The Spirit of Christ illuminated Martin Luther’s heart that the Church’s interpretation of grace was in error, consequently, needed reform. Grace, by definition, is the undeserved and unearned favor and delight of God freely given to a believer.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph. 2:8-9
When he compared the Church’s teaching to scripture he realized change was needed: reform. With the building of St. Peter’s Basilica unfinished, church leaders needed money and the doctrine of purgatory, a place of temporary punishment and purging of sin, lended itself to that goal.
As Luther studied the Scriptures he realized that Christ had paid the penalty for our sin: past, present, and future and purgatory didn’t line up with that free gift of grace. When indulgences were sold to the common people of Germany it was the final straw that broke Luther. Indulgences were a receipt, in effect, that bought you or your family less time in purgatory. They were an attempt to buy God’s kindness and favor, hence indulging His people.
Information Technology began right there in Germany; Gutenberg invented a way for mass production of printed materials. The printing press was truly a forerunner to the Internet today and Luther’s reform unknowingly began. He posted 95 statements of change on the community bulletin board that, in his opinion, needed debate. Written in Latin, as targets for academia, this powerful medium of printing was utilized to produce pamphlets of Luther’s points in German; the fire was ignited. God had begun a Back to the Bible Movement and the people were ready.
Being an Augustinian monk, priest, and teacher brought Luther back to God’s Word and his realization that we’re all born into spiritual slavery, dead in sin, and under the wrath of God. He knew the truth from scripture that we are unable to change that state and his pastor’s heart was breaking for his parishioners. He brought them back to God’s Word; we are declared righteous in God’s sight by the Cross and faith in the Cross alone.
For our sake he made him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor. 5:21
It’s all about Jesus, the Word made flesh, and worship of Him and Him alone. Luther remained at the foot of the cross and there he met God’s beauty in the grace He freely gave. Luther was led by the Holy Spirit to bring correction and restore the knowledge of God’s free gifts to the people.
At the end of his open ministry he was arrested and stood before the political and religious leaders in Germany. “Will you recant?” They asked. He answered them, “Here I stand; I can do not other.” The courage of Martin Luther is to be admired and his life to be appreciated and celebrated.