new life fellowship

serving jesus christ the king

April's Verse

500 years ago Europe was shrouded in the darkness of religious superstition and fear. Then suddenly it was as if the curtains were flung back and the sunshine flooded in. What happened? One man rediscovered a truth that had been known for centuries, but had become obscured.

His name was Martin Luther. He was a deeply religious man, joining a monastic order, not so much to study, but to save his soul. He reckoned that if there was anywhere you could find salvation it was there. He was immensely diligent—he wearied his confessors with confessions lasting several hours, going into every nook and cranny of his soul.

He was a man acutely aware of the awesome purity of God’s holiness, and of his own sinfulness. He was terrified of God, especially of a righteous God. One passage in the Bible particularly puzzled him. Psalm 31:1 reads “Deliver me in your righteousness” and Luther wondered, “What does the writer mean ‘in your righteousness’, surely he means ‘from your righteousness’?” For Luther the righteousness of God was something to flee from. He spent his days trying to be righteous enough for a perfectly righteous God to be happy with him. He pored over the details of God’s law, seeking to keep it, failing, and despairing.

Then light began to dawn; he was lecturing on Romans 1:17 which speaks of a righteousness from God being revealed in the gospel, a righteousness that isn’t earned or achieved, but is by faith. And what he once saw only as a demand by God, he saw was also a gift from God. He saw that what God demands he also supplies. And in a moment he writes, “I felt myself to have been reborn, to have gone through open doors into paradise. Before the phrase ‘the righteousness of God’ filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet.”

This right standing before God is grasped, not by effort or obedience, but by trusting in what Jesus has done. And that brings us to this month’s verse:

“If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.” (Galatians 2:21)

It comes at the same lesson Luther learned from another angle. If we could be right with God through being conscientious moral people, what on earth was Jesus doing on the Cross? No, the Bible teaches that he died to provide what no amount of law keeping could give. He died to take the place of people who had no standing with God, so that he could offer us the gift of his right standing with God.