Another leader that was influenced heavily by Paul’s letter to the Romans was Martin Luther. Martin was a German monk who was scared of thunderstorms. He was originally going to be a lawyer, but one night while he was riding his horse home, he was caught out in the open in a severe thunderstorm and almost killed. Lightning struck a nearby tree. He had no cover and thought he was going to die. He vowed to Saint Anne that if he survived, he would abandon the study of law and become a monk.
Becoming a monk, however, did nothing for the restlessness in Luther’s soul. Luther fasted, spent hours in prayer, went on pilgrimages, and made frequent confession. Instead of finding the peace he was so desperately seeking, he felt further away from God than ever. Instead of feeling God’s forgiveness, Martin was only more conscious of his own sinfulness. He said that he felt there was nothing he could do to please God. The harder he tried, the more he felt that God was angry with him.
Around the year 1515, Luther was asked to lecture on Paul’s letter to the Romans. His study of this letter changed not only his own life, but the course of history. As Luther read and studied in preparation for his lectures, he came across 1:17, “This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life.'”
As he meditated on this verse, Luther got the revelation that his salvation could not come through his own works. He could not do enough good works to earn God’s favor. Salvation came through faith. Luther came to understand that salvation is God’s free gift to humanity, but it could not be earned. It can only be received through faith. Listen to Luther’s words when he came to this realization: “I felt that I was altogether born again, and had entered pardise itself through open gates…Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise.” Luther’s personal revelation was then passed on to countless millions through the Reformation.
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