“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

I picked this verse for us to work on because yesterday was the 495th anniversary of Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door on 10/31/1517.  This date is remembered as the beginning of the Reformation – certainly a day to be remembered and celebrated.  And yet, many believe* that the Reformation began not when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door, but when he rediscovered and believed the Gospel of Christ. This discovery is often called Luther’s “Tower Experience,” because in one of his “table talks” he mentions that he was studying the book of Romans in his study in the tower of the Black Cloister in Wittenberg when the light broke upon him, that the Righteousness that Paul talks about in the book of Romans is not the active righteousness that God demands, but the passive righteousness that God freely gives to those who believe the Gospel. The sinner is justified (declared righteous) by God through faith in the work and death of Jesus, not by our work or keeping of the Law. Put another way, the sinner is justified by receiving (faith) rather than achieving (works).

Later Luther would say that we are saved by the alien righteousness of Christ, not by a righteousness of our own doing. And it was this realization that Luther made clear in his writings was the pivotal event of his life, not the 95 Theses.   Prior to this, Luther was terrified at the thought of being judged by God.  In fact, he was angry at God for crushing “us miserable sinners with His law.’  But then Luther finally realized what we cherish, and that is that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… but God in His infinite grace and mercy has justified us freely through Christ and His completed, and sufficient, work on the cross!  Thank you Luther for staking your life on this truth, and Thank you Jesus for saving us, since we are incapable of saving ourselves!

*Reference: Dr. Richard P. Bucher