Saturday of the Week of Lent III
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine…For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” (Romans 1:8-12, 16-17)
Additional Daily Bible Readings: Genesis 49:29–50:26; Psalm 65; Romans 1:1–17
Weekly Reading: http://bit.ly/2B8e5CY
We have now concluded our reading from the Gospel of Matthew and turn to St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. There is no more appropriate book for the season of Lent as we draw nearer to Holy Week and Easter, as our passage today includes that verse which set Martin Luther free: “He who through faith is righteous shall live.”
Before God revealed to Luther the good news of salvation, Luther wrestled with the need to do good works to please God. He didn’t understand the phrase, “the righteousness of God.” He didn’t know God as loving and righteous, but as cruel and harsh. If God demanded his children to be righteous (good, “lined up,” in accordance with God’s divine will) who could ever hope to be saved? The righteousness God expected was unattainable! When studying Romans 1:17, God finally revealed to Luther that the righteousness he [God] expected was now to be given to his children by faith, as a gift. It was not earned or deserved. Indeed, it could not be earned or deserved. He who has faith in Jesus is declared righteous! This was miraculously freeing for Luther and, in his pastoral love, Luther wanted to share this good news with his congregation and with all Christians who lived burdened by the Law, thinking they needed to make themselves righteous through their own efforts and obedience.
This is especially meaningful during Lent, when many continue to think their Lenten observance or discipline will increase their standing and find favor with God. Even Lutherans who should know better persist in a “works-righteousness,” believing that in order to save yourself, you must prove yourself good, pure, worthy and righteous before God. We need the Reformation, still today, to set people free by faith in the saving death and resurrection of Jesus. We need for the gospel to be proclaimed, as it is the power of God for salvation! We need to be passionate about sharing the good news that all people will come to know they are saved by grace through faith in Jesus!
Prayer: Lord God, give us courage to proclaim the good news that the one who, through faith, is righteous, shall live! In Jesus, Amen.
Lenten Response: Write this verse on a notecard to give to others: “He who through faith is righteous shall live!” (Romans 1:17)
Video Devotional: From Ashes to Easter
Today’s devotion was written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.