The Idea of Justification by Faith through Grace: Martin Luther King Jr.

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Martin Luther, a Protestant reformer and possibly one of the most influential theologians ever, developed the idea of justification by faith through grace. Martin Luther had been searching for salvation, but had no luck. He had become a monk in trying to guarantee his salvation. He seemed dedicated living his life as a monk, but the holy life of a monk did not bring him the assurance of salvation he was seeking. After teaching and lecturing at the University of Wittenberg, Luther gradually started to understand God and God’s relationship to humanity.

From this gradual understanding Luther created the statement of justification by grace through faith. What Luther meant by justification by grace through faith is the process of God justifying sinners through the faith of Christ. Luther had a central question: “How can miserable, sinful humans ‘be put with’ a holy, righteous God? ” At first he seemed terrified by the thought of the righteousness of God because “he understood it to refer to the holiness and perfection of God, and he hated this righteous of God who punishes unrighteous sinners.

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The origin of justification by grace through faith can be traced by as far as the Apostles. Paul was the main apostle that first introduced this idea. Luther studied Paul’s letters and discovered many new ideas of justification through the faith of God. From Paul’s letters he learned: “We stand guilty and condemned before the throne of God, as Apostle Paul said, “There is no one righteous, not even one. ” (Romans 3:10) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) “Now we know that what ever the law says, it is to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. ” (Romans 3:19). ” According to the Ten Commandments it requires us to be perfect, but Paul came to the conclusion that it’s simply impossible to be perfect and there is no hope in being able to stand before God.

It came to conclusion that “We need to be justified, in order to be justified, a person must have a righteousness equivalent to Gods perfect righteousness. What it means to be justified is to be totally free of guilt and blame, and in a biblical sense: to be able to stand before God pure and clean. Justification is the process of justice. “Justification deals with past, present and future sins. Justification does not bring innocence, but a state of righteousness before God. Justification is more than forgiveness, as it removes the guilt. ” In order to find justification we must praise to God through gospel, not by “observing the law or by good work before the Lord. Justification and forgiveness are sometimes presented in the same kind of context, but are not the same. “An innocent man may be acquitted, but an innocent man is not the subject of forgiveness. But it is different with the sinner. He needs forgiveness as well as justification. His justification, on the ground of the righteousness of another, includes the forgiveness of the transgressions on account of which he had been under condemnation. ” God doesn’t simply forgive the sinners and let them go without punishment; he’ll let the sinner go without punishment if they believe in Christ.

Instead of punishing the sinner for their wrongdoing God punishes Christ so he wouldn’t have to punish the sinner. Just as long as one believes in Christ, Christ endures all of the pain and sacrifice the sinner deserves. When Luther was preaching as a monk he viewed the gospel as an extension of the law, not a pathway to find freedom of its curse. He then later discovered that a person is saved from sin through faith, rather than having works of the law have an influence. He always saw that faith produced many works, but not allowing those works to take part in the subject of justification, where we ‘passively receive’ righteousness as a gift, apart from our own merit, was something he learned later on. ”

“In the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to the last, just as it is written; the righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17). From this section of Paul’s letter Luther interprets that “righteousness doesn’t mention a quality that God possesses in order to judge people, but mentions a gift God gives in order to save people. At first Luther didn’t understand the concept of Romans 1:17. Before overcoming his doubts and misjudgment, Luther used to think that “‘God’s righteousness’ in the gospel ‘was revealed’, not in giving perfect righteousness freely to sinners forever apart from the fact they were sinners, but in punishing sinners and rewarding the righteous. ” When a sinner realizes that he should be punished and that he has offended God, the person must surrender his words, actions, and life to Jesus Christ in order to be forgiven for his sins; the believing sinner will then be justified. In Luther’s own words: “I could not love, nay.

I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners. Certainly, and with intense grumbling (perhaps blasphemy), I was angry with God and said, “As if it were indeed not enough that miserable sinners who are eternally lost through original sin and are crushed again by every kind of calamity through the Ten Commandments, God himself adds pain in the gospel by threatening us with his righteousness and wrath! ” Luther was frustrated with this idea. Luther came up with the term of alien righteousness because “it is God’s righteousness (and not their own) that justifies people before God. He felt that salvation should not depend on man’s own holiness and goodness, but it should be on God’s righteousness to be given generously and devotedly to sinners. Humans are sinners by nature; we don’t deserve God’s free gifts. Humans don’t do anything to prove or justify themselves before God; this is where the term justification by grace alone came from. Luther then questioned: “How does God justify sinners? ” He does it through Christ. “Humans are saved by what god has done for them in Christ, not by what they do themselves.

If people continue to bring their works before God, seeking to be saved by them, then they really do not have faith in what God has done for them in Christ. They need to depend completely and entirely on Christ, not on what they do. ” The Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Church had different ideas of justification. “The Roman Catholic view of justification [is that] God declares a person to be just when justice (or righteousness) inheres in the person. The person, under divine analysis or scrutiny, is found to be just. God justifies the just. According to the Reformation view justification has to do with what’s external to them rather than something that’s congenital in the person. From this Martin Luther said that we can be justified, but still be sinners. “Justification is not based upon what you inherently are (inherent righteousness), but is based upon what Christ did for you and you are given credit for (imputed righteousness). ” These are the basics of how justification by grace through faith works: God can forgive our sins because he put the blame onto Christ, and punished him instead of us.

God is able to declare righteousness to us, but only from taking away Christ’s righteousness. Christ gets the short end of the stick for everything; gets punished and blamed on for our sins and then his righteousness imputes onto us. Martin Luther developed this idea from trying to seek salvation and trying to find answers to his unanswered questions. He felt that this saying was vital to other people trying to figure out how to be forgiven by God and how to be justified to him.

He also felt that it was important for churches to know the correct idea of justification because it had been distorted over the years, and he really wanted to emphasize the idea of justification by grace through faith.


Catherine A. Cory and Michael J. Hollerich, The Christian Theological Tradition, 3rd ed. , (Upper Saddle River, N. J. : Prentice Hall, 2009,), 318. Greenwald, E. , and E. Greenwald. 1868. “The Lutheran Reformation. ” In Lutheran Reformation, 248-250. N. p. : 1868. American Theological Library Association (ATLA) Historical Monographs Collection: Series 1, EBSCOhost (accessed November 19, 12).

James Kittelson, Luther the Reformer (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1986), 134. “Justification by Faith Alone,” http://contendforthefaith2. com/just2. html (accessed November 19, 2012). Nick Bibile, “Justified By Faith Alone,” http://www. sounddoctrine. net/Nick/justified. htm (accessed November 19, 2012). “When and How Did Martin Luther Arrive at the Justification by Faith? ” http://christianity. stackexchange. com/questions/8742/when-and-how-did-martin-luther-arrive-at-the-justification-by-faith (accessed November 19, 2012).

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