To the Christian nobility of the German nation: the enhancement of the Christian state was one of the most influential of Luther’s writings. It was out of print after a few days and had to be reprinted.
As the title shows, the paper appeals to the nobility, the authorities, to take on responsibility for the enhancement of the Christian state.
It joins in a criticism of the Roman church that was already in the air, so to speak, in the Middle Ages. Although still mild with the pope in the first section, he becomes the “Antichrist” in the second section.
Using the image of three walls that the papacy had erected, Luther explains the absence of necessary reforms: the first wall forms the pope’s claim to sovereignty over worldly authorities, which Luther energetically discounts. The monopoly of normative scriptural interpretation and the pope’s domination over a general council form the second and third walls.
The theological essence of the paper is the doctrine of the general priesthood of all baptised persons. Luther challenges the power of the keys of the popes as they could err.
He is very specific in this paper in his demands and criticism with regard to luxury: he urges constraint with regard to monastic life getting out of hand, the abolition of celibacy, a reform of church welfare and a stronger orientation towards the scriptures in the study of theology.
In particular, the appeal to the worldly authorities to assume the reform of the Church would be effective in the formation of the Evangelical regional churches.