“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance, he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-26
Five hundred and two years later, in 1517, we seem to still be struggling with the problems of the church. Many people still think that it is about them, rather than God. They are convinced that it is their good works that causes God to be merciful to them.
That is why this text is so important for us to read and to understand. The apostle goes into great detail to explain the workings of God, first to the Romans and secondly to us.
Last Sunday we celebrated Reformation Sunday. The Reformation points us to the most important eternal truth we will ever be given. That truth comes to us from God, the Father, who, out of love for His creation, sent Jesus the Christ into the world to redeem us from sin.
The apostle reminds us in the text that works is insufficient for our salvation. We do not come to saving grace because of our good deeds. Our compliance with the law which we are not able to keep perfectly, does not put us right with God.
Yes, the law convicts and condemns, but does not save. That is the point the apostle is making in the text. Scripture tells us in Isaiah 64:6: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags …” Our works do not save us.
We cannot merit God’s righteousness. No matter how good we think we are, we fall short, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Because we fall short, we need Jesus.
God gives us Jesus, his Son, as our safety net. Therefore, when we fall short, the net is there to catch us and avoid a catastrophe. In Him, we have everlasting life.
Yes! God loves us so much, that he gave up his most precious possession to save us. He would not allow us to perish in our sins. Consequently, even though we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we are justified freely by his grace.
In Jesus Christ, God declares us righteous. God, through the sacrificial blood of Jesus, demonstrated his justice.
Simply put, in Christ Jesus, God declares us righteous. This is his justice, which we call justification. This is the point Luther tried to get across to the church some 502 years ago.
He was echoing the point Jesus put to his listeners and they challenged him in John 8:33 “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus pointed out that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. He further told them, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Yes, Jesus sets us free through faith in his redemptive work on Calvary.
Finally, it is not what you have done. It is not what the leaders in the church, or I have done. It is about God and what he has done for us in Jesus Christ.
In initiating the Reformation, Luther helped the church to see God’s love for His creation.
Yes, we serve a gracious God, who only wants good for us. We cannot do a thing to warrant His love or His grace. He gives it all to us freely. Amen.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at The Lutheran Church of Nassau, 119 John F. Kennedy Drive, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas; or telephone: 426-9084; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.Nassaulutheranchurch.org.