Paul states his central theme of Romans and of the Gospel itself in Romans 1:17, “This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (NLT) There it is, the simple truth that gets rejected, neglected, and modified to the point of no recognition. Our salvation comes out of faith and nothing else. It isn’t by doing, saying, or being anything that provides eternal life. It is by faith in Christ from start to finish that saves us. Yet we want more! Why?!?
The simple truth is too… I don’t know… easy, hard, foreign? We (meaning mankind) seem to want to think that our salvation is totally dependent upon how good we are. “I am a good person, I will go to heaven” is the phrase we often hear. If I get enough brownie points, good ol’ Saint Peter will let me in. The world’s religions are all based on what we have to do to be saved. They are all based on the basic premise that we are capable of saving ourselves. But the Gospel is dramatically different, a message that isn’t easy to hear.
The Good News starts with the bad news, we are sinners incapable of doing anything to make ourselves righteous. Paul will discuss this starting in Romans 1:18 – 3:20. This is the part none of us wants to hear. We want to think we are good at heart but really, to use that famous phrase, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” God knows. There is good in us but it has been damaged beyond human repair.
I had a professor in college who often talked about the Imago Dei, the Image of God, which is in us. God created us in His image. It is as if we we were created to be a mirror, that reflects God to others. Sin has shattered that mirror. Although we can still see God reflected in some of the shards, it is a distorted image. It doesn’t reflect the true glory of God. Worse, the mirror shattered now no longer is focused on God. The fragments point in many different ways that reflect many other things that are not God and lead us astray.
We are totally and absolutely incapable of repairing our destroyed selves.
The Good News is God can! He knew that before He ever created us we would fall and provided a way to save us before the world began. He sent His Son to take upon Himself the punishment that He would have to place on us. We simply have to believe in Christ and the Imago Dei begins to be repaired. Even though it will not be completely repaired until the resurrection, Christ stands in our place. Being God, Christ is the perfect reflection of God and the Father accepts us even though we have not yet been made complete.
As such, our righteousness is the righteousness of Christ. We have that righteousness from start to finish by faith in Christ. We have life out of our faith in Christ and our lives are a life of faith. Yes, our faith will result in good works (see James) but it is by faith and faith alone that we are saved.
In whom do you place your faith? Do you truly believe you are capable of saving yourself or do you see that only God can? Have faith. Live in faith. Receive life out of your faith.
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