” For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17
For a long time Martin Luther struggled with this verse. Interpreting it according to the doctrines of the Catholic church at that time, he saw a wrathful God, intent upon punishing the unrighteous. The only way to be righteous was to follow God’s laws and do good works. The gospel was an extension of the law.
Luther was so eager to comply, to be righteous and earn God’s approval, that he spent as much as 6 hours a day in confession. Still, he knew he could never do enough. He was convinced of his own unworthiness and failure.
One day, in what is described as his “Tower Experience” Luther had an ‘aha’ moment. He realized that the gospel was the free gift (grace) of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us through faith. God knew we couldn’t measure up and the gospel was the good news that God loved us anyway, and provided a way for our debt of sin to be paid by His Son.
This made a big difference to Martin, and it should to us. It’s wonderful to have grown up Lutheran and to know the difference between law and gospel. Here’s the verse that comes right before the one that brought Luther so much confusion and grief:
“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.” Romans 1:16
Are you thankful for the gospel? Do you understand it rightly? Send us your thoughts and comments.