In 1507 Martin Luther was ordained to the priesthood. In 1508 he became professor of moral philosophy at the University of Wittenberg and in 1511 he became a Doctor of Theology and professor of biblical exegesis.
Luther had a dread of God; a dread that went unabated. Luther fasted for days and confessed sins for hours. Was Luther crazy? He was a genius and well versed in God’s law and knew no man kept it. Martin was haunted by one question: How can an unjust man survive in the presence of a just God?
Between the years of 1512 to 1519, Luther wrestled with God over this question. He turned to the Bible in Romans 1:17, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” Luther discerned two truths: First, it is possible to be righteous before God. Second, the way to a righteous standing before a holy God was faith alone.
But faith in what?
Romans 1:4-5 was his discovery. “Who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.” (Rom 1:4-6 NAU)
Here Luther studied Psalms 22:1. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why should Christ despair? Answer: Christ took to himself the iniquity of us all.
Martin Luther gained a new view of God. Roland Bainton in his classic work Luther made this observation. “The All terrible is the all merciful too. Wrath and love fuse upon the cross. The hideousness of sin can’t be denied or forgotten; but God, who desires not that the sinner should die but should live.”
How does the sinner gain benefit of Christ’s death? Faith alone in Christ alone. By faith in Christ’s merits of Christ’s death and the righteousness of Christ imputed!
Martin Luther wrote, “I greatly longed to understand Paul’s epistle to the Romans. I took it to mean God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, no confidence in my merit I did not love this just and angry God but rather hated, murmured against Him. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that ‘The just shall live by faith.’ 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 before the ‘justice of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressible sweet in greater love.
Faith alone in Christ alone liberated Martin Luther and the world has never been the same.