Romans and the Protestant Reformation
Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome played a pivotal role in the Protestant recovery of the gospel during the Reformation. In a real sense Romans 1:17 caused Martin Luther a agony of his mind and spirit due to a faulty understanding of what Paul meant by the expression, the righteousness of God. The verse reads in the Vulgate “For the justice of God is revealed therein, from faith unto faith, as it is written: The just man liveth by faith.” He focused was on the phrase the righteousness of God which he understood as revealing how righteous God is in his holy Person. An article on Monergism quotes his testimony. The following selection is taken from the Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther's Latin Writings. It was written by Luther in Wittenberg, 1545. This English edition is available in Luther's Works Volume 34, Career of the Reformer IV (St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 1960), p. 336-337. In the first few lines of this selection, Luther writes, "during that year;" the immediate context indicates he is referring to the year of Tetzel's death (July, 1519). This was two years after posting the Ninety-five Thesis.
“For I hated that word "righteousness of God," which, according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they call it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner. Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, "As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!" Thus, I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted. At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, "In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, 'He who through faith is righteous shall live.'" There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scripture from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God. And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word "righteousness of God." Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise.”
Genevan Reformer John Calvin said of the book of Romans: “If we have gained a true understanding of this epistle, we have an open door to all the most profound treasures of Scripture.” (cited by Trent Hunter https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/romans-in-the-shadow-of-the-reformation/) He regard it as Paul’s most comprehensive presentation of theology in the light Jesus incarnation, atonement, resurrection and ascension.
During the months of October- November our thoughts focus once again on this most important event. Accordingly, we have preached and had services focusing on various passages in Romans.
Sermon Text-The Need of the Gospel Romans 3:9-20 “Guilty, Condemned Sinners”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Sermon Text- Romans 3:20-26 The Righteousness of God for Guilty Sinners
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 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.
Sermon Text- Romans 1:16-17 Righteousness from God by Faith”
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” ESV
17 For the righteousness of God is revealed in it from faith to faith, just as it is written, “But the one who is righteous by faith will live.” Lexham English Bible
Sermon Text- Romans 3:21-26; Romans 4:20-25 Gospel Summary in Romans
or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
Sermon Text- Romans 5:1-11 Justification Plus
The Much More of Declared Righteousness
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. v. 9 ESV
Sermon Text- Romans 5:12-21 Through One Man
Key verses-17 For if by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through the one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.