Rom.1:17 – For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written: “ BUT THE RIGHTEOUS ONE WILL LIVE BY FAITH.”
It is impossible to quite understand what it meant for Christ to come and live among us, die among us, and live within us forever. We were all stuck in our world of sin before He came. Many wanted to change, wanted to be righteous, but we never could. Righteousness, the kind it takes to go to heaven and stand before the Lord, was out of our reach. That is the whole point of redemption and justification and faith, words that always carried a sense of impossibility leaving God unapproachable to all of us. That is the beauty of today’s verse, faith is connected to righteousness. Righteousness is never what we do but it is the gift of God given to us by faith. Here is how Martin Luther describes this mystery.
“Therefore, my dear brother, learn Christ and him crucified, learn to pray to him, despairing of yourself, saying: “You, Lord Jesus, are my righteousness, but I am your sin; you have taken on yourself what you were not, and have given to me what I was not.” Beware of ever aspiring to such purity that you do not want to seem to yourself, or to be, a sinner. For Christ dwells only in sinners.
It was for this that he came down from heaven, where he dwelled in the righteous, that he might also dwell in sinners. Think about his love and you will see how beautifully it will comfort and sustain you. For if it is only by our own efforts and strivings that we can achieve a quiet conscience, what did he die for? You will therefore find peace only in him, in faith despairing in yourself and your own works; and thus you will learn that as he took you up and made your sins his own, he made his righteousness yours.”
This is the beauty of the humanity of Christ. God came to live among us, to become one of us, to take our sin and transfer to us His gift of righteousness. This is the wheelhouse of Martin Luther. He called himself a very disturbed monk, disturbed by his sinfulness and inability to become just. All of that changed when one day today’s verse came to him like lightning from heaven, ‘the righteous one will live by faith’.