A big thank you from the bottom of my heart to those who prayed for, encouraged, and even sent me study material for our church’s Women’s Bible Study last Saturday. We had an amazing time together discussing the Reformation, The Doctrines of Grace, and the doctrine of Total Depravity. That God would use a sinful woman, like me, to share the Gospel, is evidence alone of His amazing grace!
In light of our discussion of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, I am posting this excerpt from James Montgomery Boice’s expositional commentary on Romans. In it he traces Luther’s path to illumination of the truth that is Romans 1:17, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
“In the church of St. John Lateran in Rome there is a set of medieval stone stairs said to have originally been the stairs leading up to Pilate’s house in Jerusalem, once trod upon by the Lord. For this reason they were called the Scala Sancta or “Holy Stairs.”
It was the custom for pilgrims like Luther, to ascend these steps on their knees, praying as they went. At certain intervals there were stains said to have been caused by bleeding wounds of Christ. The worshipers would bend over and kiss these steps, praying a long time before ascending painfully to the next ones. Remission of years in purgatory was promised to all who would perform this pious experience.
Luther began as the others had. But as he ascended the stair case, the words of our text came forcefully to his mind: “The just shall live by faith.”
They seemed to echo over and over again, growing louder with each repetition: “The just shall live by faith,” The just shall live by faith.” But Luther was not living by faith. He was living by fear. The old superstitious doctrines and the new biblical theology wrestled within him,
“By fear,” said Luther.
“By faith!” said St. Paul.
“By fear,” said the scholastic fathers of medieval Catholicism.
“By faith!” said the Scriptures.
“By fear,” said those who agonized beside him on the staircase.
“By faith!” said God the Father.
At last Luther rose in amazement from the steps up which he had been dragging himself and shuddered at his superstition and folly.
Now he realized that God had saved him by the righteousness of Christ, received by faith; he was to exercise that faith, receive that righteousness, and live by trusting God. He had not been doing it.
Slowly he turned on Pilate’s staircase and returned to the bottom.
He went back to Wittenberg, and in time, as Paul Luther said, “He took ‘The just shall live by faith’ as the foundation of all his doctrine.” (Romans, Volume I, Justification by Faith, James Montgomery Boice, pages 123-124).
And so it was that this quiet revolution in one man’s heart set all of Europe ablaze, and with it, changed the course of Western history!
“The just shall live by faith!”