The Reformation Study Bible is an excellent resource that provides numerous comments on the biblical text, but also includes articles on theology and some of the historic creeds and confessions of the church. In this article, we want to highlight the faith that sparked the Reformation, and we’ll do so by looking at Romans 1:16–17.

Righteousness Through Faith

16 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.”

Romans 1:16–17

Martin Luther’s great breakthrough came in his diligent study of Paul’s letter to the Romans, specifically 1:16–17. As he beat importunately at the text, he discovered the solution to his long-sought dilemma. He discovered that he could be right with God through faith. God would consider him righteous on the basis of Christ’s righteousness when he believed the gospel. Let’s look at these two verses with some assistance from the Reformation Study Bible.

The Gospel

Paul’s opening statement makes his focus clear. He is talking about the gospel and how he does not cower from proclaiming the good news. The gospel doesn’t make him blush, nor does it cause him embarrassment. He has already described the gospel in the first few verses of the letter. He is “set apart for the gospel of God” (1:1). And this gospel has to do with the promises of God about his Son that were written in the Scriptures (1:2). His Son is the promised Son of David and Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who died and was raised up by the Spirit of God (1:3–4). Jesus is now the ruler of the nations and has commissioned his servants, the apostles, to preach the gospel to all people (1:5–6).

This is the gospel through which the Romans believe in Christ and through which Paul serves as an apostle (1:8–9). His burning desire is to reap a fruitful harvest among the nations, even among those in Rome (1:13–14). Paul eagerly desires to preach the gospel in the capital of the world (1:15).

“Although the gospel is folly to the cultured and the cross appears weak in contrast to Rome’s power, Paul sees his message as divine wisdom and power (1 Cor. 1:22–25, 30).”

Reformation Study Bible

The Power of God

It is no wonder then why Paul states so clearly that he does not shrink back from this message. There is another reason though that goes beyond his calling as an apostle and slave of Christ. This message is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”

The gospel is not an impotent message. It actually has the power to save anyone who hears it in faith. This is what makes Paul so eager and bold. He wants to carry out his responsibilities to the risen Christ, but he also knows Christ will save many through his preaching.

“The life-giving, life-transforming impact of the gospel message through the Holy Spirit is essential because of humanity’s bondage to sin and Satan; its culpability before God’s justice (1:18–3:20); and its utter spiritual inability on account of sin (5:6; 8:5-9; cf. Eph. 2:1–3).”

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The Righteousness of God Revealed

How is it that the gospel can save? Why can we consider it the power of God? Paul provides the answer to that question in 1:17. God saves through the gospel as he demonstrates his righteousness by saving those who believe. He does this in two ways. He accepts Christ’s righteousness and credits that to those who believe, and he upholds his righteousness by accepting nothing less than the perfect righteousness of his Son.

“This is a key phrase in Romans (3:21; 5:19; 10:3), regularly explained in the letter as “righteousness . . . through (or of) faith” (3:22; cf. 9:30; 10:6). It refers to the righteousness of Christ that is reckoned, accounted, or imputed to the one who believes. This imputation of righteousness to sinners who believe is fully consistent with the personal righteousness of God (cf. 3:25, 26). As a just and righteous judge (2:5–16), God on the merit of the obedience and death of His Son alone justifies, or declares righteous, sinners through true faith in Christ and not through anything that they have done, are doing, or will do (3:21–26; 5:10). Luther’s reading of this verse had a decisive impact on his understanding of justification.”

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The Faith of the Righteous

The final clause of these two verses is a quotation from Habakkuk 2:4. Essential to Paul’s argument is the fact that God has always worked this way, even with those who lived and died before Christ came in the flesh (1:3). They were justified by faith just as “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). This is a strong argument against any who would argue that justification is by circumcision or works of the law. Salvation is entirely a work of God from beginning to end.

“The righteousness of justification is received exclusively through faith, not works, so it comes to all those with faith, whatever their race. Hab. 2:4 provides the biblical basis for and the summary of what follows, indicating that the way of justification by faith alone was already known in the OT. The whole of the Christian life, from beginning to end, is lived in trust and dependence on the God who graciously justifies the sinner.”

Reformation Study Bible

Discover More Sound Truths with the Reformation Study Bible

This resource will prove to ground you in the Scriptures as you seek to live out the truths of your faith. The Reformation Study Bible is purchasable with the ESV translation or the NKJV translation. Check out the links to these two options below.

1 Comment

  1. Just being a simple person reading the KJV Bible I get to understand that:

    1 -Jesus died for our sins on the cross and his resurrection gives us a new life.
    2- We are saved by our faith in God and we expressed our faith by:
    Attending Church every Sunday,
    Not working on Sunday,
    Read the Bible every day,
    Pray earnestly to God every day for the salvation of sinners, for the wellbeing of all people, pray for all souls t to be saved etc.
    Confess to God our wrongs and sins every day and seek his forgiveness.
    Live a righteous life by being honest, sincere, kind, compassionate, humble and patience and shower love on others, never quarrel – just walk away from unreasonable behavior etc.
    Do good deeds and acts selflessly. Be charitable and generous.

    These are what I am doing every day although I still missed some Sunday Mass, and I asked God to forgive me even though I attended Mass online almost every day. Thank you for reading my post – MC

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