By Jarrod Belcher
As we mentioned in this column last week, Martin Luther was in great conflict about the holiness of God and the responsibility imposed by the church upon people to obtain a righteousness that God accepts. The Roman Church had been teaching that grace was a substance that God gives you through the sacraments in order to do righteous acts which please him for salvation. However through the study of God’s Law and his holiness, Luther came to the conclusion that God would never be pleased through the righteousness of mere men no matter how many good acts they did. Such a realization led him to despair.
But as Luther began to study the Scriptures in the original Greek language rather than the Latin Vulgate which was used by the Medieval Church, he began to see something very different than what the church was teaching. It was Romans 1:17 which changed everything for him. It says, “The righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘the righteous shall live by faith.” Luther came to discover that what this verse was conveying in the original Greek was that the righteousness that is needed by man to please God for salvation does not come from human works but from God himself. Furthermore, such righteousness is received by faith alone. This same idea is also conveyed by Paul in Philippians 3:9.
Such a discovery by Luther not only changed him since it led to his conversion as he trusted in Christ alone for his salvation for the first time, but it also changed the whole world. From that moment Luther began a campaign to reform the Church of the egregious teaching errors that had been plaguing God’s people for centuries. Have you trusted upon Christ alone for salvation or are you resting upon your good works and self-righteous acts? We cannot give God our self-righteousness and hope to gain heaven. We must look to Christ and trust that he alone will give us the righteousness of God—the only righteousness good enough to bring forgiveness and merit eternal life.