In his commentary on the book of Romans, James Boice makes the following observation on Romans 1:16-17:
In the sixteenth and seventeenth verses of Romans 1, we come to sentences that are most important in the letter and perhaps in all literature. They are the theme of this epistle and the essence of Christianity. They are the heart of biblical religion. (Romans Vol.1, p.103)
What are these sentences that are the most important in the book of Romans (arguably the most important book of the Bible) and perhaps all of literature?
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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17 ESV)
Why are these simple sentences in the opening chapter of Romans so vitally important? Boice explains:
The reason this is so is that they tell how a man or woman may become right with God. (ibid)
Could there be anything more important (or relevant) than that?
That is why the gospel is the theme of Romans.
That is why the gospel is the essence of Christianity.
That is why the gospel is the heart of biblical religion.
We are all in desperate need of righteousness – perfect righteousness – but on our own we are anything but righteous. And it is only through faith in Christ Jesus as he is offered to us in the gospel that God imputes or accounts to us the perfect, spotless righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.
Not only are our sins fully and forever forgiven because of the death of Jesus Christ in our place, but His perfect righteousness is also accounted to us by faith! We don’t just have a clean slate – we have a perfectly righteous slate – the slate of Jesus Christ himself! (No wonder they call it the good news!)
That is why God can accept sinful men and women like us as righteous in His sight, “only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.33). God Himself provides us with the very righteousness that He requires of us!
Are you trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation? If so, you can know that even though you are a sinner who deserves the wrath of a holy God, you are fully and forever accepted by God on the merits of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, accounted to you by faith. What could be more important than that!