Martin Luther Biography, Part 8: Evangelical Experience
The exact time of Martin Luther's spiritual rebirth (John 3:3,7) is a matter of some scholarly debate. What is certain is that Luther experienced a fundamental transformation that was occasioned by his study of the book of Romans. Luther later described his Reformation breakthrough as follows:
I greatly longed to understand Paul's Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, "the justice of God." because I took it to mean that justice by which God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just an angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.
Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that "the just shall live by faith." Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture tood on a new meaning, and whereas before the "justice of God" had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven...
Now this alone is the right Christian way, that I turn away from my sin and want nothing more to do with it, and turn alone to Christ's righteousness, so that I know for certain his goodness, merit, innocence, and holiness are mine, as surely as I know that this body is mine. In his name I live, die, and pass away, for he died for us and was resurrected for us. I am not good and just, but Christ is... he will embrace us if only we trust in him.
Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1978), 48.
Heiko Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (Yale University Press, 2006), 153.]