Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Romans 1:17

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."

Righteousness from God is revealed in the gospel. I would have written that God’s mercy, love, and salvation were revealed in the gospel. And those are correct. But Paul writes that God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel. It is the very righteousness of God that has us in dire straits! The righteousness of God is what should cause us to fear Him. So what does Paul mean here? He means that God has saved us without compromising His justice. God has saved us by grace so that He has been perfectly righteous. God has not swept our sins under the rug. He has actually dealt with them. He has not just cancelled them. He’s liquidated them.

Now the wrath of God is a scary thing. Wrath is righteous judgment, or justice. And this is what we deserve. So it would be perfectly righteous of God to give us hell. Yet it is also perfectly righteous of God to save us by punishing someone else for our sins. And this is what gives Paul assurance. Paul says that God’s righteousness is the thing that gets him so excited about the gospel. God has righteously saved us by grace! He has caused the penalty for our sin to fall on His Son so that justice is served. And because justice is served, we can be absolutely assured. Because if God has put the penalty for our sin on the head of His Son, God cannot righteously require the penalty from us. The reason we’re secure from the wrath of God is because God would be unrighteous to punish us if He punished His Son for our sins. God, in His own design, has saved us by grace, by the work of His Son, by the righteousness of His Son, by the righteousness of His plan, and Paul was excited about that. And that’s what we’re going to be studying by God’s grace over the weeks to come.

Righteousness and faith: Paul tells us that in grace, God gives to us what He demands from us. God demands righteousness, and we don’t have it. Thus He gives it to us. He takes from us our unrighteousness; He gives us the righteousness of Christ. A channel or connector is needed to enact this transaction, this debit of sin and credit of righteousness. That channel is faith. The righteousness is by faith from first to last. The righteousness is from faith to faith. What God demands from us (righteousness / faith), He gives to us (righteousness / faith). Thus God’s righteousness is by faith from first to last (or from faith to faith). It begins with faith and continues to faith. This is perseverance! The gospel is that God removes His own wrath from us and gives us His own righteousness, all by the work of Christ on the cross through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the meaning of SALVATION BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH. It is by grace that God has done this; His channel to accomplish it is faith. Faith is the glorious, gracious means by which God accomplishes His salvation among men. Why did He choose to conduct this transaction by faith? So that no one could boast. So that no one could take from God the glory that is all His in salvation.

The righteous will live by faith. The unrighteous become righteous through faith and maintain their righteousness by faith. Through faith, by the righteousness of God, we are justified, made legally righteous in the sight of God. This is justification—the act of declaring sinners righteous through faith in Jesus, a major theme throughout the next few chapters of Romans. The death of Jesus purchased not only a declaration of our right standing before God, but also a development of our right living before God, thus “the righteous will live by faith.”

By persevering faith, and by persevering faith only, we will be saved from judgment, from the wrath of God. God reveals righteousness for us that is first perceived and embraced by faith, and then has the effect of preserving the faith needed to be saved. The gospel saves believers, because the gospel keeps believers believing.

Finally, consider that justification (God’s righteousness completely imputed to us, credited to us legally though we are not really righteous) by faith is the foundation of glorification (God’s righteousness completely imparted to us; we really are righteous now!), which we will experience. Again, revisiting the Golden Chain of Salvation found in Romans 8:29-31: “Those God foreknew, He also predestined…Those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Who can separate us from His love?

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