Beating Paul Into Submission

16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Romans 1: 16 – 17


Coming down off of a very heavy week of study, I was dealing with an adrenaline crash Friday night (Adrenaline is my drug of choice I must confess) so I watched the movie Luther after the hockey game. I had borrowed the movie a couple of months ago from a friend while I was taking history and I never got around to watching it.

Martin Luther was a brilliant Catholic monk who had the equivalent of two Doctorate degrees and was, of course, instrumental in the beginning of the Reformation. It was Luther who, on October 31st, 1517 nailed 95 points of protest against the Catholic church to the Wittenburg church bulletin board (so to speak).  They were (unknown to Luther) immediately translated into German and widely distributed, thus beginning the Reformation. He was fluent in ancient Greek and Hebrew and would eventually translate the entire Old and New Testament into German, against much opposition from the Catholic Church. He was a furiously passionate man and I love the passion he brought to Bible study. In writing a commentary on Romans, he says:

I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary love for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. But up till then it was … a single word in Chapter 1, “In it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed,” that had stood in my way. For I hated that word “righteousness of God,” which, according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand [as the way] … with which 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 satisfied by my compliance. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, “As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost 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!” Thus 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.

He comes across almost as indignant that Paul would put it in such a way. In the summer of 1526, he was lecturing on Ecclesiastes, and he wrote this: “Solomon the preacher is giving me a hard time, as though he begrudged anyone lecturing on him. But he must yield.”

Now that is some serious Bible study! To struggle against the text! To study a verse for years until you ‘beat it into submission’. I rarely do that. If there something I don’t understand I usually gloss over it or impatiently read into it whatever meaning I require. Like Jacob in Genesis 32 wrestled with the angel of God all night we need to passionately persue the understanding of the Word, and allow it to take years of study to yield an understanding.

So let’s go people! Let’s put on the gloves beat the text!


p.s.  This is the only kitten picture I will ever put on this blog.

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