Luther was a flawed man

God has only ever had one Person He used who had no flaws, namely the Lord Jesus Christ.

We celebrate the Protestant Reformation. We admire and respect the men (and women) God used in what was the greatest move of God in Church history, outside of the book of Acts. And yet, even while we do so, we never wish to ignore historical reality. For the sake of honesty and truth, we need to acknowledge the presence of very real flaws even in those God used in dramatic and far reaching ways.

One such example of this is the treatment of Fritz Erbe. Fritz did not embrace infant baptism and the terribly severe treatment he endured because of this, even in the same location where Luther translated the Bible into the German vernacular (the Wartburg Castle), reveals a sad truth that is often overlooked. Dr. James White explains (beginning at the 1:05:04 minute mark):

The Story of Martin Luther (Playmobil Animation)

Stop motion animation that uses Playmobil to tell the story of Martin Luther, and the Reformation. Over 5000 individual photos bring to life scenes from the life of Luther like the castle where he hid as an outlaw, Wittenberg where he taught, the monastery where he was gripped by the Bible, and the Imperial Council at Worms.

Voice Over: Mike Reeves

Animation: Dan Rackham

Here’s the script from the Martin Luther video:

This is the story of Martin Luther.

He got up to some pretty adventurous things. He was kidnapped by knights on horseback; lived in disguise in a castle and helped some nuns escape from a monastery, by hiding them in barrels.

But as a young man he was troubled by a deep sense that he wasn’t right with God. Once, in a thunderstorm, a lightening bolt nearly struck him. He thought he was going to die.

He cried out for help to one of the saints, saying rashly: “Save me, and I’ll become a monk”.

He survived, and so, true to his word he gave up his studies as a lawyer and became a monk. His friends and family said he was wasting his talent.

In the monastery he started reading the Bible. He discovered that it was God’s mercy & love that was all that was needed to be right with God. For the first time in his life, he found a deep peace with God.

Luther was invited to be a lecturer at the university in Wittenberg. He taught through books of the Bible. His lectures were popular, even ordinary people from the town came along.

In those days the Catholic church was telling Christians that their good behaviour could earn them heaven. Luther knew from the Bible though, that no amount of good works could earn you forgiveness! Not even the pope was able to give forgiveness from God – only God could do that.

Luther saw that the church had left behind what the Bible taught and was even making things up for it’s own gain. He decided that he must teach against these false ideas.

He made his complaints public by nailing them to the place in town where people published important documents…the door of the castle church.

He explained that it wasn’t possible to buy God’s forgiveness or to live a life that was good enough to deserve to know God.

His writings, showed that God wants to forgive the wrong we have done. And that this is only possible because Jesus, the son of God, came to pay the punishment our wrong deserved. Jesus did this as he died in our place.

Luther’s ideas quickly spread throughout Europe thanks to a recent invention – the printing press.

The pope wrote a document saying that Luther had to take it all back. And if he didn’t he’d be treated as a heretic. Luther refused and publicly burnt a copy of the pope’s letter.

Luther’s ideas shook things up religiously, politically and culturally. He was summoned to stand before the emperor and answer for his supposed crimes of explaining what the Bible said.

The emperor declared Luther an outlaw, banning his literature. That’s when he was rescued and went to live in disguise in a castle. Dressing in knights’ clothing he changed his name to knight George and grew his hair and a beard.

He spent his time translating the New Testament – this again was published widely, meaning ordinary people could read the Bible for the first time.

Luther secretly returned to Wittenberg. He continued to write books and translate the bible. He also got married and had a family.

Europe was buzzing with Luther’s message about the Bible.

Today, 500 years on, the truths of the Bible that Luther knew continue to impact millions of people.

People who have come to know God personally, knowing the peace and forgiveness Jesus offers us.

The forgiveness that Luther found is still available today.
We can all be in a right relationship with God because of one man – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luther & Anti-Semitism

In this excerpt from Ligonier’s 2017 National Conference, Stephen Nichols and W. Robert Godfrey discuss whether Martin Luther was guilty of anti-Semitism.

Transcript

Stephen Nichols: You know, this is a question you hear a lot, and I think we’ve got to look at the broad context of Luther and then we need to say, that we need to understand him in that context, but we also need to not give him a free pass. So, the first thing we see in Luther is his initial writings to the Jewish people are very favorable. He actually is countercultural in that, and he goes against the current consensus and actually favors a good treatment towards the Jews. As the Reformation went on and a few years on, Luther fully thought that that good treatment towards the Jews would result in their paying attention to the gospel and coming to Christ, and he was not seeing that happen. And he began to question, perhaps, he was too easy on them in his initial writings and should have pressed more, in order for them to be more aware and perhaps be challenged and then come after the gospel.

So, his early writings are very favorable. He begins to think through this, though, in his later writings and the writing that really trips Luther up is his, On the Jews and Their Detestable Lies. And it’s in that writing that Luther unleashes his rhetoric against the Jews and is very forceful in his rhetoric. Now we need to say that he was an equal opportunity offender. It wasn’t just—that rhetoric was not just reserved—for the Jews, he used the same rhetoric for the Papists, for the Anabaptists, for the nominal Christians, that he used for the Jews. But he was wrong. He spoke harshly, and I think he abused his influence that he had in speaking harshly. And so, we need to say that Luther was wrong in that. But this isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism, that’s really a 20th-century phenomenon. What Luther was interested in was really following the lead of the Apostle Paul and following the lead of the New Testament. He saw this as a betrayal of Christ, a betrayal of the gospel, as a failure to recognize Jesus’ coming as the Messiah. And so, it was not an ethnic motivation that prompted Luther to this, it was a theological one. So, the answer to this is we need to understand him in his context, but we should not give him a free pass. And we need to recognize that he has legs of iron but feet of clay. And this is one of those instances where his feet of clay do in fact come through.

W. Robert Godfrey: Just to add one more thing, that’s exactly right—but the one little that should be added is Luther, all his life, longed that Jews should be converted and join the church. Hitler never wanted Jews to join the Nazi party. That’s the difference between anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish. Luther wasn’t opposed to the Jews because of their blood. He was opposed to the Jews because of their religion. And he wanted them to join the Christian church. If you’re really anti-Semitic, you’re against Jews because of their blood and there’s nothing Jews can do about that. There’s not change they can make to make a difference. You’re absolutely right, Luther’s language should not be defended by us because it’s violent against the Jews. It was not against an ethnic people, as you said, but against a religion that he reacted so sharply.

The Protestant Reformation (Lecture Series)

From the Master’s Seminary – a 19 lecture series on the Protestant Reformation taught by Dr. Carl Trueman personalities, and events that shook Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It will consist of lectures and guided reading.

The focus will be on the development of Protestantism in its social, political, and cultural contexts, starting with Luther and the late medieval background and tracing the story through to the birth of modernity in the seventeenth century. En route, the student will study primary texts, art work, Reformation popular culture, and pastoral practices in early modern Protestantism.

In addition, the course is designed to help students to think critically about the past in a way which allows them to think critically about the present. Men and women make history, but they do not make the history that they choose; and only by examining the past forces that shaped the present can we understand ourselves, the world in which we live, and thus mount any response to the challenges that face us today.

Learning Goals

At the conclusion of the course, each student should be able to:

Recognize the key personalities, controversies, and theological developments which marked the Reformation.
Distinguish between the various historic Christian traditions in terms of their distinctive theological convictions as formulated during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Articulate ways in which social and cultural contexts shaped the way the church developed during the Reformation.

Textbooks and Reading Schedule

Students are expected to obtain a copies of:

Denis R Janz, A Reformation Reader: Primary Texts With Introductions. Some selections have been assigned, but the whole book is useful as giving short texts relevant to the various topics we will cover.
Carter Lindberg, The European Reformations.
The numbers appended below to Janz refer to the selection, not the page.

Schaff III is the third volume of P. Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (free pdf).

The readings from Lindberg are not synchronized with the lectures; they are merely a suggested timetable for taking you through the whole book by the end of the course.

1. Medieval Background and Martin Luther

Janz 14-19
Heidelberg Disputation
Lindberg, Chapters 1-2

2. Martin Luther

Freedom of the Christian
Lindberg, Chapters 3-4

3. Martin Luther

Exsurge Domine
Janz 25
Lindberg, Chapters 5-6

4. The Birth of the Reformed Church

Janz 30-37
The Sixty-Seven Articles of Huldrych Zwingli (in Schaff III)
Lindberg, Chapter 7

5. Geneva and Calvin

A Reformation Debate: Sadoleto’s Letter to the Genevans and Calvin’s Reply
Lindberg, Chapter 8

6. The Spread of Lutheranism and the Reformed Faith

The Augsburg Confession
The Heidelberg Catechism
Lindberg, Chapter 9

7. The English Reformation

The Act of Supremacy (1534)
The Thirty-Nine Articles
Homily on the True and Lively Faith
Lindberg, Chapter 10

8. Reading the Reformation

Luther, On the Jews and Their Lies
Lindberg, Chapter 11

9. The Catholic Reformation

Council of Trent: Bull of Convocation; Fifth and Sixth Session
Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises
Lindberg, Chapter 12

10. Seventeenth Century Developments: Reformed Confessionalism

Irish Articles of Religion (in Schaff III)
Westminster Directory for Public Worship
Lindberg, Chapter 13

11. Seventeenth Century Developments: Internal Catholic Conflicts

Pascal, Pensées
Lindberg, Chapter 14

12. The Birth of Modernity

Lindberg, Chapter 15

For further reading – see here.

Characteristics of the Church

the holy Christian people are recognized by their possession of the holy word of God.” Martin Luther always returned to the foundational importance of the Scriptures and the gospel in his approach to any doctrinal question. The church must have and cherish the revelation of God. “And even if there were no other sign than this alone, it would still suffice to prove that a Christian, holy people must exist there, for God’s word cannot be without God’s people, and conversely, God’s people cannot be without God’s word.”

Baptism

“Second, God’s people or the Christian holy people are recognized by the holy sacrament of baptism, wherever it is taught, believed, and administered correctly according to Christ’s ordinance.” The church possessed and administered the sacrament of baptism as taught in the Bible, a visible expression of the gospel.

The Lord’s Supper

“Third, God’s people, or Christian holy people, are recognized by the holy sacrament of the altar, wherever it is rightly administered, believed, and received, according to Christ’s institution. This too is a public sign and a precious, holy possession left behind by Christ by which his people are sanctified so that they also exercise themselves in faith and openly confess that they are Christian, just as they do with the word and baptism.” Again, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper must be treasured by the church as Christ has taught it in the Bible.

Discipline

“Fourth, God’s people or holy Christians are recognized by the office of the keys exercised publicly. That is, as Christ decrees in Matthew 18[:15– 20], if a Christian sins, he should be reproved; and if he does not mend his ways, he should be bound in his sin and cast out. If he does mend his ways, he should be absolved. That is the office of the keys.” For Luther, the real church exercised discipline over its members. This element of Luther’s understanding has often been missed, but he was crystal clear about it.

Biblical Offices

“Fifth, the church is recognized externally by the fact that it consecrates or calls ministers, or has offices that it is to administer.” Luther recognized that the Bible established office in the church—not the sacral caste of priests—but the minister who faithfully preached the Word and administered the sacraments.

Luther’s focus on the simplicity and importance of the congregation came to quite radical expression, for his day, in his belief that in principle the congregation has the right to call its own minister. As early as 1523, he had written a treatise titled That a Christian Assembly or Congregation Has the Right and Power to Judge All Teaching and to Call, Appoint, and Dismiss Teachers, Established and Proven by Scripture. Ministers were not a mysterious order created and imposed by a hierarchy, but were to emerge from the congregation.

Worship

“Sixth, the holy Christian people are externally recognized by prayer, public praise, and thanksgiving to God. Where you see and hear the Lord’s Prayer prayed and taught; or psalms or other spiritual songs sung, in accordance with the word of God and the true faith; also the creed, the Ten Commandments, and the catechism used in public, you may rest assured that a holy Christian people of God are present.” The church was visible in its simple, Word-centered worship.

Suffering

“Seventh, the holy Christian people are externally recognized by the possession of the sacred cross. They must endure every misfortune and persecution, all kinds of trials and evil from the devil, the world, and the flesh.” Since the servant was not greater than the master, as Jesus had taught, the church would suffer in this world as it served Christ faithfully.

Luther derived these seven points from the first table of the Ten Commandments and recognized that, though these elements were never perfect in the church, they were truly present: “These are the true seven principal parts of the great holy possession whereby the Holy Spirit effects in us a daily sanctification and vivification in Christ, according to the first table of Moses. By this we obey it, albeit never as perfectly as Christ. But we constantly strive to attain the goal, under his redemption or remission of sin, until we too shall one day become perfectly holy and no longer stand in need of forgiveness.”

These seven characteristics were only the beginning of what could be said about the church. He said:

In addition to these seven principal parts there are other outward signs that identify the Christian church, namely, those signs whereby the Holy Spirit sanctifies us according to the second table of Moses… . We need the Decalogue not only to apprise us of our lawful obligations, but we also need it to discern how far the Holy Spirit has advanced us in his work of sanctification and by how much we still fall short of the goal, lest we become secure and imagine that we have now done all that is required. Thus we must constantly grow in sanctification and always become new creatures in Christ!

Martin Luther on Preaching

derek-thomasArticle: Simple and Straightforward: Martin Luther on Preaching

This excerpt is taken from Derek Thomas’ contribution in The Legacy of Luther.

According to Fred Meuser, it would be hard to imagine that Luther’s preaching was dull and devoid of rhetorical passion. It is equally hard to fathom, then, that Luther felt the need to chastise some who did not listen well, saying that some fell asleep and some even snored during the sermon, adding that they sometimes coughed whenever he preached on justification, only to wake up again whenever he told a story. Times do not seem to have changed. All the more reason, then, for the Reformer to keep his sermons relatively simple and straightforward.

Those who have studied Luther’s theological works find themselves in deep waters. Luther’s theology is complex at best. Concepts such as his theology of the cross (theologia crucis), the doctrine of consubstantiation, and the exact distinction between law and gospel (did Luther advance in his understanding of the so-called third use of the law, as some have suggested?) continue to occupy scholars of Luther to this day. Is it surprising, then, that Luther’s preaching was essentially simple and plain? Not really. According to Hughes Oliphant Old, Luther “made no attempt to be a great orator.” Old expands, “[Luther] had none of the rhetorical culture that Basil, Chrysostom, or Augustine had. Luther was a popular preacher with a natural mastery of language. He taught preachers of the Reformation to preach in the language of the people.”

Garry Williams cites a similar statement that Luther makes in his Table Talk:

In the pulpit we are to lay bare the breasts and nourish the people with milk. . . . Complicated thoughts and issues we should discuss in private with the eggheads [Klueglinge]. I don’t think of Dr. Pomeraneus, Jonas, or Philip [Melanchthon] in my sermon. They know more about it than I do. So I don’t preach to them. I just preach to Hansie and Betsy.

Although Luther had been schooled in classical rhetoric as part of the awakening of the Renaissance movement in late-medieval Europe, the Reformer seemed deliberately to avoid its more elaborate affectations, employing in its place a more conversational style. He was, for example, particularly scornful of the use of Hebrew in the pulpit. Though able to converse in both Greek and Hebrew with the best of Renaissance scholarship—scholarship that had triumphed in returning to the sources for meaning (ad fontes)—Luther did not employ Greek and Hebrew terms in his sermons. Williams cites Luther’s acerbic comment about Zwingli: “How I do hate people who lug in so many languages as Zwingli does; he spoke Greek and Hebrew in the pulpit at Marburg.”

Despite these warnings, Luther was firmly committed to the study of the original languages and urged that all preachers have the same passion:

Though the faith and the Gospel may be proclaimed by simple preachers without the languages, such preaching is flat and tame, men grow at last wearied and disgusted and it falls to the ground. But when the preacher is versed in the languages, his discourse has freshness and force, the whole of Scripture is treated, and faith finds itself constantly renewed by a continual variety of words and works.

On another occasion, Luther is even stronger in urging the use of the original languages:

It is a sin and shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God; it is a still greater sin and loss that we do not study languages, especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study, and desires his Bible to be an open book. O how happy the dear fathers would have been if they had our opportunity to study the languages and come thus prepared to the Holy Scriptures! What great toil and effort it cost them to gather up a few crumbs, while we with half the labor—yes, almost without any labor at all—can acquire the whole loaf! O how their effort puts our indolence to shame.

Commenting on these statements of Luther, John Piper makes the following deduction:

Now that is a discouraging overstatement for many pastors who have lost their Greek and Hebrew. What I would say is that knowing the languages can make any devoted preacher a better preacher—more fresh, more faithful, more confident, more penetrating. But it is possible to preach faithfully without them—at least for a season. . . . The test of our faithfulness to the Word, if we cannot read the languages, is this: Do we have a large enough concern for the church of Christ to promote their preservation and widespread teaching and use in the churches? Or do we, out of self-protection, minimize their importance because to do otherwise stings too badly?

Luther’s insistence upon simplicity of language is, in part at least, a byproduct of the free delivery of his sermons; his sermons were extemporaneous rather than read from a manuscript. This fact alone almost guarantees that the language employed is simpler, ensuring that if a complex thought is uttered, sufficient explanation is given to elucidate it, drawn from (among other things) eye contact with one’s listeners that often reveals understanding or perplexity. One puzzled look from a listener, or clear signs that no one is actually listening, will urge simplicity of language—repeating a thought in different language until the point is made clear.

Halloween or Reformation Day?

luther-nailing-theses-560x538Dr. Sam Storms writes: (original source but not for the same reason given by most in our society. Although the last day of October is most frequently referred to as Halloween, our focus as Christians should be on the momentous event that occurred in Wittenberg, Germany, in the year 1517.

Let’s return to the first few years of the 16th century in order to set the stage for what happened. In order to finance the rebuilding of St. Peter’s church in Rome, Popes Julius II and Leo X sanctioned the indiscriminate sale of indulgences. In the language of Rome, indulgentia is a term for amnesty or remission of punishment, in particular, the remission of the temporal (not eternal) punishment for sin on the condition that one perform specified good works and make generous financial contributions to Rome. Only God can forgive the eternal punishment of sin, but the sinner must still endure the temporal punishment for sin, either in this life or in purgatory. This latter penalty was under the control of the papacy and priesthood. Thus, for a price, the church can reduce both the degree and duration of punishment in purgatory, both for you and your deceased loved ones who are already there.

Leading the sale of indulgences in Germany was a Dominican monk, well-known for his immorality and drunkenness, by the name of Johann Tetzel. He began his trade on the border of Saxony, at Juterbog, just a few hours from Wittenberg. Tetzel was particularly crude and mercenary in his tactics. He used poetic phrases to highlight the benefit of indulgences. For example,

“When the coin in the coffer doth ring,
The soul out of purgatory doth spring.”

Here is one excerpt from a sermon he preached:

“Indulgences are the most precious and the most noble of God’s gifts. . . . Come and I will give you letters, all properly sealed, by which even the sins that you intend to commit may be pardoned. . . . But more than this, indulgences avail not only for the living but for the dead. . . . Priest! Noble! Merchant! Wife! Youth! Maiden! Do you not hear your parents and your other friends who are dead, and who cry from the bottom of the abyss: We are suffering horrible torments! A trifling alms would deliver us; you can give it, and you will not!”

It was difficult for the people to resist Tetzel’s ingenious appeals to both selfishness and love for one’s parents. The story is told that after Tetzel made a large sum of money from the sale of indulgences in Leipzig a man approached him and asked if he could buy an indulgence for a future sin he planned on committing. Tetzel said yes, and they agreed on a price. Later the man attacked and robbed Tetzel, explaining that this was the future sin he had in mind!

Tetzel had a “fee schedule” for the forgiveness of sins:

Witchcraft – 2 ducats
Polygamy – 6 ducats
Murder – 8 ducats
Sacrilege – 9 ducats
Perjury – 9 ducats

Martin Luther lost his patience when a stumbling drunkard handed him a certificate of indulgence as warrant for his inebriated condition.

Indulgences could also be obtained by viewing or venerating certain religious relics. Luther’s prince, Frederick the Wise, owned one of the largest relic collections in the area, over 19,000 pieces, worth more than 1,900,000 days’ indulgence. Frederick’s collection included a piece of the burning bush, soot from the fiery furnace, milk from Mary’s breast, and a piece of Jesus’ crib, just to name a few. Cardinal Albrecht’s collection of relics was worth 39,245,120 days’ indulgence!

Infuriated by this blasphemous turn of events, at noon on October 31, 1517, Luther posted to the door of the castle-church at Wittenberg, 95 theses or propositions on the subject of indulgences and invited a public discussion on the topic. There was little initial response, but rapid circulation of the theses (entitled “Disputation to explain the Virtue of Indulgences”) was certain to stir things up. Philip Schaff writes this of the theses:

“They are no protest against the Pope and the Roman Church, or any of her doctrines, not even against indulgences, but only against their abuse. They expressly condemn those who speak against indulgences (Th. 71), and assume that the Pope himself would rather see St. Peter’s Church in ashes than have it built with the flesh and blood of his sheep (Th. 50). They imply belief in purgatory. They nowhere mention Tetzel. They are silent about faith and justification, which already formed the marrow of Luther’s theology and piety. He wished to be moderate, and had not the most distant idea of a separation from the mother church. When the Theses were republished in his collected works (1545), he wrote in the preface: I allow them to stand, that by them it may appear how weak I was, and in what a fluctuating state of mind, when I began this business. I was then a monk and a mad papist, and so submerged in the dogmas of the Pope that I would have readily murdered any person who denied obedience to the Pope.”

And the rest, so they say, is history. The Protestant Reformation had been launched, and the recovery of the true gospel of the saving grace of God through faith alone in Christ alone was underway. So make this the reason for your celebration on the 31st and the focus of your gratitude to God.

Luther on Justification, the Will and Election

he discovered he was at war with the world. The irony—that the sweet and pure good news from heaven would bring such enormous warfare and destruction—was not missed by Luther. In his later years, he would reflect on how the world has ever been at war with the gospel, going back even to Paradise and the murder of Abel by Cain. He perceived this rage against the promise of grace continuing on through history, up to his own time. ‘Yet I am compelled to forget my shame and be quite shameless in view of the horrible profanation and abomination which have always raged in the Church of God, and still rage to-day, against this one solid rock which we call the doctrine of justification.’”1 (Page 35)

“Luther [recognized] that the law and gospel are two entirely distinct categories: law is not gospel, gospel is not law. The beauty and power of each vanish when they are blended together. The perfection and majesty of the law is compromised, and the announcement of the good news that Christ kept the law for us and suffered the curse of the law for us is entirely lost. Blending the two leads one into suffocating moralism, anguished guilt, or a lofty legalism that destroys everything and everyone in its wake.” (Page 47)

“Luther grasped the fact that sinners were declared righteous by God apart from any of their works, whereas the [Roman] Church in Luther’s day taught that sinners were made righteous in actual conduct as they cooperated with God’s grace. This actual righteousness, the Church taught, was the means by which a person was justified before God. Luther understood the subtle yet damning error in this teaching, for while it acknowledged God’s grace as helping the sinner to obey, it placed salvation back into the efforts of man and removed the objective peace of God that rested entirely in Christ alone.” (Page 51)

Three Problems with Free Will

“Salvation by works. Luther understood free will as being at the very heart of the gospel. He realized that if man’s will is truly free, then man is capable of keeping God’s law perfectly and thus earning a right standing with God. Continue reading

Martin Luther and Romans 1:17

In this excerpt from Luther and the Reformation, R.C. Sproul describes the moment of awakening Martin Luther had as he read Romans 1:17, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”

Transcript

He says, “Here in it,” in the gospel, “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘the just shall live by faith.’” A verse taken from the book of Habakkuk in the Old Testament that is cited three times in the New Testament. As Luther would stop short and say, “What does this mean, that there’s this righteousness that is by faith, and from faith to faith? What does it mean that the righteous shall live by faith?” Which again as I said was the thematic verse for the whole exposition of the gospel that Paul sets forth here in the book of Romans. And so, the lights came on for Luther. And he began to understand that what Paul was speaking of here was a righteousness that God in His grace was making available to those who would receive it passively, not those who would achieve it actively, but that would receive it by faith, and by which a person could be reconciled to a holy and righteous God.

Now there was a linguistic trick that was going on here too. And it was this, that the Latin word for justification that was used at this time in church history was—and it’s the word from which we get the English word justification—the Latin word justificare. And it came from the Roman judicial system. And the term justificare is made up of the word justus, which is justice or righteousness, and the verb, the infinitive facare, which means to make. And so, the Latin fathers understood the doctrine of justification is what happens when God, through the sacraments of the church and elsewhere, make unrighteous people righteous.

But Luther was looking now at the Greek word that was in the New Testament, not the Latin word. The word dikaios, dikaiosune, which didn’t mean to make righteous, but rather to regard as righteous, to count as righteous, to declare as righteous. And this was the moment of awakening for Luther. He said, “You mean, here Paul is not talking about the righteousness by which God Himself is righteous, but a righteousness that God gives freely by His grace to people who don’t have righteousness of their own.”

And so Luther said, “Woa, you mean the righteousness by which I will be saved, is not mine?” It’s what he called a justitia alienum, an alien righteousness; a righteousness that belongs properly to somebody else. It’s a righteousness that is extra nos, outside of us. Namely, the righteousness of Christ. And Luther said, “When I discovered that, I was born again of the Holy Ghost. And the doors of paradise swung open, and I walked through.”