As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we remember the story and significance of Martin Luther, who set out on a quest to rescue the gospel and unveil biblical truths to the world.

Dr. Erwin Lutzer describes the doctrines of the Catholic Church in the 15th century that set the stage for Luther’s place in history.

“What happened in those days is that the gospel was lost. It is true that the church taught that Jesus died for sinners. It was true, of course, that the church taught the divinity of Jesus and the infallibility of the Bible. The problem was that this was really hidden. It was hidden because of all of the traditions and the authority of the pope that had been taking place over the centuries.”

“People believed that salvation was because of Christ but they had to do their part; they had to make themselves worthy of grace.”

Dr. Lutzer points out that even though Christianity survived, the church still didn’t have a clear understanding of the gospel message of God’s grace.

“This was Luther’s struggle in the monastery. He did everything that was required and beyond, trying to do all that he could to seek righteousness with God. He knew that God would do His part, if only Luther could do his part. But he could never know whether he had done enough.”

“That is what led him to utter despair. He ended up in Wittenberg teaching the Bible, and there he came across the gospel and the book of Romans.”

During his time at Wittenberg, Luther discovered something that would revolutionize his entire life.

“He now discovers that there is a righteousness that not only belongs to God as an attribute, but a righteousness which God gives to sinners; God’s own righteousness, credited to sinners, justification declared to be righteous, despite our continuing struggles with sin.”

He learned the truth about the salvation that he had been freely given by God and didn’t have to earn.

“Now he learns that this is a free gift given by faith to those who come who acknowledge their sinfulness and receive it. He says that at this point it was as if he ‘went through the gates of paradise,’ because now suddenly it didn’t matter how high God’s standard was as long as he didn’t have to meet it.”

“Centuries earlier, the theologian Augustan prayed, ‘Oh God, demand whatever you will, but you supply what you demand.’ God demands perfection and holiness, and God supplies the perfection that he demands. That is the gospel. When Luther understood this he said, ‘My sins no longer belong to me they belong to Jesus.’”

Martin Luther’s discovery of the gospel of grace and publication of the Ninety-five Theses remains a lasting influence on the church and Western Civilization today.

Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer is Pastor Emeritus of The Moody Church where he served as the Senior Pastor for 36 years. A clear expositor of the Bible, he is the featured speaker on three radio programs that are heard on more than 1,000 outlets in the United States and around the world. Dr. Lutzer is also an award-winning author of numerous books including .

Martin Luther's revelation of the gospel
Also on this edition of Neil Stavem
Ruth Tucker on Katie Luther, First Lady of the Reformation