Musings, Theology

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.

Author: Steve

Steve Kilgore joined the staff of Calvary Church in Lancaster, PA in the fall of 2002 as the Pastor of Discipleship to facilitate the equipping ministries, which include Adult Bible Fellowship and other adult discipleship ministries, and work with the rest of the education ministries. He currently serves as the Executive Pastor of Ministries with a focus on providing ministries that facility individuals taking intentional Next Steps for growing and participating in the leadership and administrative aspect at Calvary. He has also taught part-time at Lancaster Bible College in the area of Spiritual Formation and New Testament. Prior to coming to Calvary he served in two churches as well as taught part-time at Philadelphia Biblical University. He was born in Dallas, Texas, but spent the first 13 years of his life in Guatemala where his parents were missionaries. It was there at the age of four and a half that Steve placed his faith in Christ as his Savior. Steve received a Bachelor’s degree in Bible from Philadelphia College of Bible and a Masters of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Steve and his wife, Mary Anne, have their two boys, Andrew and Nathan (both in college), and live in East Lampeter Township. Steve lives and ministers by the personal motto, Know what you believe and why, live it, be able to defend it. His hobbies, other than playing with his family, include tinkering with computers, reading, drinking coffee with his wife, playing and watching basketball. Steve and Mary Anne are looking forward to exploring new hobbies as they transition to life as empty-nesters.

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