And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6
We must recognize that God’s promises and commands are distinctly different. God’s promises require faith. God’s commands demand action. God’s promises are absolute and will certainly happen because God himself carries them out. On the other hand, his commands are never fully obeyed. People don’t live up to God’s standards because they are pathetic sinners. Fortunately, our righteousness doesn’t depend on our efforts to obey his commands. We can never live up to God’s standards. Instead, our righteousness depends on his promise, which is firmly established and cannot be changed. The promise will certainly happen when we believe it. Therefore, it’s undeniably true that faith alone justifies because faith alone accepts the promise.
Our own efforts to obey God’s commands don’t earn us God’s approval. Still, we must teach God’s commands and try to obey them in order to become aware of how desperate our situation is. We need to realize just how much we need God’s mercy and goodwill. We didn’t make this theology up, and it didn’t grow inside our heads, as our opponents keep yelling and screaming. Paul teaches it by quoting Moses, who says that Abraham believed God and that God credited it to him as righteousness. In other words, Abraham was justified because he believed the promise.
All of God’s promises are based on Christ. If we didn’t have Christ as our mediator, God would have nothing to do with us. There’s only one difference between Abraham’s faith and ours. Abraham believed in the promised Christ who was still to come. We believe in the Christ who has already come. We all are saved because of this same faith.
The Ninety-Five Theses is a text that everyone knows, most refer to, but few actually read, writes Stephen Nichols. Nevertheless, it is such a crucial text that it deserves to be read widely. Toward that end, Nichols has prepared this edition with an illuminating introduction, explanatory notes, and several illustrations. Martin Luther has left a legacy that continues to enrich the church through his writings. . ., writes Nichols. All of this may be traced back to the last day in October 1517 and the nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses to the church door.