Romans 1: 16-17- “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”’ NKJV
When my husband left the military we were without regular health insurance as we were getting re-acclimated to civilian life. Of course, being veterans, we both had veteran’s insurance. When we decided to have a second child, we didn’t want to travel the distance to the VA hospital and decided to take care of the medical bills on our own. An insurance agent was given my name as someone who might be interested in purchasing insurance, so he called me up. As he was trying to convince me that I obviously needed health insurance, since we were paying out of pocket for this baby, I started to become annoyed with him. Finally, after playing nice and him not getting the message, I said, “I may not have health insurance, but I have health assurance!” Then I ended the call!
The Greek word for salvation “soteria” simply means safety. The message of the gospel is a message of safety for the believer from the snares of the enemy and the wrath of God, for within it, the righteousness of God is revealed.
Martin Luther felt that the righteous God could only give him what he deserved, punishment for his sins. As a clergyman, he preached the letter of the law, without having any revelation of God or His message. In other words, he didn’t really believe that he was saved. When he finally got the revelation of the righteousness of God, he was freed from the constant bombardment of his sins, his unworthiness, and his need to be punished. After hearing of the experiences that Luther and others have had, many are still walking around with that sense of unworthiness, of being wretched individuals, and just sinners saved by grace. If you are saved by grace, you are no longer a sinner. If you are a sinner, you have not been saved by grace. They are contrary to one another.
Revelation is important. Paul wrote that the gospel unveils the righteousness of God. Why would the righteousness of God need to be unveiled? Simply put, it had not been made known yet. Paul wrote about this in his letter to the Ephesians:
How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets”Ephesians 3:3-5 NKJV
Paul explained that the revelation of the mystery surrounding Christ had been hidden since the beginning of time. And now, by the Spirit of God, revelation was given to him and others that they might share the message of the gospel.
Martin Luther defined the righteousness of God “as a righteousness valid before God, which many may possess through faith.” This righteousness comes from God and is His way of making a “sinner” right before Him. The Greek word for righteousness is “dikaiosune” which carries more than one meaning within it. It speaks of the character or quality of being right or just and is used to denote an attribute of God.
In the book of Deuteronomy, God’s righteousness was sung about as a part of the song of Moses:
He is the Rock, His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,
A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He.Deuteronomy 32:4 NKJV
And the psalmist shared this about His righteousness:
Clouds and darkness surround Him;
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.Psalm 97:2 NKJV
Both these verses let us know that God is righteous. His very nature and the foundation of His throne is righteousness. As such, He chooses to impart righteousness to those who believe Him.
Luther was correct in his thinking that a righteous God would punish sin. His righteousness demonstrates that He is neither indifferent to sin nor does He regard it lightly. Which is why Paul continues in this first chapter of speaking of the wrath of God on ungodly and unrighteous individuals:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.Romans 1:18-19 NKJV
There is a whole list of sins following this verse, from being ungrateful, to being a homosexual, and everything in between and all around it. It is all unrighteousness. Paul didn’t categorize the level or depth of those sins, but said that they would cause the wrath of God to be poured out on those responsible for committing those sins. Paul also wrote that there were other ways to be a part of unrighteousness that didn’t fall into the list. Suppressing the truth is unrighteous, he wrote, yet we see more of that in our world today than we want to admit. Ignoring the truth and ignoring those who promote ungodliness, as well as ignoring that which is right, is just as bad as participating in it.
“who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”Romans 1:32 NKJV
When you know better, better is expected of you! As believers, our conduct should be in line with the character of our Savior. One who cannot help but do right, because He is right! So it is easy to understand how Luther and others walk away with a feeling of hopelessness when thinking about all the ways we can and do sin.
However, Luther was wrong in thinking that God would leave us there without hope or assistance. Peter stated that we obtained our precious faith by the righteousness of our God and Savior:
“…to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:”2 Peter 1:1b NKJV
And Paul made a similar point in the book of Philippians:
“…not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith”Philippians 3:9 NKJV
Luther finally got what God had been trying to get him to see: not our righteousness, but His!
The last point of our key text that I want to bring out is the fact that revelation from God and righteousness occurs from faith to faith. Nothing about this statement means we get from God once and everything is settled. This righteousness, and the faith to believe it and live in it grows in faith, or assurance in Christ. This assurance is an enjoyment of the righteousness that God provides us with because we have complete confidence that when He said it is so, then it is! Similar to the assurance I felt in regards to my health when the poor excuse for a salesman called me.
Paul concludes this portion of the letter with the phrase, the just shall live by faith. Since we have been declared free, then we are to live that life of freedom by faith! Our feelings will lie to us and tell us that we don’t feel like we are righteous. The devil will lie to us and tell us we haven’t really been made righteous. Preachers may even declare that we are, but yet we aren’t, because we are still in this body. But the just shall live by faith. God said that He makes us righteous through Jesus, and we are going to have to take Him at His word.
As we continue in chapter 2, many of the things that have already been mentioned will be explained by Paul in more detail. I’m looking forward to what all I can learn and share in this study. Wonderful Jesus!