Luther was a monk, but he was busy. 1516 October, he wrote
I could use two secretaries. I do almost nothing during the day but write letters. I am a conventual preacher, reader at meals, parochial preacher, director of studies, overseer of eleven monasteries, superintendent of the fish pond at Litzkau, referee of the squabble at Torgau, lecturer on Paul, collector of material for a commentary on the Psalms, and then, as I said, I am overwhelmed with letters. I rarely have full time for the canonical hours and for saying mass, not to mention my own temptations with the world, the flash, and the Devil. You see how lazy I am.
Read Romans 2.1-11 and 3.9-20 to form an idea of the Church's emphasis during Luther's life. What words and ideas are repeatedly emphasized? As a good Christian, i.e., Catholic, how would Luther be forgiven his sins?
(Leader: Apparently, the Church's main focus was on saving people from condemnation by Jesus at the Last Judgement. Evil people were sent directly to hell. Good people who committed a few sins would be sent to purgatory until God decided enough punishment had been administered. The Church did not claim to know the punishment for each sin but did claim the ability to shorten the purgatory period by specific amounts by purchasing indulgences or viewing holy relics. For example, on All Saint Day, Christians viewing the relics accumulated by Frederick the Wise in Luther's town of Wittenberg and paying the necessary indulgences could reduce their purgatory stay by 1,902,202 years and 270 days.
(Being a monk, Luther could receive forgiveness of his sins through confessional, but each sin must be confessed. A perfectionist, he spent hours confessing minor sins and worried he might forget one or, even worse, sin by omission, not commission. ``Sometimes my confessor said to me when I repeatedly discussed silly sins with him, `You are fool. Man, God is not angry with you, but you are angry with God''' (LW 54, 15).)
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 by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and ... I was angry with God, and said, ``As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lose through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!'' Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted. And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hated with which I had formerly hated that word, ``the righteousness of God'' (LW 34, 336-337).
Read Romans 1.16-17.
At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, ``In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, `He who through faith is righteous shall live.''' There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. 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. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is, what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us strong, the wisdom of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God (LW 34, 337).
(Leader: Ask the normal calling questions.
Ask: How should we order these as occurring in a Christian's life? righteousness, faith, grace, eternal life, death.)
[Christians] are safe under Christ's grace, not because they believe and have faith and his gift, but because they have these in his grace (LW 8, 114).
Therefore the whole life of a good believing Christian after baptism is nothing more than awaiting the revelation of a holiness which he already has. He surely has it whole, though it is still hidden in faith (LW 10, 108).