, battling out by himself. But, he had associates; he had friends who assisted him in bringing that Reformation about; and a very close one was Amsdorf.
Early on, it seemed that Wittenberg had enough preachers to move the Reformation forward, but there was need at Eisenach. So, Amsdorf was dispatched to Eisenach, and he served there as a pastor and as a minister. He holds a significant distinction—he was the first bishop appointed in the Lutheran Church. Now, Luther was very much against papal authority, very much against that hierarchical authority of the church determining what the church should believe and how the church should function. But, he also recognized that the church needed to have administrators. Of course, churches need to have pastors, and the office of pastor-teacher is a biblical office; we see it in Scripture itself. So, Luther wanted a clergy, but he also recognized that these churches needed administration and they needed overseers. So, Amsdorf was the first bishop appointed in the Lutheran Church, and he served in Eisenach.
As Bach would bring his musical compositions to a close, whether those were compositions for the church or for state functions, he would end with two sets of initials. On one side would be JSB for his name, and on the other side would be the initials SDG, for soli Deo gloria. For all of these beautiful works that came from Bach and created in Eisenach were done for the glory of God.