THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD Lesson #26
The Righteousness of God Revealed Romans 1:14-17
Paul recognized his place and his responsibility in the kingdom of God. Being called, gifted, and sent of God to preach the gospel, he looked upon his work as a gospel preacher as a great, indescribably honorable privilege (Eph. 3:8). Yet, he understood that the privilege God had given him was the weightiest, most awesome responsibility in the world (1 Cor. 9:16). He looked upon the preaching of the gospel as a debt he was honor bound to pay. He says, “I am a debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.” Therefore, he gave his life to the work of the gospel (Rom. 1:1). This man was not a religious professional. He did not enrich himself by preaching. He did not use men. He gave himself entirely to the preaching of the gospel. He looked upon it as his own personal responsibility to carry the gospel into the whole world.
Therefore, he said to the Romans, “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” Rome was then, as it is now, the very seat of satan. It was the place from which the most severe persecution arose. It was a rich, religious, cultural, superstitious city, but a city without God! And Paul was ready to go there, if God would open the door and supply the means, to go to that pagan, Godless city, not to see the ruins, but to preach the gospel.
Why would he do so? Why would he hazard his life to go to such a place to preach the gospel? He gives three reasons. Here are three inspirations, constraints, motives for every gospel preacher to give himself to the work of the ministry and for every gospel church to give itself to the blessed cause of preaching the gospel of Christ to all men everywhere (vv. 16-17).
1. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” When Paul makes this statement, the implication is that some men are ashamed of the gospel. Because the cross of Christ is an offense to the world, there are many who claim to be gospel preachers who are ashamed of it. Those who hide it and conceal it from men - Those who have ability and opportunity to preach it, but choose not to do so - Those who preach but do not preach the gospel - Those who preach the gospel in part, but refuse to preach it in its fullness - Those who acknowledge in private what they will not preach in public - Those who use ambiguous words and phrases, being careful not to offend their hearers with the truth of God - In a word, any man who seeks to please men in his preaching, who molds his message to win the approval and applause of his hearers, refusing to bear the reproach of Christ, is ashamed of the gospel. And any preacher who is ashamed of the gospel is a false prophet. God’s servants are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. They are not embarrassed to preach it, but rather glory in it. God’s servants faithfully preach electing love, effectual redemption and sovereign grace openly, publicly, and boldly in the face of opposition, without regard for their personal interests. The gospel we preach is “the gospel of Christ.” It is the gospel which Christ himself preached. It is the gospel we have learned of him. And it is the gospel of which he is the sum and substance. It is the gospel of his glorious person, his effectual atonement, his saving power, and his exaltation and glory.
2. “For it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Here is the second reason why we must preach the gospel to all men. Without it no one can be saved. The preaching of the gospel of Christ is God’s ordained means of saving his elect (Rom. 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21; 1 Pet. 1:23-25). No one who knows anything about God’s character doubts his ability to save his elect without the use of means. But will he do so? The answer to that question is an emphatic, resounding, “NO!” Nothing is more plainly revealed in the Word of God than the utility of the gospel in God’s saving operations of grace. He will save sinners only by the preaching of the gospel.” This is the means by which God the Holy Spirit quickens dead sinners, unstops deaf ears, opens blind eyes, and reconciles his enemies to himself. “It is power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, your faith is the result of God’s power working in you by the gospel.
3. “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Why must we preach the gospel? Because it is the revelation of God’s righteousness, without which no one can be saved. The righteousness of God revealed in the gospel is both the rightness and rectitude of God’s character and the righteousness which Christ wrought out for his elect by his obedience to God as our Mediator, the righteousness by which we have been justified. This is called the righteousness of God, because all three of the Divine Persons in the Godhead have a concern in it. We worship one God in the trinity of his sacred Persons (1 John 5:7), and rejoice to know that all three of the Divine Persons are engaged in the salvation of our souls (Eph. 1:3-14). God the Father sent his Son into the world to work out righteousness for us. He approves of it, accepts it on our behalf, and imputes it to us. God the Son is the One who performed righteousness for us, as our Representative and Substitute before God, by his obedience to the will of God in life and in death. In his life he obeyed the law for us. And in his death he satisfied the law’s justice as our Substitute. God the Holy Spirit reveals the righteousness of God in Christ to his people through the preaching of the gospel. He works faith in the hearts of chosen, redeemed sinners, enables us to lay hold of Christ, and pronounces the sentence of justification in our consciences. The Holy Spirit of God, in his work of conviction shows us our need of Christ’s righteousness, shows us how that Christ accomplished righteousness, and gives us faith to trust Christ’s righteousness. And he does this by the gospel being preached to us.
Child of God, aren’t you thankful that God sent someone to preach the gospel to you in the power of the Spirit? Will you not do what you can to send the gospel to your fellowman? Every believer ought to make it a matter of personal responsibility to preach the gospel to the whole world. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).
This righteousness cannot be known by the light of nature, or even by the law of God. Paul tells us that the righteousness of God in Christ is revealed in the preaching of the gospel. It is hidden from every man by nature. Even the wise and prudent of this world are ignorant of the righteousness of God, and can never discover it. It must be revealed by the Spirit of God. And it is “revealed from faith to faith:”
· From the faith of the Old Testament saints to the faith of the New Testament saints.
· From the faith of the gospel preacher to the faith of those who hear him.
· From one degree of faith to another.
Faith, as it grows and increases, has clearer and fuller knowledge of and joy in the righteousness of God in Christ, as it is revealed in the gospel. For the proof of this, Paul quotes from Habakkuk, “The just shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4). All who are justified by the grace of God, live by faith, trusting the righteousness of God in Christ as our only grounds of acceptance with him.
Do you see how immensely important this subject is?. Until the righteousness of God is revealed and known it is impossible for a person to be saved. The object of saving faith is Christ. And the basis of that faith is the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel. Faith that is based upon anything else is a false faith and a damning delusion. What we call saving faith is based upon the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel of Christ.
GOD IS RIGHTEOUS. As we saw in the previous study, righteousness is an attribute of God, essential to his Being. Without righteousness he would not be God. His righteousness is both underfed and immutable. This is abundantly ascribed to him throughout the Scriptures. All rational creatures, angels, and men, righteous and ultimately even the wicked declare that God is righteous (Rev. 16:5; Ex. 9:27; Jer. 12:1; Dan. 9:7; Psa. 145:7; 97:1-2). Yet, because the ungodly are ignorant of his righteousness, they cannot see the righteousness of God in his deeds. But every believer understands that God is righteous in all his deeds. Every believer says, with David, “The Lord is righteous in all his ways” (Psa. 145:17).
God is righteous in all his works of providence. God governs the world according to his own sovereign will and pleasure. He orders all things and disposes of all things as he will. Yet, he always does that which is right and good. He is the Judge of all the earth who must do right (Rev. 15:3). God’s ways are often puzzling to believers and trying to our faith (Psa. 73:4-13; Jer. 12:1-2). But we must never set ourselves up as judges of the Almighty. What God does is right. Our afflictions and chastisements by our heavenly Father’s hand are not for the punishment of our sins, but for our correction. Were God to punish his elect for sin, that would be unrighteous, because he punished Christ as our Surety. Righteousness cannot punish the same offense twice. God chastens his own that we might not be condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:32). When God sends any temporal punishment upon individuals, families, and nations, he acts righteously. He is to be and shall be praised as well for his judgments as for his mercies (Ps. 119:7, 62, 160). Still, the most severe of God’s temporal judgments are tempered with mercy. When God sends famine, pestilence, and disease upon nations to destroy the wicked, while multitudes are slain chosen, redeemed infants are snatched from a cursed people into heavens glory. Moreover, by his acts of judgment God warns the living of wrath to come.
The Lord our God is righteous in all his works of grace, too. When we preach sovereign predestination and discriminating grace to men, the unbelieving always raise the objection, “That is not right!” They charge God with unrighteousness. But such charges are without foundation. Electing grace cannot be unrighteous. If it is not wrong for men to choose their own favorites, friends, and companions, how can it be wrong for God to do so? If it was not wrong for God to choose some of the angels to preserve them and pass by the rest, leaving them to their own will, how can it be wrong for him to have chosen some men to salvation in Christ and pass others by, leaving them to their own will? Predestination cannot be unrighteous. If it is not wrong for God to save his elect in time, how can it be wrong for him to determine our salvation from eternity? Effectual and particular redemption cannot be unrighteous. If all deserve God’s wrath, can he be charged with evil because he redeemed some? That’s foolish! Universal redemption would be unjust and unrighteous. Universal redemption declares that God punishes some for sin twice. Distinguishing grace is not unrighteous. If all men deserve God’s wrath and he chooses to save many out of his own good pleasure, leaving the rest to suffer the just consequence of their crimes, how can his goodness be called unrighteous? Such reasoning is beyond absurd! It would never be considered the reasoning of a sane man in any other matter. It is only man’s hatred of God being God that allows anyone to give consideration to such utter nonsense. God is righteous. All that he is is righteous. And all that he does is righteous. He cannot do wrong. We may not always see the rightness of God’s deeds. But faith bows to his will and trusts his righteousness and goodness.
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IS REVEALED IN THE GOSPEL (Rom. 3:24-26). We rejoice to know that God forgives sin. But he will not and cannot forgive sins without the satisfaction of his justice. Though he forgives sins according to the riches of his grace, it is through the blood of Christ. I will say no more about the matter here. But this point of the gospel must be understood. There was a necessity for Christ’s death. Our Lord Jesus did not have to save us. But if he would save us, there was no other way for him to do it. Justice must be satisfied. And God’s justice could not be satisfied by any other means than the infinite, meritorious atonement found in the life’s blood of his darling Son. The forgiveness of our sins is an act of grace. But it is equally an act of righteousness and justice (1 John 1:9; Prov. 16:6).
IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT GOD WILL GIVE TO ALL THAT WHICH IS THEIR RIGHTEOUS DUE (Acts 17:31). The Lord God gives every man exactly what he deserves, no more and no less. While he deals with some men in grace, he deals with all in justice, righteousness and truth. All who read these lines know that God’s punishment of sin is a matter of strict righteousness and justice (Psa. 11:6-7). Let none be deceived. The good and righteous God must and will punish sin. He will cast the wicked into hell, because he is righteous. Your conscience tells you so (Rom. 2:14-15). The Word of God tells you so (Ex. 34:6-7; Num. 14:18; Nah. 1:3). The nature of God tells you so (Isa. 1:13-14; Heb. 1:13; 12:29). The law of God tells you so (Ezek. 18:20). The death of Christ tells you so. If God punished sin when he found it upon his Son, he will certainly punish us for sin if he finds it upon us. But I want every child of God in this world to understand that every believer will enter into and take possession of heavenly glory upon the grounds of perfect righteousness - The righteousness of Christ imputed to us (2 Cor. 5:10-11; Col. 1:12; Eph. 5:25-27; Jude 24-25). When our Lord Jesus was made to be sin for us, God in justice gave him that which was his due for the sins made to be his by imputation. And he will reward every believer for the perfect righteousness of Christ, which is made to be ours by divine imputation. :(Jer. 50:20; 33:16). In light of these things, it is obvious that whoever he was who invented the doctrine of degrees of reward in heaven knew nothing of either the righteousness or the grace of our God.