On October 31, 1517 an obscure monk named Martin Luther, desiring to spark theological discussion over the medieval practice of selling indulgences, nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
The spark he set off ignited a flame that spread across Europe and launched the Protestant Reformation. By challenging the church’s authority and its doctrine, Luther reclaimed for Christianity the central doctrine of salvation–justification by faith alone. Here is his own testimony:
greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing
stood in the way but that one expression, ‘the justice of God,’ [Rom.
1:17] because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and
deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although
an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in
conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him.
Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and
murmured against him."
"Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that ‘the just shall live by his faith’ [Rom. 1:17]. 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. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas the ‘justice of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressively sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate of heaven." (HT to Of First Importance)
Later he wrote the hymn that came to be the “battle-cry of the Reformation,” A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. (Click on the mp3 link after the word "Listen" at the top of the page to hear a majestic version of this hymn).
Martin Luther had done nothing else but give us this hymn, we would
still sing it and be forever in his debt. Those stirring final words
put steel into the soul of every Christian because they remind us of
what matters most:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
And on this Reformation Day 2008, we pause to give thanks to God for Martin Luther and for the recovery of the gospel truth that we are declared righteous in the eyes of God solely on the basis of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us in his bloody death and victorious resurrection. We are saved
By grace alone,
Through faith alone,
In Christ alone,
To God alone be the glory.