The Heart of the Gospel
Lord God, today may Your eternal light and Your enduring truth lead me to know and love You more.
Read Romans 3:21-31
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Justification is Paul’s way of formulating the essential gospel message…that through Christ’s death guilty sinners, once justly under wrath, come under a new relationship with God as his beloved children, under grace” (James I. Packer).
“But now…” You have just read what is “possibly the most important single paragraph ever written” (Leon Morris). It forms the core of Paul’s argument in Romans. It is also densely packed and not easy to understand. Like yesterday’s reading, it points forward to theological insights that will be explained and explored later in the letter.
Luther, courageously standing against the corruption in the church of his day which was selling indulgences by which people thought they could buy their salvation, placed an emphasis on the free gift of God which we accept by faith. Jesus died in our place, bearing our sin, so that we may in exchange bear his righteousness. In our own day, a slightly different reading of this paragraph is gaining increasing support. By “righteousness” Paul may have meant something like “covenant justice” (both “righteousness” (21) and “justice” (25) are one idea, translating the same Greek word dikaiosyne). “Those who have faith in Jesus” (26) translates what is literally “out of the faith[fulness] of Jesus,” and perhaps points not to the exercise of our own faith but to Jesus’ faithful keeping of the covenant. The Greek certainly supports this reading. God has dealt properly with sin, has remained faithful to the covenant, and calls out to every one of us.
However one may translate and understand these words of Paul, here’s the point. We have all sinned, and we cannot save ourselves. God acted decisively in history in the person of Jesus Christ, who sacrificed himself for us. In the final day there will be acquittal for every human being, regardless of race or status, who has put their trust in Jesus.
May the wonder of God’s love revealed in Jesus sink deep into you. Reflect on God’s amazing grace.
Lord, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” I marvel at Your amazing grace! May I never take it for granted.