Lord, open our eyes to see that which thou Last given us in thy gospel. Amen.
Romans 1, 16. 17. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
There is no doubt that a time is near at hand in which the masses and the wise men of the world will oppress the church and revile the gospel as never before, and make it a shame to confess the faith. Then we shall learn to understand the words of Paul, in Romans 10: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Besides, it is always the case, for that matter, that we are prone to be ashamed of the gospel; for it takes away every merit of ours; and, furthermore, Christ and his kingdom are in no wise glorious in the eyes of the world, but are unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness. Then the question is whether or not “the righteousness of God” is regarded by us as a matter of grave importance. If we understand that on it hinges our eternal fate, everlasting life or everlasting death, and that the gospel alone can save our soul, we overcome the feeling of shame, and esteem it an honor to suffer reproach with Christ. — None but the righteous are able to stand before the righteous God; where shall we, who are unrighteous, secure the righteousness which will satisfy his demands? “That is easy enough,” says the world; “I do in all things as well as I can, and God can ask no more of me. It would be foolish to worry on account of our sins when we do the best we can.” If this be so, then were Paul and Peter fools, to be consumed with anxiety for the safety of their fellows. And what shall we say of God’s own Son, who suffered unutterable agony and the most bitter of deaths, in order that he might acquire righteousness for us? It seems plain that Paul made no mistake when he declared that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men. — Righteousness before God is not of our works, but of faith; it is a righteousness by faith alone. In other words, it is the atonement of Jesus Christ, which he brought about by his obedience, and which becomes ours when we believe; it is not a demand of God on us, but a gift of God to us.
As it is a righteousness of faith only, and has no existence in us apart from faith; as it depends entirely on faith, and not on works, and belongs to the dispensation of faith, not the dispensation of the law, — therefore the apostle calls it “the righteousness of God from faith.” Then again, it is a righteousness “to faith.” For it is a gift to faith; to them that believe through the light and instruction of the gospel. The word creates faith in the heart, the faith which receives Christ and his righteousness, and by which man is justified and enabled to stand before God. Luther relates that he had gone through a long struggle in order to become righteous; he had fasted and prayed and almost destroyed his own life in hopes of finding peace; but it was all in vain. Then the Spirit of God taught him the meaning of this passage: “The just shall live by faith;” and he felt the pulsation of a new life in his heart. Then he understood that the righteousness which is valid before God is a gift of the grace of God in Christ, and is imputed freely to all poor sinners who believe, and that hence it is wholly and solely “from faith to faith.” “Then I at once felt that I had been born again, and had found an open door to paradise; and I now took an entirely new view of the precious word of God. While I had, in fact, hated the term ‘God’s righteousness,’ it now became the greatest pride and joy and comfort of my heart; and to me this passage from Saint Paul became in very truth the gate to paradise.” Luther is, to be sure, beyond question the greatest man who has trod the scene of history since the days of the apostles; but he is, of course, regarded as the merest tyro by the wise men of our times!
Help us, O God, to know sin and righteousness, death and life. Give us true faith, that we may never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Amen.
Thou sacred ardor, comfort sweet,
Help us to wait with ready feet
And willing heart at thy command,
Nor trial fright us from thy band.
Lord, may thy power prepare each heart,
To our weak nature strength impart,
That as good warriors we may force,
Thro’ life and death, to thee our course!