16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17).
Why is the good news, or the gospel, of Jesus Christ the only way a sinner such as Martin Luther, as well as you and me, can be reconciled to God? The answer is given in Romans 1:17.
The phrase “for in it” refers us back to the subject at hand: the gospel. The Apostle Paul says that it is in the gospel alone that the righteousness of God is revealed. Righteousness (δικαιοσύνη; dikaiosyne) means to put right with, to cause to be in a right relationship and to be declared righteous. This righteousness belongs to and originates from God alone. It is not earned by man, but graciously given by God through God-given faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29; Acts 13:48; 2 Peter 1:1-2).
As one pastor explains, “God is inherently righteous (Deut. 32:4; Pss. 11:7; 116:5; John 17:25; I John 2:1; Rev. 16:5) and man falls woefully short of the divine standard of moral perfection (Rom. 3:10-20; Job 9:2; Matt. 5:48). But the gospel reveals that through the instrument of faith – and faith alone – God will impute or credit His righteousness to ungodly sinners (Romans 3:21-24; 4:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:8-9).
When the Apostle Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:4 that the just, or those God declares righteous, will live by faith he intends to prove that justification by faith alone has always been God’s way of saving sinners. Abraham is a pattern of justification by faith alone (Romans 4:22-25; Galatians 3:1-7). Additionally, true saving faith will be demonstrated by the believer’s actions (Philippians 2:12-13; James 2:14-26).
This good news is always through faith and faith alone. As we shall soon see, the Protestant Reformation in general, and the work of Martin Luther in particular, was a reclaiming of this essential truth of the gospel message from centuries of religious tradition and error. However, before Martin Luther would preach and defend the gospel, God had to bring him to an understanding of the gospel for the purpose of saving Martin’s soul from sin’s penalty and power.
Have you received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord by faith and faith alone?