As Martin Luther set to work reading, studying, and teaching Scripture from the original languages, his troubled conscience seethed beneath the surface — especially as he confronted the phrase “the righteousness of God” in Romans 1:16–17. He wrote, “I hated that word ‘righteousness of God,’ which according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they called it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner” (Selections, 11–italics mine). But suddenly, as he labored over the text of Romans, all Luther’s hatred for the righteousness of God turned to love. He remembers,
At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’” There I began to understand [that] the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel*, namely, the passive righteousness with which [the] merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. . . .And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word “righteousness of God.” Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise. (Selections, 12).
Luther vividly proclaims the living words of Scripture, as God inspired men to write them down (God-breathed), untangled and made clear His resistance to one of the greatest promises Christians are freely given. Luther’s actions and positions opposing the “men in Rome” who elevated themselves and their interpretations over and above Scripture ultimately led to his later years as a refugee in order to not be punished or killed. Those “men in Rome” nor any man could satisfy Luther’s inner craving to intimately know the “righteousness” of God. Jesus’ resurrection defeated death and delivers a life on earth that is free from the darkness that seems to be ever increasing in the world. Cherry picking which of God’s words to believe and which ones to ignore will never give us depth of relationship with the Creator who designed us to do so, however digging into His life giving and living words will lead you to actions that will. With God, it’s promises made, promises kept,
How does one claim Christianity, yet ignore many of God’s clear words such as, “I knew you in the womb”? Why do many “believers” not take Jesus’ words to “go and make disciples” seriously? How about “loving our neighbor”, “feed my sheep” and “care for your widows and orphans” ? What about forgiveness and reconciliation ? Do you seek this above all else in broken relationships or just use some excuse to discount the effort? Faith produces the righteousness to “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another….” (Cor. 3:13). May you have a blessed weekend! Steve
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