II ROMANS 5
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD
After Paul expresses his desire to personally visit the “saints” in Rome, he reveals the theme and dynamic which drives his life and makes him willing to face any suffering and danger in order to spread the message. In verses 16 and 17 he says, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith… For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith…”.
I want to pause here and carefully examine these important words.
First, we have already pointed out that the Gospel Paul preached was not the rules of the church, nor any system of legal rules and regulations. It was the wonderful story of God come to earth in the person of His Son to bring a message of forgiveness and hope for lost mankind. This was, as Paul said, the fulfillment of the promise He had transmitted through the prophets across centuries of time. It was the Gospel…the “good news” of God’s love and man’s hope.
But here Paul says in this Gospel “the righteousness of God is revealed”. What is righteousness? Now please note this carefully.
God is the Creator of all things. Therefore, they exist for His purposes. Consequently, only God can define what is right and what is wrong. Righteousness is that which conforms to God’s will for His creation. For man, righteousness is walking in the exact imitation of Jesus Christ, whose only motivation was the will of His Father. It means that every attitude and behavior of a person must be exactly what the attitude and behavior of Jesus Christ would be.
No one…repeat…no one does that. No one is righteous. All “sin and fall short of the glory of God”. All of us have our personal prejudices and behavioral patterns. Those who violate our standard have our disapproval. We not only disapprove of the behavior, we disapprove of the person. Jesus was not a reactor as we are. He was not affected by the behavior of others. When He was reviled, He reviled not in response. He might have disapproved of the behavior, but He always loved the person. The only people He disliked personally were those who misled and harmed other people. There is not a day that passes that we do not encounter instances where our feelings and emotions cause us to react negatively, or our egos and physical desires cause us to do things Jesus would never do.
In order to dwell with God in His perfect “Garden”, His Heaven,
we have to be righteous, as He is righteous. Because this is not possible for man, it must be given to him by the grace and loving kindness of God. It is the “righteousness of God” that we must have, and it is found revealed in the Gospel.
The condition God has placed on our reception of this wonderful gift is “Faith”. We plan to say much more about faith in future essays, but let me say here that faith means more than believing that God is.
It includes believing and trusting in His love…believing and accepting the infinite attributes of God which are beyond our comprehension. It means accepting His will as the only standard of right in the world. It means believing that He can forgive even me, and that the hope which that offers is real, and I can place my life in His hands.
When Paul says this gift is “from faith to faith”, he means that it is not possible to purchase or earn it. No matter how perfectly we obey all the commands, we are still sinners. Only God can forgive sins, and His forgiveness is a gift in response to our faith. No set of religious symbols or actions will get God’s attention. He responds to only one thing: our faith, if it is sincere and absolute. On the basis of this, He offers us the gift of forgiveness. It is His gift to us because of His love and mercy. Unless our faith in Him leads to faith in all these things we are not the “just who live by faith”.