Rom.1:17 – For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written: “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS ONE WILL LIVE BY FAITH.”
The gospel is quite amazing to me. It is misunderstood and twisted by legalism on one side and those who espouse the so called grace message on the opposite side. Both errors are the results of the human mind trying to understand the gospel without the work of the Holy Spirit. The legalist pounds away at human sinfulness with a rigid demeanor as if he never really expects or hopes his hearers will change their ways. The grace crowd, like the arminians and pelagians of days gone by, preach their so called message of grace that allows us to still wallow in the pleasures of a sinful lifestyle. Neither position understands or magnifies the gospel. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. God’s grace draws us, captures us, enlivens us, and changes us into different kinds of people who actually find pleasure in spiritual things. Here is how Luther describes the effect of the gospel.
“But I, blameless monk that I was, felt that before God I was a sinner with an extremely troubled conscience….I did not love, no, rather I hated the just God who punishes sinners. In silence, if I did not blaspheme, then certainly I grumbled vehemently and got angry at God. I said, “Isn’t it enough that we miserable sinners, lost for all eternity because of original sin, are oppressed by every kind of calamity through the Ten Commandments? Why does God heap sorrow on sorrow through the gospel and through the gospel threaten us with his justice and his wrath?” This was how I was raging with a wild and disturbed conscience. I constantly badgered St. Paul about that spot in Romans 1 and anxiously wanted to know what he meant…..“The righteousness of God is revealed in it, as it is written: ‘The just person lives by faith.’” I began to understand that in this verse the righteousness of God is that by which the just person lives by a gift of God, that is, by faith.….All at once I felt that I had been born again and entered into paradise itself through open gates.”
That sentence about righteousness in Luther’s message began a change in him that birthed the Protestant Reformation. He discovered that righteousness is given to us by a gift of grace that awakens faith in our hearts. This is where we find peace with God and a deliverance from the haunting attraction of the sins of this world. Saved by grace, that is where it all starts and that’s where transformation and empowerment begin.