For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." —Romans 1:17
It is one thing for us to believe it once and be electrified and be thrilled, to have our world turned upside down, but quite another to keep believing it. The devil will come alongside and tell you that it can't be true, and he appeals to our natural reasoning. He appeals to what we know to be true about ourselves, that we are sinners. If he can, he will bring us right back to our bondage.
It was Martin Luther who rediscovered the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith. Luther was a very conscientious person. He had a sensitive conscience and was known to go to confession not only every day but sometimes two or three times a day, because after spending an hour confessing his sins, he would come back an hour or two later remembering there was a sin he didn't confess.
But during these days he was also reading Romans, as well as Galatians and certain of the Psalms. Here he had a breakthrough, largely from Romans 1:17. When Luther saw that what Paul was saying was that faith alone pleases God, and it satisfies, to use Luther's term, "the passive justice of God," his world was changed. He, in fact, woke up the world by his own world being turned upside down. He did not know that he would turn the world upside down by simply trying to save his own soul. The interesting thing is that Paul too rediscovered this teaching. Paul realized that Abraham saw it long before, and David saw it.
The principal thing that we are to see is that we are justified by the combination of two things: what Jesus did for us and our own faith in Him. Or, to put it another way: His faith and our faith. These two things must come together.
Excerpted from The God of the Bible (Authentic Media, 2002).