Martin Luther: Guilt versus Grace

As I watch a documentary on the reformer, Martin Luther, I am struck by the contrast between guilt and grace.

As a Monk, Martin Luther was driven by guilt. The feeling that he may never be able to live up to the standard of God. A guilt fulled by the teaching of the church.

The Catholic Church, under which Martin Luther lived his early years, believed that Christ was the means of salvation. But in order to guard against individual living too aware of grace—which they thought would result in sinful life. They emphasized what individuals had to do to secure full-saving grace. The list of physical rituals (sacraments) including penance were the means of grace controlled by the church.

This belief system drove Luther to harsh treatment of his body motivated by fear.  He was tormented by fear and guilt.

But as he wrestled with Scripture he discovered the absolute wonder of grace. That God was a gracious giving God, not a tyrannical oppressive overlord. That salvation was a gift provided by grace and received not by sacraments and penance, but through faith in Christ Jesus.

The realization of the wonder of grace did not lead to a licentious life, “taking advantage of grace.” But rather, out of devotion to the one who had freed him from sin and guilt, Luther was motivated to live in a way that would honor God.

That lesson—the wonder of grace and the impact on life—is key to every Christian life. The continual amazement of grace should remove guilt. Amen! And in gratitude for grace, we should live for God.

Praise the Lord.

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