16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”(Romans 1:16-17).
“Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.” Martin Luther
When Martin Luther returned from his three month pilgrimage to Rome he became a professor of philosophy at the University in Wittenberg. In 1511, he began teaching philosophy. Observing Luther’s continuing struggle regarding salvation, his mentor, Staupitz, counseled the young professor to begin teaching the Bible. This would become the final key God would use to unlock and free the deadened soul of the German monk.
In 1513, Martin began teaching from the Psalms. Shortly thereafter, he began teaching from the Apostle Paul’s magnum opus: the Epistle of Paul to the Romans. How ironic that God would use Paul’s letter to the church at Rome to convert Martin Luther and to repudiate the abuses and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.
Martin trembled when he came across Romans 1:17 and the phrase “the righteousness of God.” Pastor Erwin Lutzer explains, “The righteousness of God struck fear into his heart because he knew that it was because of God’s unbendable righteousness that sinners were cast away from His most holy presence.” It was then the Holy Spirit unlocked the meaning of the phrase.
When Martin came across the words “the just shall live by faith” the Holy Spirit brought to his understanding through regeneration what the apostle truly meant. Luther wrote, “Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.”
Martin grasped that not only is the righteousness of God one of His attributes, but it is also a free gift from God to sinners. Luther came to the understanding that sinners are saved by the sheer grace and mercy of God through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. God declares sinners righteous through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, as our sins were imputed to Christ while He suffered the wrath of God while on the cross. Luther was miraculously converted by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, on the basis of Scripture alone to the glory of God alone.
Luther concluded it this way: “Thou Lord Jesus, art my righteousness, but I am thy sin. Thou hast taken upon thyself what is mine and hast given to me what is thine. Thou hast taken upon thyself what thou wast not and hast given to me what I was not.”
This great exchange (2 Corinthians 5:21) is at the core of the gospel. May we praise God daily for this wonderful truth.
Soli deo Gloria!