The Righteousness of God

Romans 1:16–17 — “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

The two verses above are a great declaration from scripture regarding the purpose of this great epistle:  the revelation of the righteousness of God.  These were covered as a part of the entire passage in the last study, of how Paul is not ashamed to stand up and preach the gospel of Christ in the capital of the world.

In Romans thus far, we have read about the gospel of God, the gospel of His Son, and the Gospel of Christ. As the Apostle states here regarding the gospel of Christ, he states why he is not ashamed:  It is the power of God unto salvation to EVERY ONE THAT BELIEVETH. There is no mincing of words here, and there is no limitation on the extent of this message, save that unbelievers do not partake in its benefits.  The second “for” in this passage relates another reason why he can boldly proclaim this glorious gospel:  because the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel of Christ that Paul is preaching.

In the Hebrew scriptures, there is the story of a good man who had the reputation that he was perfect and upright, feared God, and eschewed evil (Job 1:1).  Yet this man, with this reputation, had to say when pressed about his own righteousness:

Job 9:2 — “I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?”

What more could he say?  No matter how good we think we are, or how others might think we are, we know that to be just, or righteous with God, we fall short.  Very short.  As Paul will continue, we will see just how short we have fallen.  That is all of us.

Myself, when I get to this point, I want to hurry and get to chapter 3 to remind myself of the “righteousness of God without the law”, but for the moment, let us stay with the Word of God in chapter 1 to remind us of the exact righteousness or justice that is “of God”.  In verse 32, after expressing the sinfulness of man, the apostle states this about the state of mankind in regard to their rebellion against God:

Romans 1:32 — “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

In this verse, the word judgment is translated from the Greek word δικαίωμα — dikaíōma, which is elsewhere translated righteousness, and in this sense, it is the judgment of what is right according to God’s standards.  Thayer’s Lexicon defines it as “that which has been deemed right so as to have the force of law”, and this has been deemed right by God!  In verses 18 – 31, we see the accusation, and verse 32 states what God states is His righteous judgment against these things.  This is the righteousness of God.  Do not be deceived into thinking that God has “lowered the bar” of His righteousness with the gospel of Christ.  He has indeed revealed it!  “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed”, and because it is therein revealed, Paul again states another reason that he is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.  It reveals a RIGHTEOUS GOD, not a God that bends righteousness for certain law-breakers if they bribe Him enough, but a righteous God.

Mankind likes to point fingers at each other, but God’s righteous judgment ignores them all.  His judgment is according to truth.  In chapter 2, Paul speaks of “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds…” (Romans 2:5–6), and while some may come to this verse to attempt to prove “works righteousness”, or something of that sort, remember it is God’s righteous judgment, and He is the one that will render to every man according to his deeds. Your arguments and excuses will be meaningless.  Seeking to placate the Righteous God in the day of His wrath by your deeds to hopefully “tip the scales of justice” will be futile, and don’t even try to add religion or social status — “For there is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:11).

Yes, in the day of God’s righteous judgment, no unrighteousness will pass.  There will be a day when perfect justice is established.  We know today that in all of mankind’s governments, whether they have the best intentions or not, perfect justice does not reign.  “Liberty and justice for all” is a lofty ideal, and the nation that I call home states that about itself, but we all know that this is not our reality.  The innocent are wrongly convicted while the guilty go free.  “Under the table” deals sacrifice justice for some other perk.  Corruption rules the day in governments that God has delegated as His ministers of justice (Romans 13:1–4).  The world cries out for justice, yet tramples justice when it is convenient.  Some truly seek justice, and the Lord had a word for all seeking it:

Matthew 5:6 — “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

In Christ’s kingdom, righteousness will be the rule of the day.  For the first time since the beginning of man’s government, a King shall reign in righteousness.  The day of God’s righteousness is ever the hope of all who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  If we are honest, though, it should also fill us with fear, because when we easily see and judge unrighteousness in others, what happens when we look inward?

Romans 2:1–3 — “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?”

Remember that shortly after this statement, Paul states the plain fact, that God “will render to every man according to his deeds”.  So intensely ponder what the judgment will be should you be called to stand before God’s throne of justice.  The righteousness of God is exact and unwavering.  He also has rendered His verdict already, so listen closely:

Romans 3:9–19 — “What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.

“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and ALL THE WORLD MAY BECOME GUILTY BEFORE GOD.” 

If all of mankind wants to boast about their “equality” before God, it is right here!  We all are unrighteous before His bar of justice and do not deserve His kindness but His wrath.  His righteous judgment is declared as a future fact at His Great White Throne, where all heaven and earth will witness the final scene of justice:

Revelation 20:11–15 — “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Only a person with an extremity of self-righteousness would cast themselves at this judgment and “hope for the best”.  We already have been told the truth.  Will we listen and believe the righteousness of God as revealed in the gospel of Christ, or will we essentially mock, and continue to think that we can do it our own way.

But what is the gospel, or good news here?  This sounds like absolutely horrible news!  There is good news, but we need the verdict first.  The gospel of Christ, in all its fullness, is that God actually gives us righteousness!  How can He righteously do that?  That is the fact that I alluded to as we will find later in Romans chapter 3 after the verdict of NONE RIGHTEOUS and ALL GUILTY is brought in.

Romans 3:21–26 — “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

As we “hunger and thirst after righteousness”, let us remember that before God’s bar of justice, we are utterly lacking in what we seek.  None of us have a righteous standing before God in our own works. He has made that abundantly clear:

Romans 3:9 — “…we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin..”

But remember that God, in His grace, made a way for His righteousness and His love to meet:

Titus 3:3–7 — “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

If we accept what God has revealed about His righteousness, and what He has revealed about our utter lack of it, we are in exactly the right condition to accept His gracious gift of righteousness, which He gives freely.  This is in no way a cheap transaction; it is indeed the riches of His grace given to us freely, but at the infinite cost of the blood of the Son of God!  If there is any doubt about the love of God our Saviour toward man, look no further.  He is in no way obliged to save any of us, yet He offers this gift to each and every one of us by His grace:

Romans 5:8 — “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

All that is necessary for those under the guilty verdict, under the righteous judgment of God, Who will render to every man according to His deeds, is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, that He died for our sins (for my sins, for your sins), and that He rose from the dead as the gospel declared by Paul states, and this gift of justification, or a free gift of righteous standing before the Righteous God is yours!

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