“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . . For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Rm 1:16-17)
These words stunned a young monk when he read them for the first time. Like everyone in his day, he believed salvation came as a result of obedience to the teaching of the Church, attendance upon the sacraments and the performance of good works. So that’s what he had tried to do, as much as any man ever had. He tried to earn the righteousness God requires. He fasted. He prayed. He wept. He confessed his sins daily, even hourly. But still he was plagued with doubts and tormented by the guilt of his sins. It nearly drove him mad! How could he, a sinner, ever hope to be righteous in the eyes of a holy God! And he knew that was the problem – his sin! For God was holy and He was not! So even if he did manage to purge some sin from his life (if that was even possible!), even if he came to the place where he believed he was 98% righteous with only 2% sin remaining, he knew he would still fall short of God’s perfect righteousness. So what could he do? When told by one of his superiors that he must simply “Love God,” in deep agony he cried out, ”Love God? Sometimes I hate Him!”
Yet God had mercy. The monk became a teacher and was given the assignment of teaching the book of Romans. That is where God began to open his eyes so he could see the simple, life-giving truth of the Gospel – that God gives the righteousness He requires as a gift, freely by grace to those who put their faith in Christ alone. So not by works! Not by religion! Not by morality! Not by ritual! But by grace through faith alone in Christ alone, any sinners may be saved! That realization changed everything for Martin Luther. And through him it would ignite the Gospel Revolution we call the Reformation which began to change the world 504 years ago today, on October 31, 1517. That Gospel is still changing the lives of those who put their trust in Christ by faith alone.
Rejoicing in God’s mercy through the Gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone!