Summary: A sermon on Romans 1:17 (Some Material adapted from Dr. Jack Cottrell)


Many years ago in a church in England, a preacher entered the pulpit and said: Brethren, before I preach, allow me to tell this story. Many years have passed since I was in this place. On that evening there came three young men, not only with the intention of scoffing at the minister, but with their pockets filled with stones to throw at the preacher. After a few words, one of them said, “Let us be at him now.” But the second replied, “No, let’s hear how he does.” The minister went on, when the second one said, “We have heard enough; now throw your stones.” But the third stopped them, saying, “He is not so foolish as I thought; let us hear him out.” The minister preached and ended his sermon without being interrupted. “Now listen! One of these three young men was executed a few months ago. The second lies under sentence of death in the city jail for murder. The third,” continued the minister, while the tears ran down his cheeks, “through the grace of God, is the one who is speaking to you now.” Paul could say much the same thing.


A. In our series through Romans focusing on grace through Jesus Christ, we come to two verses in the middle of ch. 1 that summarize what Paul is going to talk about throughout ch. 1-8.

B. Up to vs. 16 Paul has used the word gospel 4 times. One each in vs. 16 and 17.

The word gospel simply means “good news.” So much bad news, good to hear good news.

Last Sunday night we talked about vs. 16- the pride, power, pardon, and the people of gospel

Thesis: Let’s talk about the gospel from vs. 17

For instances:

The righteousness of the gospel

In vs. 16 Paul says the gospel is God’s power unto salvation. Vs. 17 answers the question as to why this is so. The source of the gospel’s saving power is “the righteousness of God.”

What is righteousness? Obedience and submission to a pattern or rule. When applied to us righteousness means conforming to God’s law or satisfying the requirements of God’s law.

What is the righteousness of God? God is the one who gave us a pattern, rules, and Law. To say that God is righteous means that his actions are always true to his nature. Righteousness when applied to God is God’s faithfulness to himself, to his own nature and to His own Word.

God will never act in a way that is contrary to His nature or His Word.

God must be true to His nature, and with this we come up against the idea that we are do not conform to God’s law or satisfy the requirements of God’s Law.

Galatians 3:10: All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

God is a holy God and He will punish sin. Romans 1:18

How can God’s eternal wrath be considered “good news”?

Martin Luther was one who had a great awareness of his sin, and because of this he had a great awareness that God would punish him. When he came upon the phrase, the righteousness of God, in this verse, he had a hard time because it is described as good news.

His life and heart began to change when he understood that this is not talking about the righteousness of God’s nature (which is true), but it is talking about something else. This righteousness is God’s saving gift to sinners.

The righteousness of God here is imputed righteousness. In other words, it is a righteousness established by someone else (Jesus Christ) and set down to our account and counted as our own. This results in a righteous standing or status before God.

God must punish sin, but here is the heart of the gospel. Jesus came as our substitute. Jesus kept the law, but suffered the penalty for us.

Galatians 3:13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

God transfers Christ’s payment of the law’s penalty to the sinner’s account. This is how the sinner is justified, or counted righteous: he is counted as having already paid the penalty for his sins. In other words, I am justified not because God treats me “just if I’d” never sinned, but because he treats me “just if I’d” already paid my penalty.

The best way to understand this is to picture myself as a defendant standing in a courtroom before God as the presiding Judge, and to hear God pronounce His verdict: No penalty for you! Shouldn’t it be Not Guilty! No, we are as guilty as sin, but Jesus paid our penalty.

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