Romans 3: 19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Paul is addressing a group of Jewish leaders of the church in Rome who teach that Christians (Jews or Gentiles) must continue to follow the law of Moses (the 10 commandments and such). In v.20 Paul explains why he opposes this teaching, for the law doesn’t bring life but “knowledge of sin”. As a result v.24 says we are “justified by his grace as a gift”. This is obviously a very important point in Christian theology. We will never be right with God based on works because sin will always get in the way. Hence our need for a Savior.
What gets my particular attention this morning is v.22 “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (my emphasis). Those last four words are crucial. I find that my friends in more evangelical traditions take this part seriously, placing significant emphasis on verbally sharing the gospel of Jesus and giving people an opportunity to respond in faith. Why? Because eternal life is at stake. What could be more important?
My own Lutheran tradition tends to shrink back from this, referring to such practices as “proselytizing” or some other pejorative term. We see practices of other Christians around evangelism we are not comfortable with, so we de-emphasize a verbal sharing of the gospel altogether. Our cultural roots in northern European Christendom may have also contributed to a weak Lutheran theology and practice of religious conversion. This must change if we are to stay relevant in an increasingly post-Christian world. Lord let it be so. Amen.