19Now 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. 20For "no human being will be justified in his sight" by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
21But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
27Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
For me, today’s passage from Romans is the cornerstone of the teachings of Martin Luther. Grace through faith alone is such a wonderful gift.
Although I grew up going to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Manlius, Illinois, my family did not go to church often enough for me to understand core Lutheran concepts. In high school, I had ample opportunities at my friend's church to be baptized. I had no idea if I had been baptized as a baby, and I thought I had to work to that point of "being ready."
It was not until college that I grew very deeply into my relationship with our Lord. By teaching the confirmation students, I finally began to understand grace in a way that I never did before. I started to understand that I didn't have to work for God's favor as I had been trying to do and was failing at, of course.
During my sophomore year of college, my pastor asked if I had been baptized, so I told her I wasn't sure. She told me if I was willing to be baptized, she would be glad to do it. Because of my mixed background on understandings of grace, I held off for a while.
One morning in the summer, I had a strange feeling that I needed to be baptized. I remember thinking God was just waiting for me to receive His gift. It felt silly to be waiting. I think I finally understood that grace is for all of us, and it wasn't up to me to decide that I was ready or that I had earned it. God had simply been waiting for me to say "YES!"
The rest is history. This was the greatest step in my faith because I could finally understand that my relationship with God is never broken, no matter how poor I may think my decisions are and no matter how others see me. I am finally free.
Dear God, thank you for your abounding gift of grace. Thank you for breaking our chains that bind us to this world. We are so grateful, and I pray that we will glorify you for this gift forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Written by Sam Neahring
Director of Children and Family Ministries