Where? Germany – the land of Noah’s son, Japheth. Who? Martin Luther, a part of Japheth genealogical heritage. Why? God promised that Japheth would dwell in the tent of Shem (Gen. 9:27). It should be no surprise that the gospel of God’s magnificent grace was publicly and powerfully rediscovered by this struggling Catholic monk, and its light pierced the darkness of Satan’s domain once again. God guides His Word (Isa. 55:10-11). God orchestrated Luther’s spiritual transformation by guiding an edition of Erasmus’ Greek translation of the New Testament into his hands. Let’s connect the dots.
Erasmus finished his translation in 1516. It came into Luther’s hands shortly after. The words that forever changed his life were from the apostle Paul: “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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith’” (Rom. 1:16-17). Luther’s eyes must have carefully weighed the words that the gospel is the dynamite of God for salvation to everyone who believes. His eyes then followed the reason that the gospel brings salvation. Because “in it” (the gospel), is the righteousness of God revealed. Ah, righteousness! Dikaiosune” (pronounced dik-ai-o-soo-nay)! That rang Luther’s bell. He may have been familiar with the word. It was used both in the Greek and Roman court systems.
“Dikaiosune” eventually came to mean “adjustment to the standard of the law.” When a law was broken, the one convicted of the crime had to be adjusted to the standard imposed by the law. This adjustment was to be made by meeting whatever requirement the law demanded. If the law required a fine, the fine had to be paid. If the law demanded death as the just settlement, then death it was. We would call this “justice.” When the penalty was paid, justice was satisfied. This is precisely what the word means. However, the justice that Paul had in mind had nothing whatsoever to do with man’s legal system. The word used in the Bible means “adjustment to God’s standard.” The gospel made known God’s adjustment to His own righteous standard. God’s righteousness and justice had both been forever satisfied by Jesus Christ on the cross. The single word dikaiosune makes this truth clear.
In order for God to be true to His word, all who have sinned must die – be spiritually separated from God forever. Why? The God of the Bible is the author of righteousness (1 Jn. 1:5). God is also absolutely just (Deut. 32:4). Because God is totally just, He must always adjust that which is not right back to His righteous standard.Why? God must be true to Himself. He cannot compromise who He is. Someone said, “God’s required righteousness is that righteousness which His righteousness requires Him to require.” This is why all sinners must die! God cannot allow one into His presence without the penalty being paid. In order to reveal the riches of His glory and motivated by an indescribable love, God elected to pay man’s sin debt of death. But God is eternal life and could not die (Psa. 90:2). In order to die, God became a man. He bypassed Adam’s sin by coming into this world through a virgin. In all His life, Jesus Christ never sinned. He then died – the just for the unjust; the righteous for the unrighteous. The death of God’s perfect Son paid in full God’s demand for righteousness.
God’s demand of death for sin was adjusted to in Christ. God’s righteousness and His justice came together in perfect harmony in Christ. This is all said clearly with one word: Dikaiosune! It is this “righteousness” that the gospel makes known. This the truth that Luther saw. When we believe in Christ, we are immediately placed into union with Him – that which human eyes never see. The payment for sin is death, but it makes all the difference in the world where we die. We die in Him. Halleluiah!
Paul said that he was crucified with Christ, nevertheless he lived (Gal. 2:20a). God credits us the immeasurable benefits of His death the moment we are placed “into Christ.” God forever adjusts us to His absolute righteousness “in Christ.” “And being found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness (dikaiosune) which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:9). God does not make us right; He declares us to be right “in Christ.”
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness (dikaiosune) of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). We are declared forever right (righteous) before God the moment that we believe in Him. Can God remain just and at the same time be gracious to those who are in His Son? Yes! In Christ we are justified before God.
This justification comes to all who believe in Him. “Being justified freely (as a gift) by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). This is why the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. This is what Luther saw! The just (those who have been adjusted to God’s righteousness by faith in Christ) shall live (Rom. 1:17). History says that when this truth hit his mind, God removed his blindness and he stood up. He put his mop away and began to preach the gospel of God’s magnificent grace. This ultimately led to Martin Luther nailing of his famous 95 thesis on the door at Wittenberg which started the Reformation of 1517. This reformation literally changed the world. Why must we believe in Christ? “God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness (dikaiosune) through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Where do you stand? Blessings!