“There is no one righteous, not even one.”
I cringe every time I read these words from Scripture, first laid out for us in the Psalms (Psalm 14:1-3), and then connected to our everyday life after Jesus’ death and resurrection in Romans. (Romans 3:10-26) It’s easy for me to see the evil happening around me and the devastation sin has left in its wake, but the pain truly comes when I realize I, too, have contributed to the devastation.
There is no one righteous.
Before Jesus walked this earth, people had been working to atone for their sins through the ritual of sacrifice laid out for them by God. An animal without defect could be offered as a sacrifice in the place of a human life.
Think about what a gift this was! Humans, who cause evil devastation and deserve the punishment and wrath of God, could offer an animal as payment for their sins! Already, God was working to save His people and show them He desired their salvation!
But the animal offerings could not last forever. They were required over and over again, with a high priest interceding on their behalf to God. Even this high priest, also being human, must cleanse himself with the blood of an animal sacrifice before pleading to God on behalf of the people.
No one could ever be permanently rid of their sin.
We cannot do the work ourselves.
Our striving and reaching will never attain the glory for which we search.
This system was never meant to last.
God had a better plan to do away with sin and death once and for all.
The son of God himself, fully God.
Born of a virgin, fully human.
Leaving His throne in Heaven, Jesus came to walk the earth with sinners so He could be our final intercessor, our One True High Priest.
To be the perfect High Priest, and the perfect sacrificial lamb, it was essential for Christ to be completely blameless and entirely without sin. His responses to sinners and His lessons and parables all show us how to live as believers while His suffering allows Him to empathize with our weaknesses.
But all else culminates in His precious, innocent, blameless life making Him the perfect final sacrifice for our sins.
No one was righteous, not even one.
Just as the blood of the animals was required for the atonement of human sin, so was the blood of Jesus. Only the blood of Jesus could be the ultimate payment for the sin of the world, once and for all. One perfect human life in exchange for all depraved human lives, for all time, so we can live at peace with God. (Hebrews 10:12)
What makes this sacrifice final was evidenced three days later.
Three days after the blood of Jesus was shed, out of a borrowed tomb, Jesus rose in victory over the punishment we deserved for our sin, death itself. (Matthew 28:1-7) Because of His resurrection, death no longer has power over life. Not only is our sin washed away, but death, the punishment for sin, has been abolished in the name of Jesus! (1Corinthians 15:54-57)
Those who trust in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus alone now have an eternal perspective on earth. We walk the same earth, with the same power that raised Jesus from the grave living within us, as witnesses to what only Jesus can do.
Martin Luther desperately wanted people to know this “Jesus only” salvation. Living under the shadow of a corrupt, politically-charged catholic church, he saw people being led to believe their salvation was their responsibility.
In the early 1500s, when masses were illiterate and uneducated, and when Scripture wasn’t available in the local language, many were led astray by church leaders who taught their salvation was dependent on them. If they said the right prayer, or attended mass enough times, or used their hard-earned wages to buy their way, they could get to heaven.
As Luther began diving deeper into Scripture, he realized all of the legalistic burdens the Catholic church heaped on their followers were getting in the way of the finished work done by, through, and in one man, Jesus.
Instead of gaining their salvation, all of their striving was diluting the work of the Gospel.
If we can just repeat the right words, why do we need Jesus?
If we only needed to go to church and be a good person, why do we need Jesus?
If our money can buy our salvation, why do we need Jesus?
Because, of course, empty repetition of the “right” words does not produce or indicate a transformed heart.
Because we can’t be good people.
Because all the money in the world cannot buy forgiveness.
At the end of the day, when our deeds fail us, and our money runs out, we need Jesus. Only Jesus!
the only High Priest interceding on our behalf,
the only payment for our debt,
the only sacrifice for our sins,
the only atonement for our transgressions.
Just Jesus. Only Jesus.
Sola Day 10
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