God’s Righteousness revealed in the gospel

 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith. (Romans 1:15-17 ESV)

Thinkers and theologians have discussed part of this passage of Scripture for centuries. Much of that inquiry is focused on this phrase, “ I am ready to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome“.

Paul wrote the letter to the believers at Rome in about 60 A.D. from Corinth. No one knows for sure exactly when, or by whom the church in Rome was founded. Roman Catholics claim it was Peter but there is not any proof of that claim. We can be sure that there was a large number of Christians in Rome by 60 A.D., and there had been believers there for several years (Romans 1:8). The Roman believers were mature (Romans 15:14) and were able to encourage Paul (Romans 1:12,13) should he get to visit them.

It is very clear that Paul’s letter was meant for the believers in Rome and not the general population, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:7). So the question is raised, why would Paul want to preach the gospel to the Christians at Rome? After all, isn’t the gospel about how to get people saved? That is the consensus of many writers and some have even assumed that Paul meant to do his gospel preaching to the sinners in Rome, not the saints. But the record is crystal clear, Paul intended to preach the gospel to Christians. In my view, if you read the book of Romans and understand the message, you will clearly understand why Paul would preach the good news about Jesus to Christians.

Now, back to my purpose for this post. I want to focus on this phrase, “For in it (gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed”. If you read Romans 1:16,17 carefully you will see this progression of thought.

Paul is eager to preach the gospel to the Roman Christians. Why? Because he is not ashamed
of the gospel. Why is he not ashamed of the gospel? Because it is the power of God to salvation
to everyone who believes. Why does it have that power? Because in it the righteousness of God
is revealed. Paul arrives finally at the most important fact, “The righteousness of God has
been revealed“.

In the first case, the story of Jesus and his work for sinners (gospel) “is the power of God for salvation…” Salvation is more than the moment you become a Christian. Christians are “now” justified, are presently being “sanctified”, and will be “glorified”. Our salvation will not be complete until we receive the glorified bodies and inheritance as promised at the resurrection (Ephesians 1:14). So we can say of ourselves, “We have been saved, we are being saved, and will be finally saved”, and be precisely accurate.

It is the gospel that sinners need to hear. But it is the gospel that saints need to hear as well! If you follow the teaching of Paul through all of his speaking and writing you will know that Paul was never off topic. He was a gospel man! His calling, his life and work, was to preach Christ and the gospel. Many churches and preachers today have largely forsaken the gospel for nice devotionals to make folks feel good and messages designed to change the behaviour of the hearers. It is only knowing Christ and knowing him more fully that matures believers, changes attitudes and conduct, and causes them to love others. Why? Because in the gospel “the righteousness of God is revealed“. What does that even mean? How has the righteousness of God been revealed in the good news about Jesus and his work for sinners?

That God is “righteous” means that he is “right” and never wrong. Another way of describing this is to say God is just. He is always fair, always does the right thing. I believe his righteousness envelopes and includes some of his other attributes or character traits. For certain his love, grace, mercy, justice, etc, are included.

  1. In the gospel the righteousness of God has been revealed because God will not tolerate sin. Because God is holy he cannot approve sin or allow it to go unnoticed or unpunished. God is very, very serious about sin. In fact he said “The soul that sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:20). God proved up his righteousness by sending Jesus to die for the sins of the world. Not one sin has been overlooked. Every sin of every age has been atoned for. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (1 Corinthians 5:21). John the Baptist’s intro to Jesus went like this. “Behold,the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:18,19) Make no mistake about this, God fully and finally dealt with sin at the cross of Christ. God cannot be righteous and tolerate sin.
  2. In the gospel the righteousness of God has been revealed because God’s standard is perfect obedience. It is the Christ of the gospel alone who fully met that holy standard in his life on earth. The author of Hebrews said of Jesus,
    consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
    “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
    in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    ou have taken no pleasure.
    Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
    When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:5-10) John 6:38 confirms this. Jesus, above all else was in flesh, on earth, to do all the Father willed. It was the perfectly obedient life of Jesus that he offered in his sacrificial death for sinners. Jesus fulfilled the law, he kept every line, every precept was fully fleshed out by the obedient Son (Matthew 5:17-20, Romans 10:4).  Men try to make themselves righteous by doing good and not doing bad things. The best a man can hope for is “self-righteousness” by employing only his own efforts. The righteousness of men fall far short of God’s standard of righteousness which is his own holy character. Jesus Christ lived that perfect righteousness and now freely makes sinners to be accounted righteous when they trust Him.
  3. In the gospel the righteousness of God has been revealed because God loves the ungodly! “ For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8) “Ungodly” describes all of us. Not one human (except Jesus) fully met God’s lofty standards for doing right but God loved us anyway! 
  4. In the gospel the righteousness of God has been revealed because God makes sinners righteous! “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). God makes sinners righteous by declaring them to be righteous based upon the person and work of Jesus. “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.  Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,  just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
    “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
     blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Romans 4:4-8)
  5. In the gospel the righteousness of God has been revealed because Jesus is God’s righteousness!  “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26) In the life and work of Jesus God put on a show! He displayed his perfect righteousness! His “righteousness…has been manifested”, “righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe”, and twice Paul says in this text “This was to show God’s righteousness”, “It was to show his righteousness”. When God came in flesh he showed off his righteousness by who he was and what he did. Paul says it very plainly,  “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord“. (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) 

I can gladly say with Paul “I am not ashamed of the gospel.., for in it the righteousness of God is revealed”! There is no way to be righteous in God’s eyes other than by faith in Christ Jesus. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord”.

Royce Oge
Monroe, LA

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