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… But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. 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… (Romans 1:16; 3:21-24)
As the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Rome, he goes to great lengths to make clear the center of the Christian hope and faith. His proclamation is rooted not in your ability or self-worth, but in the actions of your Lord alone. It is what Christ has done and not what you have done that makes all the difference.
See, the law of God is about what you do; both what you ought to do and ought not do. It is what works in our world to curb bad behavior or encourage good behavior. It is the bases of our system of government and it is how we manage to get along with others. It is alive and well in our families, it is part of our parenting structure, and it helps establish our expectations as we engage with the world around us. It is how we understand what is fair and just and right. Our lives are steeped in the law, saturated in it, whether we acknowledge it or not.
And it is precisely because the law is so good, so powerful, so embedded in our lives that we quickly turn to it in our time of need. When we desire to correct or guide a wayward child, we turn to the law for both punishment and reward. When we see the deplorable state of society, we look to the law to fix it. This is true in a Christian society as well as one like ancient Rome. And so, it is only natural that when we seek justification before our God, when we strive to be sure of eternal life, why we always gravitate toward the law.
However, though the law of God is good, though it is faithful and true, it does not give the power to do what it says. It can command you to fear, love, and trust in God above all things but cannot enable you to do it. The law then is not your ladder to climb toward assurance. It is not the means of hope and confidence before God. Rather the law is the constant reminder that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
So, what St. Paul proclaims to the church in Rome is the true source of hope for you. Hope that has been made manifest apart from the law. Hope that rests in the works of Christ alone. His life, death, and resurrection are the first and final confidence of your salvation. In Christ you are justified by grace as a gift. A gift freely given so that you might not wonder or imagine salvation but know that you are saved.
This day, here and now, you are an heir of eternal life!