Thoughts On Martin Luther & Reformation

Luther became a monk out of fear, caught in a thunderstorm. He was a tormented, guilt-ridden man, and became a rigorous monk while his spiritual advisors tired of handling him. Luther was made a professor of the Old Testament, and began to look at Romans from that vantage point. Augustine, Wesley and Luther all are astounded by Romans.

Scholarship seeks to think another’s thoughts after them. Luther sought to do that with Paul.

Romans 1:16-17

a) for I’m not ashamed of the gospel
b) for it powerfully changes the lives of all, through faith
c) for in it the righteousness of God is revealed (from faith, to faith)

“Righteousness” in the Old Testament is not a moral attribute – God’s perfection. In the Old Testament, God’s righteousness is a divine activity – in His perfection, he saves me.

This is the essence of the Protestant Reformation.

God is saving us, not us saving ourselves by meeting a requirement. Rom. 3:21 – now a righteousness from God has been made known, apart from the law, is revealed… comes from faith in Jesus Christ… justified freely… so as to be just and the one who justifies (dikaosenei – same word as righteousness – God is both the just one, and the justifier, the righteous One, and the one who makes us righteous).

In Luther’s day, kissing shrines, buying indulgences, praying to relics, all fell to pieces in the face of Luther’s newfound freedom of his deep guilt. Now, God does the changing – it’s not my activity, it’s His.

Galatians give strength to Romans, in addressing an immediate trouble in a local church. “You came to faith in Christ by faith, now grow by faith. Embrace your freedom. Christ sets us free not to sin. This is passive righteousness, as the earth receives rain, so too we receive the gifts of God by His work, not our own. “Therefore the highest art and wisdom of Christians is not to know the law; to ignore works, and all acts of righteousness.” A bold statement in the world of his day.

The gift of the printing press made it possible for him to tell the world of his release from torment, and their release according to the Scriptures.

This is a life of receiving and abiding, not achieving the basics of the law, be it moral or religious. This is a life that chooses to be beautiful, and to then do beautiful things – rather than just what seems to be the “right” thing.

Reformation Foundations:

Sola Scriptura: Scripture alone.
Sola Fides: Faith alone.
Priesthood Of All Believers (men like John Wimber popularized this idea in the 20th century – though still a long way to go)

My Best Thought:

When we think of “righteousness,” God’s or ours, we think in terms of a moral code. God’s righteousness is not just His moral code. It’s His way of being, saving, loving and giving. When we are given the gift of righteousness, we are not just given the strength to uphold a moral code. We become, “in like manner” (be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect) those that save, love and give as redemptive seed in the world.

I.e. “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees…” would be hard to hear if you were thinking that your moral code must surpass them, or attain to God. But, if it means “in like manner to God,” then to live righteously means that just as God doesn’t think about His righteousness, He just lives beautifully, so we too live beautifully, like Him.

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