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Luther reportedly discovered the Gospel while reading the book of Romans in the tower of the Augustinian cloister. Luther experienced the “true discovery” of the Gospel after intently studying Romans 1:16–17: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes … as it is written: ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” His study of the scriptures brought him to the realization of the differences between the Bible and the practices and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. And so, the story of the Reformation began.

Luther wrote, “For a long time I went astray [in the monastery] and didn’t know what I was about. To be sure, I knew something, but I didn’t know what it was until I came to the text in Romans 1:17, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ That text helped me. But when I discovered the proper distinction—namely, that the law is one thing and the gospel is another—I made myself free.”

God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars. A believer that has faith cannot be restrained. He betrays himself. He breaks out. He confesses and teaches this Gospel to the people at the risk of life itself. You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the Word that the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you.

What Lutherans Teach states that: “Lutherans teach (and believe) that no human being can earn or obtain forgiveness of sins or life with God by any human efforts or ‘good works.’ We believe, and the Gospel clearly teaches, that salvation is achieved by the Grace of God through faith in Him.” The Gospel is the joyful news that our Lord Jesus Christ has given us complete forgiveness from our sins through His life, death and resurrection. The central and most important teaching in the Bible is the Gospel, the Good news of God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

We believe that the two chief doctrines of Holy Scripture, Law and Gospel, must be constantly and diligently proclaimed. We believe, teach and confess that the Gospel is the heart and center of our Christian faith. The Holy Spirit works through the Word of the Gospel to create and sustain faith in our heart. The Gospel’s message is that God forgives us all our sins through Christ; accepts us for His sake as God’s children and—out of pure grace, without any merit of our own—saves us.

This year, 2017, is a year precious to all Lutherans: the 500th anniversary of Luther’s blessed discovery of the Gospel and his rebellion related to the beliefs and celebrations of the Roman Catholic Church. This article is part of a monthly series covering topics and historical events leading up to October 31, 1517, the date of the posting of the 95 Theses on the Castle Church doors in Wittenberg, Germany. It is republished, with permission, from the Rocky Mountain District, LCMS.