Like many of his countrymen, Paul thought he was in good spiritual standing. But then he saw Jesus as
the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me (Gal. 2:20, NASB). Suddenly he saw himself not saved, but lost; not God’s servant, but God’s enemy; not righteous, but the chief of sinners. The scales fell from his eyes, in other words, in his reading of the Old Testament. God’s revelation, to him personally and through the Scriptures, transformed his heart and changed his life forever. We will not understand Paul’s epistles until we recognize these basic facts, which produced them.
The meaning of the old covenant becomes clear only
when one turns to the Lord (vs. 16, ESV). Jesus is the way to salvation. It all begins and ends in Him. Israel-by trusting in their own obedience, as Paul did before his conversion-experienced the old covenant as a minister of death. Why? Because
all have sinned(Rom. 3:23), including the people of Israel, and so the commandments could only condemn them (2 Cor. 3:7). By contrast, believers in Corinth were
a letter of Christ . . . written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (vs. 3, NASB).
The gospel is the power of God to save all who believe. Righteousness is based not on what we do but on what Christ has done for us, which we claim by faith. It is a belief that grows
from faith to faith (Rom. 1:17). What Paul means by this is unpacked in the rest of Romans, the heart of which is found at the end of chapter 3. Through Christ we have redemption (God has bought us back by paying for our sins), justification(we are cleared of guilt and cleansed by grace), and forgiveness (God accepts us back and
forgets our past sins). Amazingly, God, through the sacrifice of Christ, proves Himself to be just in justifying the ungodly who have put their faith in Jesus.