October 31 is Reformation Day commemorating the day in 1517 when Martin Luther tacked up his ’95 Theses’ on the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. In this document was strong denunciation of the sale of indulgences purported to release people from the penalties of sin. This activity was nothing more than a greedy guise for gain on the part of the corrupt church at that time. The love of money produces all sorts of evil even in ecclesiastical environments.
Luther took a stand on the principle of justification by faith (Romans 1:17) alone. All the money, indulgences, works, adherence to the law or religious piety in the world could not provide salvation for even one soul. We are made whole by believing in God’s finished work in Christ. Luther wrote: “Sin is not canceled by lawful living, for no person is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair. Much less is sin taken away by man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person seeks credit for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God. In actual living, however, it is not so easy to persuade oneself that by grace alone, in opposition to every other means, we obtain the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God.” (Commentary on Galatians)
Romans 7:4-6 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
There is such freedom as we walk in the newness of life God has provided. We live ‘exceedingly abundant’ as Ephesians 3:20 relates and we become a breath of fresh air to others when they see our excitement and confidence in knowing the one true God.
In working my way through the book of Romans, I am amazed at the depth of the wholeness given to us in this age of grace. Romans is the foundational book of the New Testament. Essentially it is the “bottom line” of basic believing. Ephesians springs off of this bedrock. It is the humility required to walk the ‘walking worthy’ in Ephesian 4:1-3 and the understanding of how God has rescued us (quickened us) as recorded in Ephesians 2:1-5.
There are some very key words repeated over and over again in Romans. Faith/believing occurs 59 times times. Sin appears 47 times. Righteousness/righteous appears 43 times. Justify, justification, judicial sentence is used 22 times.
There is much discussion about justification and righteousness as these words come from the same root in Greek. They are intertwined and in the religious world come loaded with weighty definitions. In regards to the Old Testament Hebrew here’s a quote from Canon R.B. Gladstone in his Synonyms of the Old Testament (quoted in Charles Welch’s The Just and the Justifier):
“It is unfortunate that the English language should have grafted the Latin word justice, which is used in somewhat of a forensic sense, into a vocabulary which was already possessed of the good word righteousness, as it tends to create a distinction which has no existence in Scripture…. No distinction between the claims of justice and the claims of love is recognized in scripture…. We have no one word which can convey the idea of righteousness, and that of justification, as they are set forth in Scripture…. We see the wisdom of God in selecting Hebrew as the means of communication with His creatures, because here the ideas of righteousness, justification, and acquittal all cluster round one verbal root, and are seen to be parts of the whole.”
All these words form the inner and outer structure of Romans. In the outer structure the major theme is justification by believing and righteousness (Romans 1:1 -5:11, 9:1- 16:24). Jew, Gentile, Abraham and David are mentioned in these outer sections. The creamy caramel inner core of Romans is about the first Adam and the second Adam, Jesus Christ (5:12-8:39, 16:25-27) and the result of ‘Sin” (It means the root of sin as being alienated from God. It is used 41 times). ‘Sin’ is used 6 times in the outer sections.