Martin Luther was one person through whom God reformed the church. When Luther was born in Germany in 1483, the Roman Catholic Church was in bad shape. For years it had been plagued by corrupt and inept leaders – priests, bishops, even popes.
There was much religious ignorance and superstition. Few church-members knew much about the Bible; pronouncements by the church and its leaders were held up before the people as the supreme authority. The Gospel of God’s forgiveness as a free gift, which is ours only through faith in Jesus, was largely forgotten and seldom proclaimed. Instead, people were encouraged to rely on their own good works and religious performances to get right with God.
Luther, too, was brought up to think of God as an angry judge who was waiting to punish him for his sins. As a spiritually-earnest young man, Luther decided to become a monk; he believed that, if he led a good religious life, he would make himself acceptable to God. But he found no peace; his sins continued to torment him constantly.
The church soon ordained Luther as a priest, and later made him a Doctor of Theology. While studying and lecturing
on the Bible (especially the Epistle to the Romans), Luther came to realize that a good standing before God does not depend on our own efforts, but is due entirely to God’s mercy shown to us through Jesus. We are saved not by works, but by grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ. Luther had discovered the good news that God is for us for Jesus’ sake.