The Reformation Piggybackers
Martin Luther tried very hard. He entered a monastery and dedicated himself to a life of religious devotion. But the harder he tried, the more he realized that he did not measure up to God’s Law. He could not rid himself of sinful thoughts. He could not overcome his sinful deeds. He could not bring himself to love God wholeheartedly. Luther became painfully aware of his sinfulness, and he could not shake it or overcome it.
But Brother Marin was a very gifted young man and so the church put him to work as a professor. Thank God they did, for this drove Luther further into the Bible, since now he had to teach it. And over the course of the next few years, what Luther discovered there revolutionized his thinking about the righteousness of God and how to attain it. He found that what the Bible taught was not what the church was teaching or practicing. Instead of proclaiming and practicing the righteousness and freedom won for us by Christ, the medieval Roman church was putting people under a burden they could not carry, piling on the demands of the law, offering people false hope about merits, and thus leaving them in doubt about their salvation.
What Luther discovered in the Bible was passages like from Romans 3:19-24, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 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.” The works of the law cannot save anyone. We will never do enough to earn our salvation. Instead, God gives us His righteousness freely, as a gift, in our Savior Jesus Christ. Luther wrote in his Reformation era hymn: “With might of ours can naught be done; soon were our loss effected. But for us fights the valiant one whom God himself elected. You ask, ‘Who is this?’ Jesus Christ it is, the almighty Lord, and there’s no other God; He holds the field forever” (CW: 200).
By God’s grace, this righteousness through Christ was rediscovered by Luther and is now part of our Lutheran heritage. This is what we celebrate every year for the Reformation.
Here is a great Lutheran Satire video about how Luther was having a splendid Reformation Day. That is, until the piggybacking Protestants started trying to improve his Reformation.