“It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Rom 3:26
Today marks a very special anniversary. Reformation Day is a day often eclipsed by Halloween since they both fall on the same day. It marks the day in 1517, when a 33-year-old German monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed his now famous ninety-five thesis to the castle door in Wittenberg, Germany. It is a date popularly understood as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
The Reformation marked a rediscovery of the important biblical truths. The greatest of those, especially in Luther’s life, was that a man is made right with God, not by what he does, but by what Jesus alone did on his behalf. This amazing verse celebrates the wisdom of God in making a way to save sinners like us, while at the same time being true to his own character as a just God who sees that no sin goes unpunished.
The Bible is unyielding in displaying the passion God has for justice and righteousness. The Psalmist says, “ The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.”
So how does God so zealous for justice allow sinners to go free? It is certainly not by sweeping sin ‘under the rug’. Nor is God satisfied with a life well-lived. Indeed, the verses just before this shows that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, justly deserving of God’s wrath. This is why Luther knew that no matter how good he tried to be, he could never satisfy such a holy God by himself. There had to be another way.
While studying Romans Luther discovered that God, out of his amazing love and mercy, made Jesus guilty for what sinners did. Paul says that believers “. . . are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (vss 24-25) That simply means Jesus’ death fulfilled the demands of justice and removed God’s wrath against us. He says elsewhere that “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us...”. (Gal 3:13)
But lastly, notice the condition Paul highlights. Justification (declared righteous by God) is given as a free and permanent gift to him “who has faith in Jesus”. While it cost God everything in securing this salvation, yet for us it is absolutely free! Faith alone is God’s condition for salvation. Could you ask for better terms?
Luther’s soul, tortured by the necessity of trying to earn his salvation, was set free by the free grace of God given in Christ. For him it was the end of the matter!
Friend, if you haven’t believed in Christ in this way before then Reformation Day is a good day to start.