When Luther returned to Wittenberg he began teaching and expounding the Scriptures and his thirst for truth intensified.
‘I was seized with the conviction that I must understand [Paul’s] letter to the Romans. I did not have a heart of stone, but to that moment one phrase in chapter one stood in my way.
I hated the idea, ‘in it the righteousness of God is revealed’ …according to which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.
I lived without reproach as a monk, but my conscience was disturbed to its very depths and all I knew about myself was that I was a sinner.
I could not believe that anything I thought or did or prayed satisfied God. I did not love, nay, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners.
Certainly, and with intense grumbling (perhaps even blasphemy), I was angry with God and said, ‘As if it were indeed not enough that miserable sinners who are eternally lost through original sin and are crushed again by every calamity through the Ten Commandments, God Himself adds pain to pain in the gospel by threatening us with His righteousness and wrath!’
At last, meditating day and night…by the mercy of God, I gave heed to the context of the words, ‘In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’
Then I began to understand that the righteousness of God is…a gift of God, namely by faith…
Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through gates that had been flung open.
An entirely new side of the Scriptures opened itself to me…and I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the loathing with which before I had hated the term ‘the righteousness of God’.
Thus, that verse in Paul was for me truly the gate of paradise.’
Luther wrestled with God! Next time we’ll see how he wrestled his generation and began a reform movement that took on the world!
(The quote is from Luther’s Works, Vol 34, p.336-338 Fortress Press,and quoted in Luther, the Reformer by James M. Kittleson, IVP)
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© 2008 Lex Loizides