“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17)
This is the foundation that Paul builds upon throughout the book of Romans. Directly following this thought is the fact that God must punish unrighteousness and that the reason men are given over to depravity is that they refuse to believe in God. In the exchange of rejecting true righteousness from God, we, like ancient Israel, begin to do what is right in our own eyes and believe that we can attain righteousness on our own. It is the universal condition of man. No one escapes.
He goes on to say in Romans 2:13, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” If we isolate this passage, it appears that obedience to the law brings about righteousness before God. However, he uses an example of Gentiles who do what is right by nature in contrast to Jews who hold to the external workings of the law. The point that Paul so masterfully lays out is brought to full revelation when he quotes, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift…”(Romans 3:23-24)
Maybe the question is, “Who are the true doers of the law?” Throughout Paul’s ministry, we know that the ones he had the most contention with were those that held to Jewish systems, especially when they tried to convince new Christian converts to revert back to upholding the Mosaic Law. Returning to our opening scripture we read, “…For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith…” (Romans 1:17) The entirety of Romans is Paul’s brilliant argument for this point: We have no righteousness within ourselves. We need the righteousness of another, namely Jesus Christ. We receive His righteousness as a gift through faith. This, in turn, compels us to live a life of faith through internal obedience made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are saved by God’s grace. We receive this precious gift through faith. When we truly come to the understanding that we have died with Christ and we stand in His righteousness alone, sin no longer has a hold on us and we experience the life that we are truly called to live. Without this understanding of true righteousness deep in our souls, we will live in fear of failure and rejection no matter how much we truly love Jesus. But, oh how sweet, when this truth is illuminated in the depths of our being. Life abundant gushes forth from this one place: that we are truly found alive in Christ and apart from Him there simply is no life.
Written as an assignment for SUM Bible and Theological Seminary