“I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience”

Martin Luther’s conversion, while reading Paul’s epistle to the Romans, was the spark that set fire to the Reformation. Below is his account of that struggle. Notice how the very phrase that he once hated became the sweetest word he had ever known:

I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary desire for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. But up till then it was [the phrase] “the righteousness of God is revealed” that had stood in my way. For I hated that word “righteousness of God,” which… I had been taught to [mean that] God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.


Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated… I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously… I was angry with God, and…I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience.


Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted. At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words… And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates…And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word “righteousness of God.”
May we discover–and rediscover–the grace of passive righteousness like Luther!
Happy Reformation Day!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *