“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:22-25 ESV).
The above text was crucial for Martin Luther coming to understand the gospel, coming to true faith in Christ, and becoming a reformer. Romans 1:16-17 speaks of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, and it says that only the righteous will live… And when Luther read that he trembled. He understood that text to say—and the Catholic Church taught—that we have to achieve a level of righteousness that is up to par with God if we hope to not perish and have eternal life. But, Romans 1 and Romans 3 together began to open Luther’s eyes to the righteousness of Christ that is received, not achieved, and that changed everything.
You see, the Catholic Church believes in the necessity of the person and work of Jesus, just not the sufficiency of it. They absolutely believe that Jesus lived, died, and rose again to save His people; but, they simply believe that salvation requires more than just the person and work of Jesus. Essentially, they believe that Jesus cleans your slate, but then you must work to maintain a clean slate, and do penance and the like to balance out your failures. But that view overestimates our goodness and ability, and underestimates Christ. That view fails to realize that every sin that we commit, no matter how small it may seem, is an infinitely horrific and damnable offense, because we have sinned against an infinitely good, holy, and glorious God. There is nothing we can do to make up for this…
But Christ is the infinitely good, holy, and glorious God in the flesh. He can and He has lived, died, and rose again to not only pay for our sins—taking the punishment we deserve upon Himself in our place—but He also provided a perfect, holy, and good righteousness for all who will receive it by faith. It is in Christ alone that we find salvation. And that is another glorious doctrine of the Reformation: Solus Christus (Christ alone). For He is our only hope of salvation, because, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). He doesn’t just clean our slate, but He gives us His… Praise God for Solus Christus, our only hope!!!
I am nothing; Christ is all!