Faith Alone Luther Found
What is tomorrow? All children say, “Halloween!” Yes, that's right.
But another very important event took place on this day Oct. 31... started the Reformation on that day.
Martin Luther courageously nailed 95 thesis on the church door, protesting false teaching of Roman Catholic, pope, and even emperor. That happened on Oct 31,1517... tomorrow is 499th anniversary, and the next year is, of course 500th anniversary.
So today let us look at how this happen, what did Luther think about, and what is his background.
Today, we study Romans 1:17 from the standpoint of Martin Luther’s life.
I. In the Convent at Erfurt, Germany
Martin Luther began his academic career by studying law in Germany, which was his father’s desire for him. He was very smart and did good in all subjects, but he had fear of one thing. . . If he dies, what would happen?
This first happened in his boyhood days... he had looked at the frowning face of Jesus in the stained-glass window of the church in his hometown, and he had trembled. During his college days two of his closest friends died suddenly, then Luther trembled even more.
One day he would die—he didn’t know when—and he knew that Jesus would judge him.
In July, 1505, Luther got caught in a violent thunderstorm, in which a bolt of lightning nearly struck him down and he was thrown to the ground by the air pressure it created.
At this moment He shouted,”Oh help me, Saint Anne. If I survive this storm, I will be a monk” He considered the incident a sign from God, and so he kept his promise.
On August 17, 1505, Luther suddenly left the university and entered the monastery. He was twenty-one years old. You can guess how furious his father was.
In those days in the monastic Luther fasted and prayed. He devoted himself almost to the slave level. He was confessing sins for hours, even the most trivial sins. His superiors wearied of his exercise and ordered him to stop confessing until he had committed some sin worth confessing! Luther was too strict for himself. He said later.
"I was indeed a pious monk, and followed the rules of my order more strictly than I can express. If ever a monk could obtain heaven by his monkery (Re: not monkey), I should certainly have got it.”
Still, Luther found no peace through these exercises. As you see, he was looking for peace with God, and way to enter into heaven to meet Jesus. He wanted to be “righteous” by doing good works.
“But what works?” thought Luther. “What works can come from a heart like mine? How can I stand before the holiness of my Judge (God) with very polluted works?”
In Luther’s anguish, God sent him a wise spiritual father by the name of John Staupitz, the Vicar General of the congregation. Staupitz tried to uncover Luther’s difficulties.
“Why are you so sad, Brother Martin?” Staupitz asked Luther one day.
“I do not know what will become of me,” replied Luther.
Staupitz said to Luther, “More than a thousand times I have sworn to our holy God that I would live piously. But I have never kept my vows.... Now I swear no longer; because I know I cannot keep my solemn promises.
If God is not be merciful towards me, for the love of Christ, He will not grant me a happy departure when I must leave this world. If God is not be merciful towards me, I shall never stand before Him, even with the aid of all my good works.... I must perish.”
This thought of divine justice terrified Luther, and he opened up his fears to this godly man. Staupitz knew where he himself had found peace, and so he pointed it out to the young man:
“Brother Martin, why do you torment yourself with all these speculations? . . . Look at the wounds of Jesus Christ, see the blood that He has shed for you. It is there that the grace of God will appear to you. Instead of torturing yourself for your sins, throw yourself into the Redeemer’s arms. Trust in him—in the righteousness of his life—in the atonement of his death. Do not shrink back.
God is not angry with you; it is you who are angry with God. Listen to Jesus, the Son of God.”
Luther asked, “But how could I do that? Where could I hear the Son of God speaks to me as you said?”
“In the Bible,” amswered Staupitz.
And so Luther began to study the Scripture. He had only first seen a Bible in his college days, shortly before entering the monastery. The Bible was not available for most people then.
Luther studied Romans, and as he pondered over the words, the truth began to appear on him. Let us look at today's text again together as Luther did. Romans 1:17
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
The righteousness that we need in order to stand before the holy God is.... not a thing we can attain by our own effort. In fact, it is not human goodness at all. It is divine righteousness (or salvation), and it becomes ours as a result of God’s free grace.
Our part is merely to receive it by faith, and to live by faith in God’s promise.
Yes, that means, saying in easier way;
“You are saved through faith...salvation is God's gift, it is God's grace.”
No matter how hard you work to obtain it, no use...you cannot obtain salvation by yourself, by your effort. You just receive it as a free gift from God.
Guided by this new light, Luther began to compare Scripture with Scripture, and then, he found the passages of the Bible that formerly alarmed him, now brought him joy and comfort. He was so happy to discover God's purpose..like heaven and earth upside down.
just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:17
It was not work or deeds he had done for all these years, but faith was the only key.
We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our savior – that is faith, then God saves us without any other conditions - this is grace. We just receive God's gift of eternal life.
This gift from God is given today as well. If you have not received this gift of salvation, or eternal life, you can receive it now. Just ask Lord to give you. Say to Him you want to believe in Lord Jesus as your personal Savior. Then you certainly receive the same joy Luther had on that day. And also joy all other Christians had.
II. The Visit to Rome
In 1510, five years after he had become a monk and two years after he had begun to teach the Bible at the new University of Wittenberg, Luther was sent by his order to Rome.
He had a great expectation in that ancient imperial city. When he first caught sight of Rome on his way, he raised his hands in ecstasy, exclaiming, “I greet thee, thou holy Rome, thrice holy from the blood of the martyrs.”
He enjoyed the Mass in churches in Rome, but not the Roman priests. They laughed at the simplicity of the rustic German monk.
Later Luther wrote, “No one can imagine what sins and infamous actions are committed in Rome; they must be seen and heard to be believed. Thus, they are in the habit of saying, ‘If there is a Hell, Rome is built over it.”
In Rome there is a set of stone stairs said to have originally been the stairs leading up to Pilate’s house in Jerusalem, once walked by the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason they were called the “Holy Stairs.” It was the custom for pilgrims, like Luther, to ascend these stairs on their knees, praying as they went. The worshiper would bend over and kiss these steps, praying a long time before ascending painfully to the next ones. Luther began as the others had. But, as he ascended the staircase, the words of the text came forcefully to his mind: “The righteous will live by faith.” They seemed to echo over and over again, growing louder with each repetition: “The righteous will live by faith.” “The righteous will live by faith.” …. But Luther was not living by faith. He was living by fear and doing deeds as a result.
He went back to Wittenberg, and in time he took ‘The righteous will live by faith’ as the foundation of all his doctrine.” That was the beginning of the spiritual reformation of Luther, necessarily preceded the Reformation of all Christian churches. III. 95 Theses nailed on the church door.
In 1516, a Dominican friar and papal commissioner for indulgences was sent to Germany by the Roman Catholic Church. They were selling indulgences to raise money to rebuild St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Roman Catholic theology stated that faith alone cannot justify(save) man; justification rather depends on such faith as is active in charity and good works. The benefits of good works could be obtained by donating money to the church. They, using religious power, tried to get money out of people as much as possible.
On October 31, 1517 Luther wrote a letter to protest the sale of indulgences. He nailed his “Ninety-Five Theses” on the door of the Church at Wittenberg, protesting against the false teaching of Roman Catholic and the indulgences. Particularly in Thesis 86, that asks: "Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus(Roman SHOGUN), build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers, rather than with his own money?" It sounds just like today's wealthy politician and other general public – us. It has been saying that "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory goes into heaven." Luther was against that. He insisted forgiveness was given by God alone. It is wrong to say that buying indulgences would save people from all punishments, and grant them salvation. That is a huge error. Christians, he said, must not believe such false assurances.
Later in life Luther wrote many things about the doctrine of justification by faith, which he had learned from Romans 1:17. He would call it “the chief article from which all our other doctrines have flowed. It is the master and prince, the lord, the ruler and the judge over all kinds of doctrines.” Several years later as you suspect, Luther was summoned by the Roman Catholic authorities, pope and the emperor. They insisted to retract his teaching and writings. But Luther, facing death, said to them,“God's Word is not changed. We need to obey the Word, not human power.” On the way back home, he was kidnapped by a group of masked horsemen. He's got killed, then... no, not really. These guys kidnapped Luther was to save his life. Luther was secretly kept in a castle for almost one year. He was called “Knight George” there. This story goes on and on... So I will talk next time.
While in a castle as a hidden knight, Martin Luther using his free time efficiently...he translated the Bible into commonly used German, so that anyone can read and understand the Scripture. Through this German Bible, among many German dialects, the standard language was established. Using printing press method invented by Gutenberg earlier, the German Bible was printed, published, and spread to thousands of people. All are God's work, using this faithful man. Risking his life to change the Christian world...he was always true to the Word of God. Lutheran Church and all other denominations of Protestants churches started by his courageous task. Luther also taught many youngsters about the true Christian belief. His method is still used today shown in the book of the Small Catechism.
You may already know that he also wrote and composed many Hymns. One well-known Hymn written by Martin Luther is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”. This song well expresses his faith in Christ. We will soon sing this song together. He said, “If the article of justification is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost at the same time.” What a heritage! And what a rebuke against the weak state of present-day Christianity! We now confess our sins, and proclaim that the salvation is given by faith through our Lord Jesus Christ. And not by our work, let us read the Scripture again at the end. Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. The church will never be strong unless it is united with faithful men and women who firmly hold this conviction. I pray that you and I will hold firmly to this word, that we are justified by faith alone in the righteousness of Christ alone. Faith alone, grace alone, and the Scripture alone. Amen.