Summary: Traces the righteousness of God in Romans
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 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 1:16-17, NIV).
These two verses compound the bulk of the entire letter of Romans. They introduce the theme of the letter which is: THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD AS REVEALED IN/BY THE GOSPEL. Throughout the book, Paul will trace the state of both Jews and Gentiles as he build his case for God’s righteousness that should be the basis for this divided group of believers to live together in harmony as the people of God.
There are five sections in the book of Romans. Each one of them can be condensed in one word and each one reveals the righteousness of God. Since this is the natural way the book of Romans is organized, we will trace the righteousness of God in these sections and words.
Paul says that the Gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone” (1:16). This statement infers the need to be saved. It is a need to be saved from condemnation.
God revealed Himself in the nature. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20, NIV). Because God has revealed Himself, the Gentiles cannot claim that they didn’t know. The evidence that they were shown was enough to point them to God and have them desire Him, but they chose “to suppress the truth” (1:18) and gave themselves in wild living. The evidence that they had was not enough to save, but it was enough to condemn.
God revealed Himself in the man’s conscience. “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.” (Romans 2:14-15, NIV). This is another revelation that God gave to the Gentiles, which they also chose not to respect. Therefore, God’s righteousness in condemning the Gentiles is shown clear. God has offered opportunity to them to respond, but they chose not to.
God reveled Himself in the Law. Paul’s argument in 2:17-28 is that the Jews’ privilege was that they were entrusted with greater revelation. It was the revelation of the Law. But what they did was that they worshipped the Law and not the God who gave the Law. Therefore, they rejected God’s Messiah and fell under condemnation. With greater revelation, they also had greater responsibility.
Both Jews and Gentiles are under sin. “What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one…” (Romans 3:9-10, NIV). Both Jews and Gentiles were given revelation. Both chose to reject the revelation. Both fell under condemnation. God’s righteousness is revealed in giving mankind opportunity, which they chose to reject. God’s righteousness is not negated by man’s refusal to respond.
“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-24, NIV). All have sinned and justly should have God’s condemnation. But God has made an offer to mankind in His Son Jesus. Sin requires a penalty to be paid (6:23) in order for God righteousness to be revealed. Jesus with the redemption that He offers (4:25), by buying us back through His blood satisfies God’s righteousness. So, even in the justification God’s righteousness is being revealed.
The means of justification is by placing faith in the Person of Christ and obeying His commandments for us. The principle of “justification by faith” is illustrated in the life of Abraham (Romans 4). Now Jesus offers us access into the grace and blessings of God (5:1-11) having negated the context of sin in which Adam had us born (5:12-21).
Having been identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, now we can walk in the newness of life, which is the sanctity of God (6:1-14). We are no longer to be slaves to sin which entangles us and brought God’s condemnation in the first place but offer our bodies as “weapons of righteousness” (6:15-23). God’s righteousness is reflected in our sanctification. Jews who had the Law were not able to keep the requirements of it, pointing out to the need to look to faith in Christ as the grace-giver and Law-freer for the lives. If chapter 7 tells us anything about the sanctification process, it tells us that it is humanly impossible. God, who is righteous and holy, gives the Holy Spirit as the power-source to do what humanly is impossible but divinely attainable (Romans 8).