Today is Reformation Day – October 31st. It was this day in the year 1517 that God used an Augustinian monk to spark what we know as the Protestant Reformation. As I have written before, something greater than Halloween happened on October 31st.
It was a common thing in Martin Luther’s day to nail documents to the castle door in Wittenberg. The large door served as a bulletin board for community debate. It’s unlikely that Luther intended to burst the bowels of the Roman Catholic Church with the sword of the Spirit, but that is exactly what happened. The rest is history.
It was the Word of God that changed this Catholic monk. Romans 1:16-17 was the great text that opened his eyes to see the truth. At first, it angered Luther, but eventually it brought him to the realization that he needed a righteousness that was outside of himself – namely the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Luther describes the period of time of his wrestling with God in his works:
“Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, ‘As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the Decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!’ Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted. (Luther’s Works, Volume 34, P336-337).”
Luther would become hated and despised by the Roman Catholic Church. The pope of Luther’s day called him a “wild boar” because of his unwillingness to submit to the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings. Once Luther’s eyes were opened, he preached the gospel, translated the Bible into German, wrote books, and penned songs for God’s glory. Luther’s doctrine was centered upon the sovereignty of God. He once called Erasmus’ writings on free will “dung served on gold plates.”
As I reflect upon Luther and his life, I am often brought to the centerpiece of Luther’s own doctrine and teaching – Sola Fide – faith alone in Christ alone for the remission of sins. This past week, Dr. Steven Lawson preached to our congregation on Reformation Sunday from Romans 1:17. He referenced Luther and the history of the Reformation, however, his text was this grand Scripture that once opened the eyes of Martin Luther. I recommend this sermon to you. If your eyes have not been opened to the reality of your need for the perfect righteousness of Christ, may God cause you to see it today.
Pastor Josh Buice