Luther’s Quest For God

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”

— Romans 1:17

While our culture sets this day aside as Halloween, I think a much more fitting event to celebrate happened on this day in 1517—the Reformation of the Church, when Martin Luther, a humble monk, made public ninety-five reasons the Church needed to reform. Luther knew how desperately the world and the Church needed to know we could gain grace only through faith. He dedicated his life to discovering and preaching this truth.

Luther was born November 10, 1483, into a poor family of German woodcutters. Realizing that their son was gifted, Luther’s parents scrimped and saved to send him to the university, where he studied law. Returning home from school on foot, he and a friend were caught in a thunderstorm and his friend was struck by lightning and killed. This terrified Luther and he vowed to enter a monastery so he could search for God. One question plagued him without ceasing: How could he, a sinful man, ever become pure enough to stand in the awesome presence of a holy God who was an all-consuming fire? Luther spent years trying every way he knew to purify his soul. He spent hours each day confessing his sins. He beat himself with a whip until he became bloody and unconscious. He prayed for six weeks, fasted, and slept very little. He stayed out all night long, naked, in the deep snows of Germany.

But one day the Lord spoke to him through the Scriptures, specifically Romans 1:17: “The just shall live by faith.” Suddenly Luther saw the Gospel. He discovered God’s grace. He realized that only those justified by faith in Christ’s blood will live and those who seek to justify themselves in any other way shall not live. Luther spent the rest of his life promoting and defending this truth. Even when he was on trial, faced with being burned at the stake, he clung fiercely to it. Justification by faith is still our great hope and joy.

“Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen!”
Martin Luther