When I was a budding artist, my favorite medium was pen and ink. I loved what the contrast between black and white would do in telling a story on paper. God does this with the story of redemption. The glory of salvation is contrasted with the Stygian blackness of sin.
Paul takes his pen to parchment and draws such a picture in the first three chapters of Romans. The stark contrast begins in chapter one, verses seventeen and eighteen:
“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (NKJV).
Both verses begin with “for” that links them together. In one you have the act of God imparting righteousness in response to faith and in the next verse the act of God imparting wrath in response to sin. The contrast is between good news and bad news—between justification and condemnation.
And the news gets really bad! This is but the opening salvo in a barrage of bad news which will conclude that all humanity is totally depraved, utterly hopeless and helpless to bring about its own salvation, and rightfully condemned to hell for eternity. It doesn’t get any worse than that!
But in that fact is the one sure hope—how God brings light into darkness. This is God’s way—from the creation to the consummation, the story from Genesis to Revelation. In the first creation, “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep…Then God said, ‘Let there be light’” (Gen.1:2-3). Following earth’s darkest era—the time of the Great Tribulation—the light of Christ’s glorious appearing will break through and there will be new heavens and a new earth in the new creation.
The pivot point happened on the darkest day of all—when the Son of God was nailed to a cross and it was midnight in the middle of the day. Isaac Watts’ hymn, “At the Cross” says it this way,
“Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut His glories in,
When Christ the mighty Maker died
For man, the creature’s sin.”
But, it only paved the way for the glorious dawn of resurrection! What a contrast between the rugged cross and the empty tomb—between the agony of Friday and the glory of Sunday!
Is the world of wicked men under the just condemnation of God? His wrath abides upon them. But that is why God sent His Son. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned” (quoted in Matt.4:16).
The bad news is that my heart—your heart—is black as black can be. The good news is that today the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, can dawn in your heart and dispel the demonic darkness. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Eph.5:8)