Gospel Righteousness

In Romans so far, we considered:
  1. Gospel of Grace (Rom 1:1-6).
  2. Gospel Enthusiasm (Rom 1:7-15).
  3. Gospel Power (Rom 1:16).
  4. Gospel Righteousness (Rom 1:17) is next.
What does Paul mean by the righteousness of God? There are three options.
  1. An attribute of God, the righteousness that characterizes God. This righteousness may be either (a) God's justice (Rom 3:5, 25-26), according to which he always does what is right, or (b) God's faithfulness, according to which he fulfills his covenant promises to his people.
  2. A status or position that God bestows on those who believe. It is therefore a righteousness that comes from God. Martin Luther gave eloquent expression to this view in the 16th century. Luther concluded that the righteousness of God that is revealed in the gospel is a gift of God given to sinners through faith. This righteousness is purely forensic or legal. It is a matter of our judicial standing before God, not our internal or moral transformation. Thus, Luther's view is that Paul refers here to the righteous status that comes from God in the gospel through faith.
  3. An activity of God. The righteousness of God is God's action of intervening on behalf of his people to save and deliver them. This idea has strong support from the OT (Isa 46:13; 50:5-8; Mic 7:9).
"I greatly longed to understand Paul's epistle to the Romans, and nothing stood in the way but that one expression 'the justice of God,' because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him.

Therefore, I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. […] Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that, 'the just shall live by his faith.' Then I grasped that … through gift and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise." "When I saw that Law meant one thing and Gospel another, I broke through." Martin Luther.

"The teaching of justification (righteousness through faith) has revolutionized my life and should do the same for everyone else. That is, since I know that through the finished work of Jesus, I am already right with God, this gives me a great desire to serve and worship Him, not out of mere fear, or the desire to get right with God or keep in His good graces, but from the basis of gratitude for who God is and what He has already done for me. It motivates me to serve and worship, and indeed to love God.

For instance, I know that I am not on some type of works righteous tread-mill that I must keep up with or that I will fall off and God will not be pleased with me. He already is pleased with me through Christ. Thus, I am not worrying about not going to heaven because I might not be good enough (in and of myself, I know that I am not good enough!). I know that God has already accepted me, that I am currently in a right relationship with God and hence am not trying to earn or keep my good standing by my works. Jesus has done it for me. I already possess eternal life (see e.g., 1 John 5:13)." Justification -- A Right Relationship with God.

The Power of the Gospel (Rom 1:1-7, 14-17) by Tim Keller.
  1. The form of the gospel: News not advice.
  2. The content of the gospel: Not just forgiveness but clothed in righteousness.
  3. The power of the gospel: The gospel is power; first recognize its offensiveness.
All scholars, seminarians and students of Romans state that Rom 1:16-17 are Paul's way of putting the gospel in a nutshell, his message in a kind of thesis statement.

Be like Jesus. If I ask somebody, "What do you think the essence of Christianity is? What does it mean to be a Christian?" the average person on the street would say, "Well, I think it means to try to live like Jesus and try to love your neighbor, try to live by the Golden Rule." I want you all to know I think that is an incredibly great idea. Let's all do that. I'm all for it, but that's not news. That's not the heart of Christianity. It can't be, because it's not news.

You either shrug, or are bugged, or are smug. If you say to somebody, "Here's the essence of the Christian message. You need to live like Jesus and love your neighbor according to the Golden Rule," there are only three responses to that. One is you say, "Sure, I knew that." Shrug. Indifference.The second, like Luther, is, "Oh, that's very hard. I can't do that." Crushed. Discouraged. The third is the Pharisees say, "I do that all the time." So either shrugged or bugged or smug. No breakthrough. No breakthrough!

Here's the first test. I don't know what you believe, but whatever you believe about God or how you ought to live, is it mainly about you, or is it mainly about what he has done? Is it mainly about you and what you must do, or mainly about him and what he has done? Which is it? See the breakthrough? The gospel is news, not advice.

The first breakthrough is when you see it's not advice but news. The second breakthrough is when you see it's not just forgiveness, but it's being clothed in the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21). It's a righteousness from God given to me as a gift.

When you ask somebody (I do all the time), "Hey, are you a Christian?" and the person says, "Well, I'm trying," that shows they have no idea about what Christianity is about because Christianity is a standing. We have access to this grace in which we stand. See? It means you have no idea about what it means to be a Christian. You're still stuck back in the idea it's good advice.

Irreligious people don't use the word righteousness. No human being can assure themselves. We cannot assure ourselves of our value and worth. We have to get somebody outside approving us, acclaiming us, declaring us worthy, declaring us a people of value.

Some people do it through, "I want to look beautiful." Some people say, "I want to make money." Some people say, "I want to achieve." Whatever. The fact is, everybody is desperately struggling for righteousness. Here's the weird thing. Everybody's righteousness, if it's not God's, is going to be blown away. Recession is one way, but it's going to happen. Old age is another way. Everybody's righteousness is going to blow away unless...

Rom 1:16 is not saying that the gospel brings the power of God or it results in the power of God or it's a means to the power of God. What does it say? It says the gospel is the power of God in verbal form. Therefore, when I believe it, when I hear it, when I understand it, when I grasp its propositions, its meanings, its words, to the degree that I actually get this gospel into my life, the power of God is coursing through me.

Everybody is offended by the gospel. In Hopewell, Virginia, everybody was hard working. They're all religious. Even the atheists are Baptists. Everybody! I mean, even the atheists, the God they don't believe in is the Baptist God. Everybody is religious. Everybody is very traditional. Everybody is hard working. Everybody is conservative. They're offended by the gospel because they think it's too easy.

But in NY where everybody is liberal and sophisticated and secular, it's offensive not because it's too easy but because it's too simplistic.

Here's this first-century carpenter. He dies. Everything changes if you believe in that. You believe in that, and then you're in. You don't believe in that, and you're out. Oh my gosh! The clarity of it! The simplicity of it! Don't you see? Liberal or conservative, blue collar or white collar, north, south, east, west. The gospel is absolutely unique. It's absolutely on its own. Everybody hates it. It makes absolutely no sense to anyone. It contradicts every system of thought in the world. It contradicts the heart of every culture in the world, every worldview.

The gospel is not an academic thing. It's not a set of bullet points we're trying to get you to memorize. It's from a person to a person. Therefore, it feels personal. When you're really beginning to hear the gospel truly and understand the gospel, you start to sense there's a power dealing with you, disturbing you, upsetting you. (Maybe during this sermon, I hope.) Maybe when you think about it or talk to a friend about it.

You have to feel the power of it. You have to feel the offensiveness of it. Here's the other way in which is the power. Some people would say, "Well, all that matters, I suppose, is that you … Now that you've received the righteousness of Christ, that's all that matters. Now you're fine. It doesn't matter how you live." No, no, no, no, no.

You're never justified except that you automatically begin to get sanctified. The righteousness of God will never be put upon you without it developing within you. If it's not developed within you, then you haven't really received it upon you.