The lecture hall at the university rang with new ideas as the thirty-three-year-old monk continued introductory remarks to his new commentary: “… all good works are but an outward indication of the faith from which they proceed; … Where faith is of the right type, all … qualities [such as] peace, happiness, love toward God and everybody … follow naturally on account of the immeasurable blessing which God has bestowed upon us in Christ.… Therefore we own that faith justifies without any work whatsoever” (quoted in Adolf G. H. Kreiss, D. Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, p. 29).

There was no uncertainty in his voice. Had he not struggled through the years just for this hour? Known for singular piety, devotion, and monastic zeal, his life nevertheless had been filled with unhappiness. He had had no peace in his heart.

But as he studied the Scriptures the light dawned upon his troubled soul. Now there was no longer any doubt in his mind about the meaning of the third chapter of Romans, that letter of Paul which has been called the “Acropolis of the Christian faith.” In his studies Doctor Martin had noted especially verse 25: “Mark this, this is the chief point and the very central place of the epistle and of the whole Bible.”

From that lecture hall at the University of Wittenberg the learned monk went out into the world with a newfound faith. He did not know then that he had left the Middle Ages behind him and stood on the threshold of a new era, that he had shaken the world intellectually, politically, and religiously.

But God’s hand had been placed upon his shoulder, and the fire which had smoldered for centuries suddenly burst into flame. “His doctrine of justification by faith was the decided ...

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