Martin Luther's Rediscovery of Grace
By D. James Kennedy, Ph.D

Martin Luther, said one historian, was born in the Middle Ages and died in modern times. He lived through what is the greatest age of discovery the world has ever known. It almost all took place during his lifetime--a very exciting time to live.

Luther was born in Germany in 1483, the same year that Christopher Columbus entreated King John II of Portugal for funds to finance a trip across the Western ocean to the Indies. When Luther was but three, Bartolomeu Dias, discovered and rounded the Cape of Good Hope at the southern end of the Dark Continent. When Luther was only nine, in 1492, Columbus stepped ashore in the New World on an island he named San Salvador, which means "Holy Savior."

In that same year, 1492, John Cabot discovered Newfoundland. And in 1499, when Luther was sixteen, Vasco da Gama arrived in the "land of spices'--the land of India. Another breathtaking discovery took place in 1513, when Vasco Nunez de Balboa crossed tile Isthmus of Panama and discovered a gigantic ocean, which he named the Ocean of Peace, we call it the Pacific Ocean.

And then, of course, on October 31, 1517, about noon, Martin Luther, wrote his 95 theses, in which he criticized tile sale of indulgences and proclaimed the Gospel of Grace. He nailed these on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg and the Protestant Reformation began.

It was the greatest age of discovery the world has ever known. But, I would submit to you that the greatest discoverer of them all was Martin Luther. He discovered, or rediscovered, the grace of God, by which one comes to know Christ personally and by which one enters into Heaven. His was the greatest discovery of them all.

Luther's Quest
It was a strange course that led Luther to that discovery. He had started out studying law, because that is what his father, Hans Luther, wanted his son to do. But when Luther and one of his university friends had paid a visit to the homestead and were returning to the university, there was a gathering of darkening clouds, thunder rumbled, and lightning flashed all about them.

Suddenly, there was an ear-splitting crash, as lightning struck right at Luther's side, killing his friend instantly and throwing Luther on his face in the mud. Luther raised his hand to heaven and implored, "Help, St. Anna, and I will enter a monastery."

Luther survived and, good to his word, he turned his back on the world (and on a furious father) to become a priest. When those great monastery doors clanged shut, Luther was dead to the world. He was there for one reason and one reason only, and that was the salvation of his eternal soul.

He confessed his sins--six hours a day on many occasions. He often beat himself with a whip until he was a bloody pulp, unconscious on tile floor. He stayed out all night in the snow trying to purify himself. He prayed by himself for hours. One time he prayed for six weeks without eating, or hardly sleeping, except a couple of hours every three or four days.

He plunged deep into the darkest recesses of his soul and found all manner of evil, which he confessed to his fellow priests. He would confess his sins hour after hour and then receive absolution. Sometimes he would not even make it back to his cell before he remembered a sin he had omitted and would rush back, to the utter consternation of the priest.

Johann von Staupitz, the head of the monastery, and one of the few people in whom the light of the evangelical Gospel still flickered, decided to send Luther to Rome as an Augustinian emissary. Luther was so thrilled, he could hardly contain himself. For surely, there in the holy city of Rome, he would find that peace which had so eluded him.

When he saw the outline of Rome in the distance, he fell to the ground and thanked God. He' rushed like some mad pilgrim from shrine to shrine, saying his prayers and trying to earn a blessing.

In Rome
But he soon discovered that Rome wasn't holy at all that it was filled with unbelief, skepticism, doubt, sin, and immorality, which even prevailed throughout the priesthood, all the way up to the Pope, who boasted about his illegitimate children.

Luther was disheartened, but he continued until he made his way to the Scala Sancta, the sacred stairs upon which Jesus had been judged by Pilate. They were brought from Jerusalem by the mother of Constantine the Great. Today, as in Luther's day, you can see the pilgrims going up those stairs on their knees.

Luther was diligently doing that when them began to be heard in his mind the words he had read in Romans 1: "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed. For tile wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (vv. 17-18 KJV). Luther trembled when he read that. But now the rest of that verse began to be heard in his heart and mind. "The just shall live by faith."

That text began to become clearer to Luther, and he began to see that we are justified by Faith and not by all of the pious ceremonies and rituals to which he had been giving himself. As he made his way farther up the stairs, those words kept coming back into his mind again and again. First pianissino, "Martin, the just shall live by faith." And then piano, "The just shall live by faith." And then forte, "The just shall live by faith." Then, in words which Luther would have sworn could have been heard by everyone in that great basilica--fortissimo, they sounded out, "The just shall live by faith."

Luther's eyes were opened. The scales fell away. He leaped to his feet, an act nf sacrilege, and he looked around him as if he had just awakened in a new world.

His Righteousness, Not Ours
That, dear friend, is precisely what he had done. He had just discovered Paradise. He had discovered the grace of God. He had discovered the salvation of God, which is by grace through faith. He learned, to his utter amazement, that the righteousness of God was a righteousness from God, a righteousness provided by God, a righteousness lived out by God in the person of His Son Jesus Christ.

I told a gentleman on a plane that in order to stand before God and be accepted into Heaven, there is only one thing we need, and that is a perfect life. 1 assure you that without a perfect life, no one will be admitted into Heaven, and that with a perfect life, no one will be excluded.

I said, with a smile, "And I'm happy to say to you that 1 have a perfect life to offer unto God." His eyes got big. "But I would have you to know," I said, "that I didn't live it. Christ lived it for me." I have been clothed in the perfect white robe of that righteousness of Christ so that I stand before God clothed in His righteousness alone.

That is what Luther discovered. In the Old Testament, one of the Hebrew names of God is Jehovah-75'idkerm, which means, "I [Jehovah] am thy righteousness."

Ah, dear friend, grasp that great truth which turned the trembling of Luther into rejoicing. He discovered that the righteousness of God was not something God was going to use to crush him, but rather to clothe him and to accept him forever into Paradise. It was a righteousness unto all and upon all them that believe.

Too Easy?
I shared the Gospel with an old friend I hadn't seen since high school days. "It just seems too easy," he said. "Well it's a gift," I responded. "That's the nature of receiving a gift. It's easy to reach out and accept a gift." "It just seems too easy."

"Oh, I see. You're not talking about receiving a gift; you're talking about earning a gift. If you want to get on that side, fine. I'll pick up some 2 x 4s and some spikes and a hammer, and I'll be out to set you up in business in your back yard."

You see, it wasn't easy for Christ. But it is easy for us. It is beyond easy.., it's free! "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23 KJV).

Would you like to step into that new world ? Would you like to receive that gift? Then place your trust in Him and be clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ. It is the greatest discovery any explorer in the vast and trackless expanse of time and eternity can ever make: the discovery of Grace, the discovery of Heaven, the discovery of God.

ProJesus Note:
This brief summary about Martin Luther is an excellent piece of writing. Dr. Kennedy takes you through the main points of Martin Luther's life. Most important, Dr. Kennedy brings to us the importance of "Grace" in all that Luther did and said.

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