After meditating on Romans 1:17, Luther wrote this:

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words … I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. … Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.

Hallelujah! This verse wasn’t talking about the fact that God is righteousness.

It was talking about the good news that there is a way for sinful man to be made righteous.

Yes God is righteous – but Paul tells us that the most awesome news ever uttered is that God gifts His righteousness to sinners – through Jesus.

Luther studied this word righteousness and found that its use was not just in a moral sense but even more so in a legal sense. Because of Jesus’ death – God can declare us righteous – holy – just.

A paraphrase of this verse might read like this, “In the Gospel, the fact that man can be declared righteous before God is revealed.”

And at this – the Reformation was born.

Luther pondered long on this and realised at the heart of this is what he termed the “joyous exchange.”

Christ who is holy and without sin – works a great exchange – he takes our sin and our shame – and as a free gift to those who have faith – He gifts His righteousness and holiness.

2 Corinthians 5:21:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

So when we come before God – we are literally clothed with the righteousness of Jesus.

Luther was also stunned to find that this was actually the way Christians had long understood this verse – it is just that it had been lost in the time of darkness. He wrote this:

Later I read Augustine’s The Spirit and the Letter, where contrary to hope I found that he, too, interpreted God’s righteousness in a similar way, as the righteousness with which God clothes us when He justifies us.

Luther realised that we should have no fear because it is not our works we rely on but Christ’s.

Clothed in Christ’s righteousness no attack of the enemy can prevail for His righteousness is perfect.

The assurance of our salvation does not rest on anything Luther did, you have done, I have done – it rests entirely upon the work of Jesus. And since He lived a perfect life and died under the wrath of God and cried – It is finished – our salvation is forever settled, unchangeable, secure.